REVIEW – Two laps. Three laps. Five laps. I burn my rubber on the asphalt and I really enjoy it – Project CARS gives me what not many games did recently… it’s a clean racing game with no powerups in sight, which also has a decent AI as well. And the best of all is this: everyone can pick it up and play…
When the first videos came with the menu system shown, I was a bit afraid that it will be a bit tedious – thankfully, the opposite happened: it’s really a different menu layout, reminding me of… hm, maybe Windows’ Metro, but as time went by, I began to navigate it without any problems.
Carrier, Solo, Online, Driver Network, My Garage, My Profile – each of them has several small points under them. There’s a lot to look for (and Slightly Mad Studios will chuck free DLCs at us to boot, just to make us spend even more hours in the game!): a huge amount of cars and race tracks await us to rule them and on them, respectively.
Monza, Bathurst, Brands Hatch, Brno, Barcelona, Spa, Zhuhai, Watkins Glen, Silverstone, Snetterton – and I barely listed the quarter of them, in fact, several racetracks have different variations that might be used in smaller categories in real life. Learning them all takes a lot of time – and speaking of learning, one small mistake in a corner can end up dropping you five or six places down the field, because the AI can be ruthless. Sometimes it tries passing at impossible places, but in return, it can mess up as well.
One time, I was driving on the GP variation of Monza, started from 20th place and was in 8th place in six laps in the LMP1 category. There were two cars battling in front of me and the first chicane was coming up: one of them misjudged the brake point and shot through the chicane and the other one spun off into the gravel trap. It can be quite realistic: Slightly Mad Studios was trying to make it feel real, trying to make things better than seen in other games.
Speaking of LMP1, let me give you a small taste of those categories waiting for you within the game: road cars, GT4, GT3, Group A, stock cars, historic cars (with that classic, „dog bone” Ford Escort MK1!!!), TransAm, Formula cars (!), DTM – there’s a lot more in there. And they all behave differently! For example, a BMW 1-Series M Coupe will definitely „nod” while braking and it will require more effort to turn it down that hairpin than say, a Pagani Zonda – the latter one will bite down into the track and will relentlessly turn, but you better watch out for that wheelspin, avoiding the gas until straightening up, or else you might be punished and end up spinning around! Nice.
Project CARS keeps track of everything. Your focus on either races, qualis or researching, what your favorite car is, your favorite track is, how you performed online, average positions, amount of online reputation, et cetera… but even by playing just offline, you can rack up a lot of awards and even the invitations have a lot of tasks for you to complete: some of them might just require driving X laps or races in the career mode, but it also rewards winning championships. I’m not exaggarating if I say that getting all Accolades will require you hours in the two (or hell, maybe THREE) digits. It’s absolutely recommended for you maximalists race drivers. You can also watch back your best moments under Driver Network.
Our garage is detailed too. You can look up important stats of the cars you have, but you are also able to set up the cars as well – of course, you can load and save your settings, so you can still have that crucial tenths shaved down on the track, if you have to stop playing to run some errands…
Already the beginning of the game will ask you to choose from three options: amateur, intermediate or professional, but you can set up the game at any time in the options to finetune Project CARS. It’s really a racing game that anyone can pick up! Driving assistance, brake assistance, ABS, proper racing line… but you can also set up the damages, the tire/fuel usage, or even the penalties. If you want the game to be fully arcade, do it.
If you want it to be a full fledged simulator, it is possible. If you only want to damage your Ford visually, it is absolutely achievable. Even the HUD and the camera angles are allowed to be modified, so if the helmet view feels too close, it can be changed (yep, helmet view, not only interior!). You have seven angles to choose from: bumper, hood, roof, chase, interior, helmet and rear passenger – I don’t understand the final one, but it’s a nice addition anyway. I don’t even remember the last time when I saw a game that allowed such fine adjustments to things like this. You can even change how much your helmet angle can turn towards the apex. Unbelievable.
Let’s get on the track already!
Time to go into what you waited for: I’m going to be brutally honest, the hame has phenomenical physics. Sure, it’s not a good idea to begin your career mode at say, LMP1 race cars (because yes, you can begin at any certain category, from gokarts to full blown racers – there is no XP progression system here as seen in several other games, mind you!). There should have been some sort of a story mode optionally, but it’s a subjective opinion…
But really, as you pump hours and laps into the game, you’ll learn to love the proper driving style and get the skill to drive the cars much more carefully and fast. Slowly, but steadily you will get there: mistakes will turn into victories. Full damage models can wear you down almost instantly, it’s worth taking a look at that too. Still, you have to drive hard: forget drifting, pushing the gas pedal as soon as you stopped braking and such – otherwise you will have to get used to the last place often, or hell, get disqualified for shortcutting that chicane several times. And meanwhile, the sun goes down and the day turns to night, which was made superbly.
The game is as hard and as realistic as YOU want it to be: real racers will likely set everything up to the highest possible setting from manual gearboxes to manual engine starts, but why not? It can be a real simulator too. What about the online? It works perfectly – it’s like a community racer, but in a different way than DriveClub. The servers work and there is no PS Plus version promised… 😛
To me, the tutorial lady’s voice was a bit annoying, but hey, not everyone likes grandma’s food, and to be honest, it’s the smallest issue of the game. Some cars have way too strong reflections, some color schemes can be an issue, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the game looks GORGEOUS. The cars are shockingly detailed and they even sound brutal. This is how you make an audiovisual pleasure in the genre.
I’ll be short: although the game lacks an actual story and sometimes the chase view can be disturbing because of reflections here and there, this is THE racing game. GT7 will have a very high bar set to jump over – but until then, back to the track!
+ Huge line-up of cars and tracks
+ Really high audiovisual quality
+ Anyone can pick it up and begin at any point
– Main menu interface is to get used to it
– Some cars have reflection overload
– The tutorial lady’s voice
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Genres: car racing, car simulation
Publication: May 6th, 2015