It’s been a while since a multiplatform racing sim has been anything worth getting excited about. Sure, Sony has Gran Turismo and Microsoft has Forza, both of which are solid titles, but they remain exclusive to their relative platforms. Project CARS breaches this gap and brings the mechanics you would expect from a racing sim to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Project CARS has gorgeous visuals that are incorporated in over more than 60 vehicles and over unique locations comprised of roughly 110 different courses. Each vehicle is modeled to a point of realism that up, until now, hasn’t been seen. The courses have an incredible amount of detail, skid marks, scuffs along the barriers and cracks throughout the tarmac all add to its sense of realism. A fitting tribute to each and every course. Having said this, the visuals are by no means the games draw card. Not by a long shot.
Slightly made Studios have set out to differentiate Project CARS from the other racing sims out there. It feels more like a ‘sport title’ and encapsulates an overall ‘sandbox’ feel. Nearly everything imaginable can be customised to your individual liking. If you find yourself stuck between difficulty levels you can tweak individual aspects of the game to suit your preferred requirements. This goes for everything from the suns position to the way the AI handles itself to the various views of the vehicles interior. Project CARS might very well appeal to avid race fans but at the same time can be tailored for anyone wanting to enjoy the genre, providing they are willing to invest the time.
The career mode allows you to choose your preferred path. You can start off as an aspiring kart driver and work your way up to the more glamorous big leagues over time or simply choose a prototype division, sign-up and renew for another season. There is no unlocking of categories or experience points needed to enjoy and access your preferred division. If you enjoy something specific… it’s available to you. The Driver Network mode lets you compete against other racers in a time trail style fashion. The challenge changes constantly and everyone is given the same car on the same track and is tasked with racking up the quickest lap-time. This takes far more commitment than you may initially think. Simply following the race-line won’t get you near a competitive race time. You need to invest time into the tack, learn the ins and outs of the corners and modify your car appropriately in order to get anywhere near the top 1000 time posted by other users. You are presented with various vehicle classes that not only handle differently per class but per vehicle. Everything from karts to GT performance cars to prototypes are available. Each cars pros and cons are evident. The prototype cars tend to spin out at the slightest miss-timed acceleration. The karts, while low to the ground, are difficult to maneuver. The road vehicles such as the Ford Focus and Mitsubishi Lancer seem overly stiff and stagnant when compared to the GT two-door road vehicles and super cars. It’s obvious differences such as these add to the experience. After all, even a McLaren 12C has it’s limitations… not many, but I’m sure it must have some? One of the highlights came as quite a surprise to me – the Modern Open Wheel racing cars. I generally tend to avoid these in racing sims and tend to stick to the rally-type cars but after experiencing the a well executed, smooth, high speed turn of a ‘SMS Formula A’ open wheeler my opinion has changed tenfold.
As I mentioned before, the AI is customisable… to a certain extent. Other computer drivers are ‘generally’ quite intelligent in the way that they avoid collisions and navigate turns. Generally. At the start of the race, for example, pure chaos reigns down as you battle through both overly aggressive drivers as well as elderly Sunday morning bystanders. Once you’re out of the congested pack things even out but occasionally the AI pulls off an action that you’d expect from a sci-fi title. This can be frustrating but not more so than when you take even more irrational drivers online. The Xbox One version of Project CARS has a major snag when entering online races. Instead of joining a lobby with friends, gamers are placed among random opponents. This is not due to bad programming from Slightly Mad Studios and is limited because of Microsoft infrastructure. Hopefully this gets sorted out soon as it’s an integral part of any racing game.
The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when completing a tough race or even finally nailing a narrow corner, that has been constantly plaguing and challenging you, is immense. Sensations such as these become a reality because of Project CARS demanding gameplay and unique, customisable aspects absent from other racing sims. Accessible, elegant and challenging Project CARS delivers something different yet compelling. A necessity for anyone that has petrol flowing through their veins.