Review: Project CARS 2

Project CARS is back from the crazy kids at Slighty Mad Studios, with Project CARS 2. Its now all grown up with more tracks, more cars, live weather but...

Project CARS is back from the crazy kids at Slighty Mad Studios, with Project CARS 2. Its now all grown up with more tracks, more cars, live weather but its perhaps the additional brands like Ferrari joining the grid and sponsorship slots. There’s even more race modes this time round which immediately makes the game appeal to a broader audience. That said, don’t be misled, this game’s difficulty level and opponent aggression is hard, testing even the most serious racer.

Its been 2 years since the first game shipped and in that time, the visual quality has taken a giant leap forward. Project CARS 2 not only supports VR, it supports a stupid 12K resolution. That’s awesome news for the serious racer that has 3x 4K displays bolted to the front of their racing simulator. This speaks to how the developers think, they built this game for the hardcore racer who wants a simulator that (as close as possible) reflects the real experience of racing cars.

The game was tested with real racing drivers, like Le Mans winner Tommy Milner, Audi factory driver René Rast, stunt driver Ben Collins (SkyfallDoctor Strange), and Rallycross and sim racing champion Mitchell DeJong. Armed with their feedback, and the feedback from the community, the game reveals a high level of polish and provides easily one of the best driving experiences available.

From new physics to dynamic real-time weather, vehicle and surface changes, Project CARS executes on that vision in spades. In this edition, we get to choose from 5 disciplines of motorsport, which they say reflects reality in that many drivers move between racing categories over their career. In Project CARS 2 you choose from open-wheelers (including go-karts), GT, prototypes, rallycross, and touring cars.

Gameplay

The basic overview of Project Cars 2 is a choice between Career mode, Quick Play and Community.

Career mode

Getting start in Career mode means you have a decision to make. Which category would you like to race. As with most racing games, they start you off with the slower end of the vehicle lineup, but PC2 gives you a nice range of categories to select from, so you’re not pigeon holed into driving buckets that you don’t care about. The good news is that once you’ve selected, that’s not the end of the story, like real-world drivers do, it is possible to switch racing categories between calendars.

Racing earns you affiliation with vehicle manufacturers and as you race, you can also unlock special invitational events. These help to break up the standard affair of grinding through a literal calendar of events.

Quick Play
Something I used extensively throughout the review was quick play mode. This basically lets you jump in any car, any track in the game, from the start. There’s no garage to unlock and purchase vehicles before getting behind the wheel, which is great and speaks to the developer’s understanding that everyone has their favourites and the game is better if it facilitates your fast entry to race them.

For me, being an Aussie, obvious racing Bathurst was an early selection. While the track gets another update, its the dynamic weather that shows off Bathurst in new and unique ways. There’s everything from clear blue skies to even snow on Mount Panorama which turns the tarmac into a mountainous ice rink, while the fog significantly limits your visibility. Then there’s heavy rain which can pool in areas of the track (like the last corner) causing you to loose grip and therefore is incredibly demanding on the driver. If you survive, its incredibly rewarding and that’s why we race. The neat addition in PC2 is the ability to define up to 4 weather forecasts for a single race, then pick how quickly the weather transitions from one to the other. This is a great addition and really keeps things interesting when racing.

A custom race isn’t the end of the story though, you can also use Quick Play to get into the action online by joining races from across the world or to create your own. This will be something I’ll test further once the game goes live as availability during the review was limited.

Private Testing mode lets you have any track to yourself. If you want to try out different car setups, this is the place to go and don’t worry, your times will be private, not shared on global leaderboards.

Community
This section allows you to go deep into the world of racing. You can access community events that are currently active, ones upcoming in the future, as well as reflect on your ranking and times from past events. For those keen Aussie motorsport fans, there’s an upcoming Bathurst1000 Battle from October 02-09th. This will see players from across the world compete for the best time across the famous mountain. Video game releases aren’t always well timed, but this one is, with the Supercars round at Bathurst coinciding from the 5th-8th October.

This Community tab is also home to the official Time-trial section where you’re times for each track are stacked against the rest of the world. You can choose up to 3 ghosts in PC2, allowing you to monitor how others get through corners, allowing you to learn where your loosing time and address it. You may like to choose the top time, one close to you and one behind you (really just to make you feel like you don’t suck as much as you do).

eSports
This is the first racing title I’ve played with eSports integration. This provides links to the PC2 Twitch channels currently streaming Project Cars 2 online. It also links to the YouTube playlist for Project CARS eSports. While these two interface tiles are essentially just web links, they’re importance in extending the game past the wheel and pedal, and into your life, isn’t lost.

There’s also a News and Schedule & Results options that link you to information regarding eSports leagues so you can either participate or follow your favourite teams. This could definitely be improved by nominating your existing relationships with eSports and players and allow you to get live social updates in the game while racing.

 

Cars

There’s a lot more cars in this game compared to the orginal, with the count currently at 180 before DLC starts. These span some of the world’s most elite brands across 9 disciplines of motorsport Personally I just can’t care about the old cars, so that practical number for me is a lot less in what I’d actually choose to drive. Ferrari is now here which is great and some of their best are available including the 488 GT3 and the LaFerrari.

There is one big omission from the brand names and that’s Holden or parent company General Motors. This dramatically affects the ability for Project Cars to be a serious option for Supercars fans. There’s just one Falcon FGX to race with and no official liveries, so yeah, this is a big, big hole that needs to be filled for Aussie racing fans.

