Video Games

Preview: Project CARS

Project CARS is a game I’ve had my eyes on for a while now, especially as I’m lacking racing simulation games in my library. Recently we got chance to sit down with a PC build of the game from late 2014 and to say my hype was well-placed would be an understatement.

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The first thing you’ll notice is the impressively detailed graphics. The car models look sleek, shiny and realistic, surpassing the quality you’d expect from games like Forza and Gran Turismo. The environments are nicely detailed too and when running the game on Ultra settings, you can really see the standout features that each track has to offer. Even the smaller things like raindrops and grass blades have been given loving care and attention and it all adds up to a visually stunning experience, which is beyond anything I’ve ever seen from a game in this genre.

Project CARS looks pretty on the outside and that continues on the inside too. For fans of the simulation side of the racing genre, this will be right up your alley. The physics engine is mostly spot on, although crashes are a bit wonky at times, and driving feels satisfying when you’re facing in the right direction. Of course, this may deter fans of games like Need for Speed and (pre-AutosportGrid which tend to offer a more arcade feel, with their “over-steer happy” physics engines. Think of it like a Forza game, except a lot tougher on you and with a more in-depth vehicle setting customisation.

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Dynamic weather has been a huge talking point since the start of the generation and featured in both Forza Horizon 2 and Driveclub (eventually) and both games did it quite well, with Driveclub being arguably better (I mean, it had to be good for something…). Project CARS steps it up another notch though, taking what Driveclub made impressive and slapping more detailed effects that aren’t just there to blind you (try driving at night and in the rain in DC). You can also have some interesting weather combos, with several options on offer and 4 usable in one session. It means you can either slam from sunshine into a full-blown storm or have it progressively brighten up from some heavy rain.

There’s over 20 tracks on offer so far, with multiple variations of each also included, which trumps Forza 5’s 17 tracks. Each are gorgeously rendered and support all the current weather options offered by Project CARS. As an English based reviewer and car-lover, it’s also nice to see a plethora of tracks from England, something UK based Codemasters have not offered since the days when they were making BTCC games. The car selection offers a decent variety of cars, from open-wheel to road cars, as well as super cars and karts, to mention a few.  There’s not as many cars as I’d like just yet, but hopefully more will be added in time for release, and most likely as DLC too.

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In races, the AI hardly feels much of a challenge when you’ve got used to the simulation feel of the game and you’ll often leave them in the dust, which is a bit disappointing if you’re looking for a challenge. We couldn’t find a way to modify the difficulty either, without disabling most of the settings that were keeping us pointing forwards and hopefully this will be fixed before launch.

And if the option was there, then it’s likely we couldn’t find it in all the menus, which seem largely incomplete at this point. Some menus like the car and track selection could do with a layout more like Forza or GT instead of the current lists, with all the previews put in place. It’s a bit picky to criticise menus in a work-in-progress build, but it’s something that needs highlighting for fixing before launch, which I’m confident Slightly Mad Studios will.

Project CARS needs a bit of polish all over, but considering the build we played is a few months old now, some of the issues could already be fixed or at least will be by launch day next month. With the progress made since the initial planned release date, I’m pretty glad that they’ve waited a few more months just to get the details down and make this game as good as it could potentially be. Keep an eye on this one, it could be genre topping stuff.

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