It’s been a few years now since the fresh burst of competitive racing that was Project Cars first arrived on the scene. Since that point, many have been locked in debate over whether Project Cars is the best simulation racing experience, whilst others have argued whether if it can even stand its ground when compared to rivals such as Forza or DiRT.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the game, and the feel of the cars, the detail on each and every track and the general quality of the experience. I enjoyed having something else to look forward to each year other than the typical Forza entry.
Now though Project Cars 2 is here, and with Forza Motorsport 7 also releasing it’s no longer about establishing a place on the grid but rather about chasing down the rest of the pack and trying to get one over on the competition. So here are my thoughts on Project Cars 2 – hopefully with less of the ridiculous racing puns.
Project Cars 2 is the ultimate simulation journey, and after sinking away the hours, and trying to master each corner in the online side of things, I think it’s probably quite safe to put money on that statement being rather accurate – provided you’re willing to keep things simple with some straight up racing that is.
As with the original, Project Cars 2 has several different modes for petrol heads to embark on. First up is the Career mode and this is easily the place where I spent the majority of my time with the game. For anyone who remembers this from the original game, Project Cars 2 portrays things in a near identical way. There is one new addition this time round however, and that is the inclusion of Manufacturer Drives and Invitational Events. Whilst the Career layout is a familiar sight, choosing to race for different manufacturers will see an increase in your affinity level for that given manufacturer, something which can result in invite-only events which see the victors prove themselves and given the opportunity to become a Brand Advocate for the specific manufacturer. This may not exactly be the most revolutionary way to incorporate new race types to the Career mode, but it is something that allows the fun to keep going a little longer – if only because it is great for those who have a favourite brand of car to experience something other than the usual championship format.
Invitational Events on the other hand are unlocked once players achieve certain milestones within the career. These events are split up into five sections; Historic, Track Special, Low Grip, Road, and Supercar. Each one contains several events for players to complete and will usually provide a car that isn’t found within the Career mode championships, allowing for the racers out there to get a good feel for all the different cars within the game. It is something else which adds a nice touch to the overall improvements found within Project Cars 2.
There are six different tiers of racing for players during the Career, and much like the original game, you aren’t forced to start right at the back if you don’t want to. Instead the options are there to allow you to choose which Tier – up to Tier 3 – from which to work your way through. Tier 6 consists of the entry competitions such as Kart One, Formula Rookie, and the Ginetta Juniors Challenge, whilst higher tiers consist of more powerful cars and competitions such as the Porsche Cayman Cup within Tier 4 and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo from Tier 3. These are just a few of the options available to players amongst the many championships, all of which ultimately allow players to choose their own path to the overall lifetime goal – to become a champion within one of the Tier 1 competitions.
Championships can be played in two ways, either the full or short version. There doesn’t seem to be any importance to which of these you choose but, if you’re someone with limited time on your hands due to other life commitments, the short championship option gives the opportunity to blast through the career at a much faster pace, albeit missing out a few of the tracks found in each championship along the way.
Whilst the career layout is pretty much the same thing as last time round, the championships available to the player do now have a lot more variation within them. You can now take part in the new and exciting Rallycross championships for example. Unfortunately, the Rallycross, whilst a widely promoted new feature for Project Cars 2 is exciting, anyone looking to go all out in the new racing discipline will need a serious amount of patience on their hands, as this is where my first gripe with Project Cars 2 came into play.
After starting out in Tier 6 with the Ginetta Juniors Challenge, it wasn’t until way later – as I was playing full championships – in Tier 4 that I first got my chance to jump into the RX Regional Lites Rallycross. After just ten minutes I had found myself ready to retire from the championship and pick another route entirely.
You see, up to this point, I had found Project Cars 2 to have some of the finest handling and racing mechanics I had seen for some time in a racing game. The controls were responsive, the cars handled as you would expect them to, the racing was realistic and exhilarating and I was having a blast. Fast forward though to Regional Rallycross and I was not only met with the new discipline, but also the new weather option – snow and ice. I am most definitely someone who likes to take my racers to the ultimate in realism, with all assists turned off and full control over every aspect of my vehicle, but I was quickly forced to throw them all back on. Handling in the snow and slipping on the ice is nothing short of horrible. I’m not talking a little bit either.
Now I’m not someone who claims to be a fantastic racer, but having played near on every racer since the birth of Xbox, I find it hard to believe that skill can be entirely to blame for every occasion on which I found my 315HP Olsberg MSE RX Supercar sliding into the first corner without the slightest intention of going around it. This was something that I found truly disappointing for a game that offers near on perfect realism in every other section. This was confirmed further after I decided to retire from every session in succession within my Ice Championship – due to the lack of a quitting competition option, and tried again with the Dirt track instead. On dirt, the handling was once more back to a suitable standard, albeit, as you would expect, still not as great as on the tarmac tracks, and I was able to glide my car round the course with serious speed. But whilst I was still able to progress from here, it would have been nice to have seen the ice racing at least prove manageable. Instead it really took the fun out of one of the biggest new features for Project Cars 2.
Away from Career mode though and the other options for play include a Quick Play and Community section.
Quick Play is the place to go for those looking to set up and utilise the Custom Race feature, something that’s great for deciding the perfect race, with everything from time and date of the event, to the weather and race rules all being customisable. Then there are the Online events which allow players to jump into lobbies together and continue through a full race weekend complete with Practice, Qualifying and Race Day, with many options available to the session host to tailor the lobbies to their taste.
And then we have the Community section. This is where players can go to compete in Community Events; time specific events that bring in Time Trial or eSports style events and put players in control of a specific car on a set track to bring a completely competitive edge to things. You can also partake in single Time-Trial events for a place on the leaderboards, or spend some time catching up on all the competitive results within the eSports environment.
As I previously mentioned, aside from the vehicle handling when it comes to racing in the ice and snow, Project Cars 2 does give off a great sense of realism within its gameplay. With incredibly lifelike visuals, a large selection of real life vehicles and some beautifully realised tracks, it is without doubt a fine racer. The thought that it’s all come from an indie studio is simply mind boggling and it’s just a shame that certain track types don’t quite stand up to the expectations met with the rest.
Another thing I noticed with my time spent with Project Cars 2, was that even though the online racing was certainly a joy to partake in due to the realism on show, there are occasional times in which the screen would stutter for a slight second or two before returning back to normal. Hopefully this is something that will be patched in the coming weeks, but for now, it’s the only thing stopping the online play from being as smooth as the single player.
Project Cars 2 isn’t quite the perfect racer just yet, but it is certainly impressive and improves upon the many great things to come out of the original Project Cars. That said, the online play could still do with a few more tweaks to bring out the full potential and the Ice racing feels like a massive let down due to the overly excessive realism of driving on ice with a super high-performance car.
Nevertheless, Project Cars 2 is indeed a quality racer, one well worth the time of anyone looking for an ultra-realistic experience. Those coming in as casual racers may find the controls a little harsh, but the general nature of racing a high-performance car is certainly put into perspective, and that should be praised in any game looking to give a simulation experience.
Can it compete with Forza? Definitely! Should you be checking it out? Of course. Just make sure to avoid the hazardous conditions.