When it comes to the international category of GT3, things get a lot better and if you’re a fan of AustralianGT, you’ll love this game with no less than 20 to choose from. I particularly enjoyed the new Acura (Honda) ASX GT3. In terms of overall favourite cars in the game, I still can’t get passed Ken Block’s Ford Focus RS RX, its just outright crazy fun.

Formula cars still aren’t official with labels of Formula A, Formula C, Formula R and Formula X taking place of the real categories. Given we just got F1 2017, the FIA was always unlikely to permit their inclusion in this game, so its understandable.

Those issues aside the rest of the cars look absolutely stunning both inside and out. They also sound fantastic and the engine note is distinct between manufactures further increasing the realism this racing simulator strives for.

My biggest issue with Project Cars 2 is that we still don’t have a vehicle modification system. Sure there’s plenty of tweaks you can make in the setup, but no vehicle upgrades is a serious omission that needs to be addressed, hopefully in a future update, but we may even be waiting for PC3 for that.

Tracks

Between releases, the developers have been hard at work adding tracks and armed with 60 tracks (20 fully scanned), Project CARS 2 offers up a mega 130 individual layouts, providing you with a great variety of locations to race on. While you can take any car to any circuit, practically you’ll want to have the right car for the right track. Taking an Formula A to a GoKart track is great for shits and giggles, but that fun has a limited lifespan.

The 60 tracks included in the game have been chosen to reflect the 9 motorsport disciplines and 29 series that come with Project CARS 2. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Slightly Mad Studios were able to map their snow test track and make it available to race in the game. This like many others has a number of circuits to choose from, each of different lengths and combinations of straights and corners.

These tracks feature amazing quality if you’ve got the hardware to run it. Armed with a GTX1080 settings were thrown on maximum and the game looks stunning. The track detail is next level and textures are incredibly well done, as are things like grass, gravel, dirt that spray everywhere react as you inevitably leave the track as you leave your braking market in the rear view.

The tracks (and cars) are only made better by the dynamic lighting and weather in PC2. Day and night transitions, ice, snow, mist, wind, rain all affect grip corner-by-corner, so you’re constantly relearning the track. This is challenging at times, but also helps to keep longer races interesting, especially if you’re out in front, making sure you stay there requires a constant level of attention.

Price and availability

These three pre-order editions are the Limited Edition, the Collector’s Edition, and the Ultra Edition. Each comes with its own exclusive benefits, and each has been painstakingly assembled to reflect the beauty and the adrenaline of motorsports that is the soul of Project CARS. Given the game is released on September 22nd, chances are you’ve either pre-ordered already or will grab it after the release date.

With so many great driving games being released right now, lets just take a second to reflect on the features included in this game and what you’re getting for your money.

  • Over 170 licensed cars from the most iconic brands
  • The largest track roster of any console racing game including ice and dirt tracks
  • New vehicle types and motorsport classes including Rallycross, IndyCar, and Oval
  • Dynamic time of day, weather, and new seasonal conditions​
  • New Online Championships mode
  • LiveTrack 3.0 powers dynamic surface conditions that affect vehicle performance and handling, and evolves the track over the course of a race weekend​
  • Esports built-in from day one with full ranking, and broadcasting/streaming functionality
  • Bleeding-edge tire physics, advanced AI, and intuitive gamepad control

If you’re up for that, you can pickup the game at JB Hi-Fi for A$79.00 for the standard edition, or the Deluxe for A$139.00. If you buy it direct from Steam, you’ll pay US$59.99 or US$89.99. If you’re a console gamer, you’ll also find Project Cars 2 on Xbox One and Playstation 4, but sadly these will be published in 1080p. A future update would likely deliver a 4K version for the upcoming Xbox One X, but don’t wait for that.

You can get silly with this and spend as much as A$229.95 for the collectors edition, but you’d really have to be a super fan, or really, really want that 1/43 Scale Die-Cast Model of the McLaren 720S with Exclusive SMS-R Stealth Satin Paint.

If you see it cheaper, leave a comment.

Overall

At the end of the day, this its the physics that dictate if this title is an arcade racer or a legit racing simulation. I can happily say Project Cars is exactly what fans want from a title – serious upgrades based on user feedback and a plethora of new cars and tracks to enjoy. The job isn’t done here and this franchise could easily be as long as Forza if they keep up this level of investment. The deficits like total overall car numbers means you may not be able to drive the exact car you have in your garage at home, but there is enough diversity in the vehicles and tracks now to keep you occupied for hundreds of hours.

The performance requirements are fairly steep with a Nvidia GTX 1080 found in the recommended specs list, as is 50GB of storage, but that’s fairly common these days.

For those who have a steering wheel and pedals in your house, this is a absolute, no brainer, just buy it, you won’t regret it. For those with a little tighter budgets and are deciding between this or Forza 7, that’s a hard question. I’d suggest you grab the Forza 7 demo that came out today and while its not the full game, will give you an appreciation of what’s coming.

All boiled down, Slightly Mad Studios have done an amazing job on Project Cars 2, its easily the best racing title so far this year. F1 2017 was good, but its a single category and 20 tracks, the scope of this game is so much greater. Sometimes a game is greater than the sum of its parts and this really feels that way, its better than the spec sheet indicates. Its the little touches that are the most appreciated, like how this game helps you understand what to do with vehicle setup. By defining the area you’re struggling with (in plain english), your race engineer can recommend tweaks and explains how that change will help your vehicle performance and overall lap time. This important detail is almost never done right, but in PC2, they nailed it.

I know I’ll be racing Project Cars 2 long after the review is done.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.