Project CARS 2September 22nd, 2017
PlatformPC, PS4, Xbox One
PublisherBandai Namco Entertainment
DeveloperSlightly Mad Studios
I've got a big problem with Project CARS 2. It's a huge, gaping problem. One that, if you were to see it, you'd say "that's a bloody big problem". What is this problem? I just don't like Project CARS 2. Why? Simply put, I can't actually play the game.
Fortunately, I can be at least somewhat objective. Without any shadow of a doubt, Project CARS 2 is brilliant. It fulfils almost every goal a game of its type should and does it with a style that should be praised. Subjectively, I've found myself so infuriated with the game, so annoyed and just perplexed by some of the absurd decisions Slightly Mad Studios have made. Particularly with their apparent gating of the game from anybody who isn't a sim purist.
If you want a driving/racing simulation, this has everything you could want. It's got issues here and there, ones I'll cover throughout the review. I genuinely haven't played a game that is more accurate than Project CARS 2 in giving a driving simulation. However, and this is where my issue is, you could struggle to get into the game if you're not into racing sims. Or at least if you haven't got an almost inexhaustible level of patience to find the perfect settings for you.
I'm not quite a racing aficionado, even though over the past few years I've reviewed a range of racing games. From the average WRC 6 to the outstanding Forza Horizon 3, DiRT 4 and F1 2017. This is to say, I'm not exactly a novice. What each and every other game had in common is the ability to let those who favour a balanced, if not full arcade style of racing, to actually play the game.
Project CARS 2 has failed at this. It has taken me over twenty-five hours to find a setup that at least somewhat suits me and even this is uncontrollable with certain cars or on certain tracks. I'm actually stuck and unable to progress any further in my career because once you start an event, the game doesn't let you exit it without actually resetting your career completely. Your only option is to start a race, pit, end race and repeat until you've lost a full event.
The biggest problem comes with the assists on offer. Finding a reasonable balance is something I've spent over 25 hours trying to achieve. Leave the assists off, or at least on authentic, and you'll find yourself skidding out at the drop of the hat. I'm under no illusions, it's my driving ability that causes this. At the same time, turn all of the assists on and you may as well be playing with a Scalextric. The cars rigidly stick to the track, brake when there's no need to and outright make it impossible to achieve anything of substance without turning the difficulty down to "baby's first racer". Worse, I've actually had the game take control of the car from me, make a turn that I didn't want to do and cause a crash.
Now that's out of the way, I can actually talk about what the game gets right. I could round it down to everything else and I wouldn't be lying. The fact of the matter is, everything about the game is so close to being perfect that it makes the lack of accessibility all the more infuriating.
Let's start with the changing weather and tracks. To be exact, Slightly Mad Studios call it the active weather system. As you race the weather directly impacts you and the track. While other games have had this, I've never seen it in as much detail. For example, I was racing in Belgium when it started lightly snowing. This snow quickly made the track even more difficult to handle, necessitating a pit stop. What I liked was that the snow was setting in places, but turning into slush in others, pools of water forming at the edges of the track.
The way that each race develops and actually changes is something rarely encountered in a game and never in as much detail as here. This is taken to even greater lengths by even localising weather to an extent. Take the behemoth of a track that is Le Mans. Across the eight-plus mile circuit, you can have rainy conditions in one section while another is completely dry. Taking in these changing conditions requires considerable thought for any driver and it certainly challenges you here.
Indeed, the level of detail throughout the game is second to none. Everything has been brought into Project Cars 2. I've not had the chance to use all 180 plus cars found within the game, nor have I had the chance to ride on the 60+ tracks. What I do know, from what I have driven, is that everything is unique. From my ideal road car, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, to the absolutely monstrous Aston Martin Vulcan. The look, feel and even sounds are unique to each and every car. Add in your own fine tuning and you can guarantee that no two races will ever be the same.
This painstaking detail extends to visual design as well. I genuinely think this is one of the best looking games around. Everything, from the small details of the tracks, the background scenery, to the smallest details of each and every car is painstakingly created. The game looks fantastic and just watching how the cars and tracks change over a race is brilliant. From the spray of dirt covering your car to the tyre lines in a thin layer of snow. The ever-changing track and cars never fail to impress.
