The original Project CARS was released to mixed reviews across the board and was found to be a little lacklustre to those seasoned veterans of the Sim Racing community. With the release of Project CARS 2 just over 2 years later, have Slightly Mad Studios been able to iron out the kinks and take pole?
Project CARS is one of the spearhead franchises that has been bringing Sim Racing to the console market, which has previously been dominated by Sim-cade titles such as Forza, and the arcade natured franchises like Need for Speed. Project CARS 2 sits very, very firmly in the Simulation market (we’ve covered the differences between the three here) and brings a level of realism that is greatly welcomed on the console market.
Project CARS 2 features an improved career mode, which creates a nice balance between progression and not locking players out of entering in cars they wish to drive. The game splits the career into 6 tiers, with tiers 1 and 2 being locked off, as the pinnacle of motorsport. The player can chose to start at any of the remaining tiers, choosing to work their way up from the bottom, or role-play a rich kid joining into a higher division you’re not skilled enough to compete in. This system is a nice middle ground, giving the career mode some purpose while still giving players some choice.
The career is nicely customisable, allowing the player full customisation of the AI difficulty, as well as the season and session length, allowing you to add or remove practise/qualifying sessions, and alter the length of the main race. This addition allows a nice fast progression, or a lengthy one, dependant upon the players personal preference. From my perspective the career is going to serve as a fantastic way for those less attuned to Sim Racing to learn the basics from the ground up, progressing through the leagues, as one would in real life.
The mode that will likely be getting a lot of use from hardened Sim Racers will be the Quick Race mode, allowing you to chose from any of the games countless tracks and their subsequent variations, as well as any of the game’s numerous car classes to create a race that is tailored to your preference. You can customise everything, even down to the time of day. This will allow players to create their dream race. You can even load rulesets from any of the game’s featured series, giving you a solid basis to work with.
The game also features a free practise mode, allowing players to pick their choice of track and car, and lap at their own pace, be it to develop a winning setup, or learn a new track. Alongside this the game features a Time Attack mode, where players can compete for the fastest lap times. Players will note the lack of a custom championship mode, which is really missing a trick. With a title featuring so many classes of racing, and so many tracks, lacking a custom championship mode leaves the only way for players to experience such a feat to the career, which is disappointing for those not overly sold on the career aspect.
Multiplayer ends out the game modes on offer in Project CARS 2, and is a mode that is sure to keep players coming back for more. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the net code, as well as the structure of the multiplayer, but rather unsurprised when I was punted into Narnia at the first corner. Such is the nature of multiplayer racing on consoles it seems. This is of course, no fault of the title itself, which offers a great multiplayer experience for those who want to race fair. Project CARS 2 has taken a popular feature from iRacing, implementing both a skill rating and a safety rating into multiplayer. While these systems do not ultimately cure the issue of rammers, they do reward players who drive consistently, who will in turn, and in time, be pitted against drivers of the same calibre. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but it is a solution none the less, and is greatly welcomed. I would like to see other titles adopting similar systems.
As with any Sim title, the big questions always come from the physics and Force Feedback of the title. Project CARS 2 is a big improvement on the previous title, with cars feeling more in tune with the road, as opposed to the often floaty ‘riding on top’ feeling that the first release had. Some cars still have this, mainly the cars that feature more ‘vintage’ tyres, leading to suggest that the new tyre model is the cause of this. GT cars feel fantastic, the older formula and Group C cars don’t quite. Of course the difference in tyre is going to be relevant with the age, but the consistency just isn’t quite there. Aside from this, the game feels great, and brings fantastic physics to the console market.
Force Feedback in Project CARS 2 is another stellar effort, with the predecessors million and one options this time condensed into a selection of flavours and 5 main options. choosing between raw and immersive feedback (I found myself changing this by car) and then balancing the feel with the options, most notably gain and volume, which I found to be adjusting the most. The force feedback is detailed, even on my lower end Thrustmaster TMX wheel, and provides a great driving experience. And good news, the game also feels rather good on a controller, especially with a few minor tweaks.
Despite a great feel, the experience is rather dampened by inconsistent AI. While the AI control sliders allow for control of the AI difficulty and aggression, these figures don’t seem to hold much in the way of consistency. I found the AI to be running right on the pace at one track, and then awfully off at another. The game also features a glitch at the moment where if fast track to the end a qualifying session after you post your time, all of the AI drivers will put in an absolute blinder of a lap, sometimes impossibly fast, and leave you starting at the back of the grid. AI in the game’s RallyCross event race harder than in other events, but drive the tracks in the same manner as a road race, without the tail happy driving known in the events, leaving the battles to feel a little lacking. AI racing on ovals is little short of tragic, and with the game’s lack of full course caution, oval racing in general isn’t really worth the time.
Graphically, Project CARS 2 is a stunning title, with tracks and cars looking fantastic as well as beautifully implemented weather. The game does feature a few graphical issues however, with shadows occasionally not rendering properly, and the shadows lacking depth that means PC2 doesn’t take the graphical crown from Forza Motorsport 7, but still looks fantastic and doesn’t detract from the game’s playability. The inclusion of some detailed graphical options on console is warmly welcomed also.
The title features a strong sound engine, With all the cars having a realistic engine note, that really places you within the car. The wailing turbos of the old group C monsters through to the screech of the 787b rotary all sound biblical. The game lets itself down however with overdone electronic tyre squeal, doing little more than blow your ears out when you get the back-end lose or scrub off into understeer, as well as somewhat laughable crash sounds. Yes the crashes sound serious, but when you’re hearing glass shatter in an open cockpit Formula Renault, it really does take away from the immersion. The game also lacks the reverberations that make over titles stand out.
Project CARS 2 does redeem some points for its fantastic menus, which while sometimes cluttered, offer a wealth of information to the player. The setup menu for the cars is as thorough as you could dream of, and gives you detailed information on every aspect of tuning. The game has also added in a virtual engineer, who can give you recommendations based upon your answers to a series of questions, giving those who are intimidated by tuning a route to go down.
Overall Project CARS 2 is a big step from the last title. Boasting and improved career mode, with the physics and force feedback to match, PC2 will provide a fantastic racing experience to anyone wanting to take the leap into Sim Racing, as well as seasoned Veterans. While the game isn’t perfect, with the AI being unpredictable as well as the few bugs we encountered, the great multiplayer is sure to keep Project CARS 2 firmly on the front row of the grid.
Project CARS 2 is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.