Project Cars comes from the minds at Slight Mad Studios, a developer that has some top-notch racing credentials on its portfolio and brought you titles such as Need for Speed Shift, Shift 2 and Test Drive. Since the PS4 and Xbox One launched we have only had a handful of racing titles to choose from. Many of which have left a bitter taste in our mouths. From Driveclub to The Crew it would seem that only the Forza series has any form of credibility, but its foray onto next-gen hasn’t exactly wowed us either, at least not in the same way the series did when it first arrived on Xbox 360. So with another racer on the horizon, one that hasn’t exactly been thrown in the publics face by Bandai Namco (Publisher), can we finally expect to see the next-gen racer we all deserve?
Firstly, let me make this clear. I don’t enjoy racing games. I’m terrible at them and often become bored very easily. It’s not a sport I follow and if you ask me about cars in general, well, I can tell you they have four wheels and a steering wheel that helps turn the car left and right. Cars also have an engine, but as far as I’m aware that engine could be made of play dough and is fuelled by Chuck Norris’ tears. So from this point you may believe I am unequivocally unqualified to judge this game. However, the guys at our offices decided that a complete novice, I.E me, may give you a refreshing view to a genre that has been done to death. After all how can going around a track over and over again bring anything fresh to the table?
Project Cars is very much a sim racer rather than an arcade racer. When you open up the game and start exploring the sub menus that involve tinkering with your car, you’ll see what I mean. There are tons of options for adjusting suspension, dampers, brakes, tires and cup holders. Ok I’m joking on the last one, but you get the idea. Not one detail about cars appears to be overlooked. You have around 10 different views when racing, from an outside view of the car to actually being inside the racers helmet. You also have several heads up displays that range from rear view mirror to the full workings of your engine. You can create quick races that allow you to select four different types of adverse weather conditions that cycle through all four conditions in real-time. Hell, you can even create custom pit stop strategies.
If you’re thinking this racer isn’t for me, it’ll just go over my head, then DON’T. Honestly, whilst many aspects of this game will appeal to racing enthusiasts there is still a gradual learning curve for novices to slide into. If, like me, you are terrible at racing games, you still have options that cater to your level. Automatic gear changes, amateur A.I opponents, penalties for crashing into cars can be disabled and you can make your car indestructible, which in essences makes Project Cars more of an arcade game. However, this isn’t a case of trying to cater for both camps and failing to excel at either end of the scope. This is designed as more of an open doorway to help ease in amateur racers, such as myself, into Project Cars. However, the game still encourages you to learn the fundamentals.
Slightly Mad Studios sought the help of top racing experts such as Nicolas Hamilton, Oli Webb and Ben Collins (Former Stig). And it shows. The cars, around 60 of them, handle beautifully. Each car feels unique from acceleration, weight and handling. We have Formula One cars all the way down to 125cc Go Karts, and a career mode that caters for all car class types. If you expect this to be a racer where you can drift around corners at 100 hundred miles an hour, think again.
As I previously mentioned, the game encourages you to learn the fundamentals. With the speed/line guide system, players can quickly fathom when to speed up and when to slam on the brakes at sharp corners. The slightest mistake will see you skid off the track, which you can be penalised for, as too many warnings lead to an early retirement. As obvious as it is, staying on the track is the desired goal. Failing to do so will lose you valuable seconds on those you are in pursuit of, as players slow down on grass and dirt, if even for a split second, and steering is infinitely harder. And in Project Cars, no matter what difficultly, every second counts. But that doesn’t mean the game isn’t accessible. Every time I approached this game I learnt something new, and whilst I’m no Lewis Hamilton, I have made progress. I stay on the track more often than not and I have a tendency to avoid crashing into cars. So even with this being a full on racing sim, the game is still a fantastically crafted and enjoyable racing experience.
Visually the cars look fantastic and the lighting effects are a nice touch too but there are some visual aspects that let the game down. The scenery, although not essential to the game, doesn’t look particularly detailed and in some respects can create a flat atmosphere. What a motionless crowd does detract from the vibrancy of the race. But its short comings in this department are quickly overcome by the weather effects. As mentioned before, you can create races to cycle through four differing types of weather conditions, and short of locusts and fireballs, there a few options unavailable. The weather effects are also some of the best I’ve seen in any game, ever. The thunder storms had me squinting at the screen as the track itself became almost invisible amongst the torrential rain. The weather, as you can imagine, has a huge impact on your turning and braking. In some conditions the slightest turn can feel like you are doing a complete 360, so a deft touch is required.
So what other keys details do you need to know? Well, everything is available to you from the offset. Every car, track and feature. Nothing is locked, so you don’t have to spend hours playing career mode unlocking the best cars. We also have up to 32 opponents in single player, depending on the size of the track. We have around 65 real world cars to choose from as well as around 80 famous race tracks (some of which are just smaller sections of a larger track). Sadly, there is no split screen, something the modern game seems to be missing these days, but you can play online, which consists of up to 16 players.
Due to receiving an early copy I can’t comment on the online aspect of Project Cars, but what I can say is Project Cars is as smooth as you like. This is certainly a game for racing enthusiasts, but doesn’t leave the casual gamer out in the cold either. Any short comings in terms of visual fidelity or a lack of licences, which Gran Turismo has in abundance, is made up by being a truly remarkable racer. Whether you want to pick up and play or spend hours taking apart your car, this sandbox racer is for you. This is everything every other next-gen racer should be and what’s more exciting is this is the first in the series. Should Project Cars take off, I think we can expect to see even more attention to detail from any future titles. I may not be converted to playing racing games week in week out but Project Cars has opened my eyes to the genre. If Forza or Gran Turismo felt that they were the only two teams on the track, make way for Project Cars.
Project Cars is available on the 8/5/15 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.