The closest you're likely to come to becoming an actual race driver
3,494SRP: £49.99It takes a special type of game to take on the behemoths of the racing genre. Titles like Gran Turismo and Forza have each staked out well established ground on their respective consoles and when it comes to hardcore simulation, titles like iRacing and Asseto Corsa on the PC cater to fans looking for ultra detailed representations of racing. The amount of resources and sheer man hours poured into these titles help to deliver some of the best visuals on their respective platforms and bring players as close to this sort of high octane racing as they are ever likely to get.
It takes a group of "Slightly Mad" Developers (couldn't resist, sorry) to even attempt to bring a new IP into the genre, with lineage that can be traced back to the GTR games through to a couple of alternate reality versions of Need for Speed - where realism took centre stage - before they finally turned to KickStarter to fund their most ambitious undertaking yet. Step forward Project CARS.
Community Assisted Racing Simulator
The opening splash screen has the logo for the community focused World of Mass Development platform front and centre. This is where the community has had a direct influence on the game's development since its inception. As a result Project CARS arrives as an incredibly detailed racing simulator, the likes of which have rarely been seen in the console space.
The level of tweaking and customisation here is impressive, when it comes to the gameplay set-up you can adjust almost every element from the force feedback, field of view and rearranging elements of the HUD to your liking, when tweaking the cars there are options in the menus many will barely understand let alone spend the time to adjust. During my time so far I haven't found it necessary to fiddle with many of these settings at all; still it's comforting to know the options are there. It helps to reinforce the level of authenticity on display, Project Cars is a game that wants you to lose yourself in motorsport at every level, whether it be selecting the helmet cam view, removing the HUD and connecting your favourite racing wheel or tinkering with the finest of details on the set-up of your car to squeeze out that little extra bit of performance.
There are options in the menus many will barely understand let alone spend the time to adjust
The philosophy of granularity of choice runs right through every aspect of Project Cars. The solo career mode is a refreshingly accessible affair with the stable of vehicles ranging from karts right through to the heights of LMP1 racing. How you get from one end to the other is entirely up to you, whether you rise through the ranks as an open wheel racer or prefer to prove yourself as more of a grand tourer. You might simply just want to jump straight into a 24HR Le Mans in an Audi R18, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from doing so if you can keep it on the track. As an open wheel racing fan I decided to follow in the steps of many an F1 hero and begin with cutting my teeth in the twitchy karts.
One of the best things Project Cars does well is emulate the feeling of an entire race weekend. Depending on the class you are currently competing in you will have the relevant prerequisite practice and qualifying sessions leading up to the race, with the weather and even the position of the sun corresponding down to the day and month of the year. An early morning sunny practice might give way to a rainy qualifying session and wet start to the race, before clearing up in the latter stages. With the ability to pick out tyre strategies, adjust race length and opponent difficulty between each session there is the potential to simulate a long and deep career which sees you moving through the ranks and fielding offers from teams in the higher tiers.
This type of natural progression is perfect for the unforgiving nature of the racing; throttle control, tyre and brake temps are all real concerns to consider before you even think about how some of the more powerful vehicles handle, the slow increase in power as you rise through the ranks helps to manage the steep learning curve that might be a shock to those used to the more forgiving nature (no rewind here folks!) of the mainstream series in the genre. There are difficulty levels at the outset of a career, the lower of which will apply a suite of assists and each race can be tweaked individually if you want to lower the challenge but Project Cars is a game which exists to provide a challenge, the enjoyment here lies in the heart pounding laps where you brake deep into every corner to gain that extra lap time, the cut back manoeuvre you use after carefully sizing up the car in front or simply the joy of finding the zone in your car during a productive practise session.
When it hits these notes Project Cars is easily the best simulation racing game I have ever played. The trouble is the well realised simulation is frequently shattered by a variety of technical issues currently plaguing the game. Some of the most frustrating issues I have encountered include steering locking halfway into a hard fought hot lap, tearing and severe frame rate dips in places and hard crashes.
Also worth nothing is that whilst I haven't personally had to make use of the numerous controller set-ups which have been created by those who find the handling less than intuitive, enough of a community has swelled to address the problem that it's hard to deny its existence.
Slightly Mad have acknowledged many of the issues and have a patch in the works which should hit any day now.
The list of tracks on the disc is impressive with over 30 different locations offering 110 courses, the amount of cars is less impressive with the Motorsport lean delivering less instantly recognisable machines and manufacturer exclusivity contracts leaving noticeable holes from the likes of motoring legends Ferrari and Lamborghini. DLC cars tend to be the bread and butter of the post release schedule of any respectable racing title and the limited edition and modified car packs version already lock away desirables like the Mclaren F1 and the Ariel Atom.
Beyond the tracks and cars every other conceivable option is at your command; outside the career you can create races with exactly the conditions and options you please, if for some reason you want to drive karts round the full version of the Nurburgring with 37 opponents in the rain at midnight on Christmas day you can do it!
All of these options also exist online where you can join and create lobbies filled with real world racers that come with all the benefits of realistic behaviour and banter and all of the downsides of disconnections, latency and dirty driving. The story of online play largely parallels offline, when it works the gameplay is engaging and rewarding, especially when playing with friends but technical issues can frequently spoil the fun with disconnections and bugs an all too regular occurrence at the moment. Handily there are asynchronous activities such as racing against ghosts, time trials and community events that provide enough ways to compete if you lose patience with traditional wheel to wheel racing.
- Authentic gameplay
- Free flowing structure
- Excellent audiovisuals
- Huge selection of tracks
- Technical Issues
- Steep learning curve
- Some key cars absent
Project Cars Xbox One ReviewProject Cars gets so much right, it's a stunningly fastidious recreation of not only the audiovisual elements of racing; but perhaps more importantly the feeling of racing, learning the cars, experiencing the sense of speed as the mirrors wobble and dials blur in your peripheral vision at speed or the pride of leading the last race of the season to cement a hard fought victory.
It may look like your average racing game but it is important to enter this title with your eyes wide open and realise that this is an uncompromising sim in every sense of the word; although there are assists to ease you in, the learning curve is steep and the hand holding in minimal.
Even with the litany of technical issues currently hampering it, the sheer authenticity and satisfaction of the gameplay offers the best opportunity (short of actually hitting the track) to feel like a racing driver you're probably going to get.
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