The anticipation of playing the definitive racing game of this generation has been threatening to set off my engine management light for some time. Numerous delays and sold as seen releases had me concerned that wait may last for at least another season.
3 years in the making and slightly mad Studios have released Project CARS, which although that title sounds oversimplified, when you’re told it stands for Community Assisted Racing Simulator it gives you some idea to the depth and complexity on offer.
There are wide range of cars available from the start, the basic 125cc karts with their twitchy handling through to the Pagani Zonda R and then further to open wheel Formula 1 cars with their face tearing G forces. Whilst most, if not all, forms of racing are covered we have become accustomed to nearly an all-inclusive list of marque’s in competitive titles and in comparison Project CARS does feel light in this regard.
The standard range of game modes are available from participating in a racing weekend, online multiplayer to a full and unrestricted career mode.
Starting with a race weekend there is almost an endless array of options for you to toy with, race length, difficulty, time of day, weather and so on. You can just jump straight onto the starting grid or have a practice and qualifying session first, it’s all fully customisable.
The career mode gives you the opportunity to start at any motorsport level you wish, you can begin your journey by following the same path as some household names such as Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton by working your way up from the Karting scene or jump straight ahead into a Formula 1 racing car.
At the start you sign a contract for the season, which from what I’ve seen has no impact on anything, there is no emotional or financial attachment to who you are racing for, you just race for them and they tell you how well/bad you are doing by email. Also looking to review your progress is your Twitter fan base, who will give you encouraging tweets as your season progresses
Of the countless options available to you, it’s the tweaking of the AI difficulty I found to be the most notable, if you feel you’re taking advantage of your opponents you can knock it up a number of notches until you hit your sweet spot, the game can be as demanding as you want it to be and its all the better for it.
The cars handling, for the most part, is impressively replicated, with each type of vehicle requiring you to adapt your driving style accordingly, concentration needs to be remain high and it may take a good while tinkering with the set-ups before you’re happy with your drive. From tyre pressure to ride height, suspension to gear ratios, it’s a tuners paradise.
The controller feedback feels as well as it can, however to get the full effect and experience for this game you’ll likely want to invest in a steering wheel, a Thrustmaster T80 or T100 will see you good.
Out on the track is where the game excels. The detail of the car’s interior is probably the best I’ve seen in a driving game, the vehicles themselves are also beautifully represented and at the very least on par with other driving competitors. There is also a varied range of camera angles to choose from, a few from inside the car and even one from inside the helmet. Driving in varying weather conditions as day passes to night with the shadows from the headlights off the chasing pack, it is a visual masterpiece.
Project CARS is also host to some of the most famous racing circuits, Silverstone, Donnington Monza and Spa as well as the Le Mans track, and each of them are recreated beautifully. Playing and appreciating this game on PS4, I can barely comprehend how good this would look on a high end PC.
Online racing is fit for purpose and does work from the off, but currently I can’t see any official rankings for player matching and I think that this would improve the experience dramatically, if not just to make the racing competitive but to match up those who are looking to race and those who want to line up on the grid against the clones of Pastor Maldonado. There has also been mention online of some racers joining midway through a weekend session with a far superior car and that really needs cutting out if a fair race is to be had.
Ultimately Project Cars is a game that will require a lot of patience and time, and if you want to be the very best you’ll probably spend half of your time in the garage adjusting your setup and the other half justifying your racing wheel purchase to your wife/husband/parent/support worker. On most parts it’s as good as any of the competition, it’s just not yet, the definitive racer I’ve been looking for.