Slightly Mad have taken it to a whole new level even with the audio. I complemented Codemasters with F1 2017 for the same thing. The cars I've listened to sound exactly like their real world counterparts. There's just something downright impressive about listening to the roar of the Vulcan's 800-plus V12 engine. More than that, you've got everything from your Le Mans Prototypes to road cars like a Ford Escort. Like their handling, each sound is unique and just-so.
That makes it all the more strange that I genuinely think the physics are, for lack of better term, whacked. At least this is the case for collisions. While racing feels fantastic. You'll go careening off if you're silly enough to go on the dirt while you're meant to go into the track. Aquaplaning is an actual thing here and, I may be wrong, but this is the first time I've encountered it in a game.
Now that we know the racing is second to none, what about the content available? Pretty much the same. With hundreds of cars from multiple manufacturers, across a huge number of classes, you'll find a lot to race with. A new addition to the series comes Rallycross, IndyCar and the US Oval track racing. To feature all of these disciplines is an extensive career mode that takes place across 29 events that feature multiple levels and stages. In addition are invitational events (time trial, etc.) with online multiplayer, events and competitive e-sports to top it all off.
One thing that can be said for career mode is that you're not limited to just the one profile. Multiple can be created, letting you drop in and out of a career at any time. This slightly makes up for one of the pettier of my complaints, the inability to quit. I've made it abundantly clear that I’m physically unable to play certain aspects of the game, even with perfect settings. One area of this is with ice tracks during Rallycross stages.
I've currently had to delete my career and create a new one because I was on an ice track on a Rallycross competition. I literally couldn't get anywhere, I wanted to quit. Project CARS 2 said no. It actually required me to enter the race, enter the pit and exit the race. This would have had to happen a minimum of six times for that one track. There were other tracks. I decided that I wasn't willing to waste up to fifteen minutes flicking between menus just to play other parts of the career and was forced to create a new one. Something as simple as abandoning one event shouldn't be that difficult.
Outside of career, you're free to take any car on any course you like with the simple custom race feature. This lets you pick everything from the track, the level of competition and even four classes of car to allow into the race. You could always go the crazy route, taking a McLaren 720s onto a Rallycross circuit. This freedom also extends to creating an online series. These feature whatever rules and assists you select and all have to abide by them.
Project Cars 2 is a true racing simulator, possibly the best that the market has to offer. The problem comes with the fact that it's uncompromising. This has invariably led me to, at least half the time, actively disliking my time with the game. I've no shame in simply saying that I, personally, am not good enough. Hell, it's even punishing me so much that I was locked out of my career. Lack of accessibility is invariably the biggest issue with the game.
I have to bow down to the things that make Project Cars 2 great. It's one of the best looking games around, with outstanding detail throughout. The amount of content is huge, with an extensive career mode and other single player and online events to only increase the amount of value. With the cars I can control, on ideal settings, I've had a whale of a time. Once I managed to control the Vulcan, seeing myself speed past the competition was a joy and I had a grin a mile wide.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by publisher. You can buy it on Amazon.
There's an undeniable quality to Project CARS 2. It's possibly the most realistic racing sim around, with an almost inordinate amount of detail that's gone into every car, track and the weather and how everything is interconnected. This makes the lack of accessibility for those who struggle with simulation and who'd prefer an arcade mode all the more annoying. Is it a great game? Likely the best racing sim around. Does it need to open itself up to those less skilled? Yes.
- Host of content, from hundreds of fully realised cars to a swathe of tracks and circuits to ride on with a number of game modes to work through
- Outstanding visual and audio design, with an impressive level of depth in every area of the game
- Each and every car feels unique, handling in their own particular way, like their real-world counterparts
- Tracks also feel different, with an active weather system that changes the track, even localised areas of tracks, during a race
- Customisation and modification options are extensive for every car, further differentiating them from each other
- Difficult to find idea settings for non-sim players where certain assists literally tear control from your hands
- Career mode can lock you out if you enter a part that you're unable to complete, not allowing you to exit
- Collision physics seem off, where minor collisions can literally send a car flying into the air Team Rocket style