There’s just something about motorsport that ignites a fire in some of us. Whether it’s the roar of a beautifully tuned engine or if it’s the bits of rubber spitting off the tyres, reminding you that you’re attending a race in person – it’s just a wonderful feeling. The folks over at Slighty Mad Studios have a fantastic understanding when it comes to the raw mechanics and passion that surrounds motorsport, but is it enough to progress this successful crowd-funded sequel?
Only pros need apply
Project CARS 2 is not here to make any false promises. If you’re a racing game n00b you’ve come to the wrong place. It’s a motorsport racing simulator down to every last nut and bolt, so don’t expect a rewind button to fix your mistakes. As the game reminds me throughout my play time – it’s ‘by racers 4 racers’. Do you consider yourself a seasoned racer in the gaming business? Project CARS 2 will question that too when you find yourself moving the opponent skill and aggression level from average closer to beginner, just to ensure you manage a first place fight for the chequered flag.
The car tally has more than doubled as there are now over 180 cars to drive in the game, including the much requested Ferrari and Porsche vehicles. In terms of tracks there are now over 60 unique tracks to race on and after 20 hours of play I’m yet to race on each and every track variation that’s been made available to drive on. It’s mighty impressive to see all the tracks in the game, with Fuji Speedway, Knockhill, Long Beach and the Dirtfish rallycross track being the top new additions. You’ll get to experience most of these new features in the career mode.
Some races are magical, while others nearly had me breaking my controller in half.
The clumsy presentation of the original Project CARS has been replaced with something that’s much easier on the eyes. It’s clean and easy to navigate. You’ll once again create your own driver that can enter a career path as you please and sign up with your own team and engineer. Would you like to systematically make your way through a typical driver career by starting in kart racing and later moving on to the Porsche Cayman Cup and Indycar Racing? Or do you want to hop into the car with the most horses from the word go? The choice is yours. Whatever you decide, you’ll have to complete all the various events if you plan beat all it has to offer. Where this system really works is that you don’t have to earn credits to buy a car you’re after. Watch a short introduction video and jump right in. There are various disciplines, each with their own challenge.
Take on any of the open-top car challenges and you’ll find that the vehicles generally cling to the road around corners, but that the controls feel a little twitchy. Move on to the Porsche Cayman Cup or Rennsport Revival and the cars are much sturdier on the road, but it requires you to know your braking points well so you don’t overshoot a corner while having issues distributing the weight of the car. Then there’s the very exciting inclusion of Rallycross racing that’ll have you drifting around corners like Ken Block himself. It’s fantastic having this huge surface variety right at your fingertips, but it introduces a problem that I struggled with in the 20 hours I played. Some races are magical, while others nearly had me breaking my controller in half.
Project CARS 2 comes with one of the best controller customising systems I’ve ever seen in a racing game. You can change just about anything on the controller to solve whatever problem it is you’re experiencing. Adjust the steering, throttle, clutch and brake sensitivity and dead zone, as well as the controller damping and saturation. Not happy with the button layout? Change the button mapping to something that works for you. If you know exactly what you’re doing you can do some amazing things, but for a person who would just like to get down to it and race cars around a track it’s a bit of a pain. Jumping between vehicles that can handle any surface you throw at it, versus those that can’t (I’m looking at you BMW 320 Turbo Group 5) will be enough to see you blow a gasket. It’s incredibly frustrating. Project CARS 2 begs you to play with its overabundance of options, both for the controller and under the bonnet of your vehicle. You can ask your engineer some basic questions to help you setup your car, but unless you find a setup that works for your controller (or you browse online and follow an example recommended by those in the know) there is something that just about fixes all these issues. The problem is that for most players it’s something that’s out of reach.
Time to put the pedal to the metal
Connect the Thrustmaster T150 steering wheel to the PS4 and suddenly everything that made the world turn red changes into pure joy. Project CARS 2 has been made with a steering wheel in mind – this is after all a motorsport racing simulator. Everything that drove me insane in the previous paragraph vanishes. The cars control like a dream and though I have even more options to toggle on the steering wheel it plays perfectly by default. You plug it in and play. My driving improved drastically. My embarrassing beginner’slider got moved up to average. I don’t think I had a single moment playing the game using a steering wheel that I did not have a smile on my face… I felt like a reborn racing driver.
(Please note: The steering wheel improvements do not affect the score, as most players will use a PS4 Dualshock 4 controller when playing the game).
So, where were we? Oh yes, the career mode. Once you do earn yourself a career win or three you’ll start unlocking invitational events. Here you’re tasked at entering a historic, track special, low grip, road or supercar event on a specific track using a pre-determined car. Should you use a car of a specific manufacturer enough in career mode you’ll also receive an invitation to attend a proving ground at one of 14 manufacturers. Prove yourself worthy by coming first and you’ll be rewarded an additional three challenges. Project CARS 2 is really filled to the brim with content. From here you can take your game online against strangers or friends, take part in time trails and engage in community events – their esports incubator. This brings me to the biggest problem Project CARS 2 currently faces – bugs.
We need some insect repellent
Unfortunately Project CARS 2 is littered with bugs. From the menus, to AI, to replays and everything in-between has some sneaky bug acting up. For example, I was midway through a rallycross championship where the game had me placed last out of six cars, though I was way ahead in the lead. It required me to completely shutdown the game and restart it… then it annoyingly happened again 10 minutes later. Sometimes you enter the pits and you have your crew waiting there to change your wheels and fix the damage on your car, and the next time it all magically happens with no pit crew in sight. Replays often had no cars showing up, though the sound of the cars droning around the circuit, and cameras following it, continued as if all was in order. As for the AI, they’d often thump me in qualifying, but then I’d destroy them in the race without adjusting the difficulty. The good news is that all these issues require a mere patch to fix it all, but for the time being it takes away what could have made it that little bit more special.
Project CARS 2 is a racing game for fans with an undying love for motorsport
Visually Project CARS 2 looks respectable in 4K, and it runs smoothly at 60FPS on the PS4 Pro. The biggest improvements are seen in the dynamic weather effects. In fact, I think it’s perhaps the best weather effects I’ve yet seen in a racing game. There were times that the downpour was so severe that I could barely see what was happening around my car. The rate at which the rain appears and drenches the track in water looks much more realistic than anything else I’ve played before. Likewise it’s impressive to see the dry tarmac showing up on the driving line, though there are still various water puddles collecting in parts of the track that’ll test your skills.
Project CARS 2 is a racing game for fans with an undying love for motorsport. It’s not perfect, and still feels like work in progress. Think of this project as a true labour of love, where the cars are the heroes if you give it the attention it so craves.