Here comes a new challenger!
It's hard for me to appreciate racing game, I am just not that guy. But somehow sometimes special racing games come out and surprise me. Games like The Crew and the one I'm reviewing here, Project CARS, catch me off guard and mesmerise me, of course each for a series of separate causes. Project CARS is undeniably the best user-friendly racing simulator I've played since the masterpiece that was Gran Turismo 4 on the PS2.
Project CARS tries to do a lot and succeeds in nearly everything with flying colors. It's a meaty game, it has a ton of stuff to do well, ton of racing to do and the best part is that it gets that perfectly right. Anyone and I mean anyone, grandmother included, can pick the controller and rule the track in Project CARS. What I mean is that the game offers some unprecedented levels of gameplay customization. Think this; you can play this game like a toddler riding his bike with training wheels and padding everywhere on his body or you can go full-on Sebastian Vettel F1 level of realism, your choice. You can either turn on every assist possible as steering, breaking assists, traction control, automatic gear etc. lower the difficulty and be safe or turn everything off, (everything!) crank the difficulty to a 100 and tune every aspect of your car for a full on racing simulation...your choice.
That's what's great about Project CARS, you, the player, come first. You choose what it is going to be. But if you are someone like me, a totally casual most of times hater of racing games, you should tinker a bit with the customization to find that sweet spot. You have to give the game that chance, that little time of messing around in the options cause what comes out from that totally redeems that "lost" time. I had and still have so much fun with this game.
I love how my fake Twitter fans on the Career cheer for me when I win a race or a championship. I love it when I get emails from my "superiors" saying how awesome I am. And I really love when big car manufacturers or event holders invite me to drive their awesome cars. Yes of course, Project CARS is not the first game to have a Career like this, but still, it's really well done. It pushes me to become better, to demolish my opponents on that upcoming Superkart 250cc championship or fly through the finish line inside my prototype Le Mans ubercar. And the best part is that you can start your career where ever you want it. Do you want to go through the, what I like to call "Michael Schumacher Experience", starting from go-carts and graduating through 10 different tiers earning the "Zero to Hero" trophy or you wanna start directly from Tier 10? Nothing is behind a progress bar, everything is open from the beginning. Again, it is up to you. However I advise to experience the first cause it feels just right.
Now I better should start talking about the driving mechanics and how it feels then, right? Well, f*ck, that's always the hard part to explain using words, but I'll try my best. The first thing you should know is that every car feel different, each handles and accelerates differently some for better or worse. If you start your career on the first-second tier, Karts and SuperKarts, after finding that sweet spot, racing around any track for me was probably the most fun I had with Project CARS. The acceleration with the RPMs reaching as far as 18K felt fricking great that when combined with the fast break response and incredible handling made for a insanely satisfying gameplay session. The tires stick to the tarmac as you corner around at 100-120 mphs, no under or over steer, it's just a joy to experience.
Then you have the rest of the cars that scale from extremely boring to fantastic to race through the tracks. You have the hatchbacks which feel extremely heavy with no sense of speed and a larger than life turning radius, normal/sport coupes and saloons like the BMW M3 or Mercedes 190E which mostly feel great at both acceleration and cornering, track day cars like the Ariel Atom or Caterham Classic that go from interesting to drive to totally a chore. After that you have your collection of supercars like the Pagani Huayra, McLaren P1 or the fantastic Furious 7 Lykan Hypersport which may or may not satisfy your petrolhead itch, passing to the GT cars and the prototypes Le Mans cars which feel amazing on tracks if the conditions are appropriate and most importantly, you know what you are doing.
Speaking of track conditions, Project CARS offer a large array of variations. Apart from the standard night/day clear/rain conditions, the variety scales up to eleven. So you have cloudy/light rain, cloudy/heavy rain, heavy rain with light/heavy fog, but it can go as high as a night/thunderstorm where you have, and I emphasize it, no visibility whatsoever if you drive cockpit view. But these conditions are not only for looks, they highly affect the driving physics. As you can clearly see in the video down below, driving an Ariel Atom during a thunderstorm in full-on realism is impossible, well at least for me, as I cannot keep the car going straight for a couple of meters let alone drive through the entire Nurburgring track.
The track collections is also expansive and interesting featuring some of the most renowned tracks like the Nurburgring, Monza, Laguna Seca, Brno and 25+ more each with multiple courses so be prepared to drive for a while. Apart from these real life tracks, there is also a number of "fantasy" ones like the Azure Coast or California Highway which are extremely satiating especially if you drive, not race, just drive a supercar like a Pagani or the Lykan absorbing all of the beauty Project CARS has to offer like at dawn or sunset. The lighting in most cases is perfect, the sun rays bouncing off the car showing the incredible attention to detail, the flares "blinding" you in cockpit view and the gracefully done HDR. All of the images and the gameplay video you see here is directly captured from the PS4 using either the game own Photo Mode or directly using the Share functionality and as you can see Project CARS is bloody gorgeous with a 40-50 fps framerate.
But as every game out there, Project CARS is not without it faults. During my play I've experience a considerate amount of glitches, both in gameplay but mostly on the graphical/presentation part. As for the gameplay ones, the most obvious one is the physics going all Watch Dogs-y where the car would act stupid while cornering and especially while crashing into the walls or into other cars. In most instances the car would go full on Vin Diesel wheelie as you can see in the images I captured and in other cases it would spin out of control as soon as you get out of the tarmac. It's a pain to see these occurrences in a game that offers insane levels of realism. Another problems that happened a considerate amount of times was the inability of the game to restart the race properly sometimes two or three times in a row. The other side of the medallion are the presentation glitches and while not being a breaking point or anything like that, these are still a nuisance to deal with. For example, sometimes the audio would completely cut out of the game for no reason at all requiring a restart of the race to fix. Another example was the camera shaking like crazy while in third-person view if you went one wheel of the track, or the obnoxious boxy shadows in Photo Mode. As I said, none of these is game breaking, but it would have been better not having them.
The last thing I want to touch upon before closing the review is the multiplayer. I have to be honest, I haven't played enough to give a fully formed opinion, but from initial impressions gained from playing a total of 20 or so matches I have to say that it kinda works. The first couple of times I tried, it took a long time to find the servers let alone connect to one of them, but since launch the player number has increased dramatically, that is no longer a problem. I didn't experience any lag or better say any considerate amount to make it unplayable, but I did encounter the number one enemy of multiplayer racing games, the douchebag driver. After the qualifying laps, the race starts and lo and behold the douchebag crashes at you at 150kmph spinning you uncontrollably to the last place. That sucks, not only here but in every racing game and there is nothing you can do. But I also had some very nice sessions with players that were in for the satisfaction of winning fair and square so there's also that.
How does the future look for Project CARS? In my opinion, it's bright, very very bright. I started with the "Here comes a new challenger" and I fully stand behind it. The problems it has at the moment are easily fixable and I believe the guys at Slightly Mad Studios are hard at work to patch everything up. Car packs and maybe track packs are a natural thing to expect as DLC and the community challenges will keep the wheels moving. The immersion is already fantastic as hearing the team engineer speaking through the DS4 speaker is already a wow feature and with the Oculus and Morpheus releasing soon, I believe it is only to get deeper and better. So should you get Project CARS? I don't have a clear answer to that, just know that if nothing satisfies that petrolhead itch you might have, Project CARS definitely will and then some. Thanks for reading!