WIN, PS4, XBOX ONE,
STEAMOS, WII U
SLIGHTLY MAD STUDIOS
SLIGHTLY MAD STUDIOS
MAY 7, 2014
he simulation genre these days is synonymous with wacky, unrealistic physics and a mockery of stale, couldn’t be more boring, ideas like driving a truck across Europe. Most are so buggy that they result in things getting flung across the game at mach speed and seemingly overnight have hatched a plethora of satirical knock offs. It gave birth to the likes of Goat Simulator, a game that simulates anything but, and who could forget that other game that literally let you watch grass grow. I’m not opposed to these, if I'm honest I quite enjoyed Surgeon Simulator, but it’s incredibly refreshing when a developer comes along and actually, properly, simulates what they set out to. In a nutshell, Project CARS is that very example.
I’ve been backing the project ever since it's crowd-funding started in 2012. Back then you had access to a very early alpha version of the game, and just about every week they’d update it with the latest build, adding new cars, tracks and tweaking various handling and physics models. It’s quite something to see its evolution from something virtually unplayable to absolute perfection, especially this day in age when you’re lucky if crowd funded games come out at all.
It’s not a game to compete with Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. While you may somewhat disagree, neither of those games are strictly simulation, so drop the comparisons. Project CARS is far less forgiving and much more detail oriented. It’s not exactly heavy on cars either, it only boasts 73 at the time of writing this review. Slightly Mad may have plans to add more at some point though, my fingers are crossed. It has 32 track locations as well, combined to a total of 110 different track layouts. Some of those include karting tracks like the Dubai Autodrome as well as a few point to point road rally stages in California and Monte Carlo for you to try out. All track locations are fully licensed, real places. None of this fantasy nonsense; as a simulation game should.
I'VE NEVER FELT THE CAR UNDER ME
QUITE LIKE THIS
Diving in head first may be a bit imprudent. Whether you’re going in with a controller or a steering wheel, you’ll need to spend a little while adjusting and testing out your control scheme. There are so many functions and sliders that customize every aspect of the game, so you'll need to figure out your priorities. As a steering wheel user, there are a dozen different sliders just for the force feedback. Things like how much tire and road vibration comes through and how heavy the linkage should feel. Once you dial it in to your liking, it really is spectacular. I’ve played a butt load of car games on a PC in my day, many with my Logitech G25, and I’ve never felt the car under me quite like it does in Project CARS. You can feel where the tires are, where the momentum is, and anticipate oversteer or understeer just by reading the wheel, before the car ever shows any symptoms on screen. There's also minimal input lag, meaning split second reactions translate immediately to countersteer a spin or to hold that perfect drift.
There are a number of graphic options as well. I reviewed this on a GTX Titan Black and had no problem getting a solid 60 fps with everything maxed out. It will likely run quite well on lower end cards though so don't fret. With all the available options, it shouldn’t be hard to find something to compromise.
Feel free to adjust your seat up and down, forwards and back, seat angle, change your field of view, how much do you look at the apex of a corner on entry, how much does your head shake over bumps, do you want to see your helmet encompass the screen? Maybe you want to use a camera mounted on the roof. It even supports many VR options, which, if I’m honest, is the perfect genre for it. Once you’ve set everything just so, feel free to hop into career mode which remedies a problem I’ve had with car games for decades.
In reality, racing drivers don’t just start out driving F1, or Le Mans GT cars, they had to work their way up, racing hard in the lower divisions until a scout or sponsor decided to give them an opportunity in the big leagues. This is how life works in Project CARS. Want to race in a super fast Formula car? You have to start in karting and work your way up. Impress the right people and you’ll move up pretty quick. You can, sort of cheat the system if you want however; if you’d rather start off in Formula B, or even in Formula A, you can. You’re not restricted to any set path. Even if you decide open-wheel racing isn't for you, you can switch to Touring Cars or GT racing which leads to Le Mans Prototype endurance racing, and a bunch of other disciplines that feel very fleshed out. Each of which will take you all over the world to the many tracks there are to experience, which is where the Project CARS puzzle comes together.
Few games are as pretty as this is. You could argue that it’s just a track and a few cars, so it has no excuse not to be. While that’s mostly true, no game is as detailed as Project CARS is. Not one. Leaves blow up off the road, pieces of rubber fling themselves from your tires and roll, complete with physics, to the edge of the track, to be blown away by the next car, or even bounce off their windshield. Each and every shadow is completely dynamic, paired with a real time 24 hour day cycle, that, at the right time, can be quite breathtaking, or blinding if the sun is setting right in front of a hard corner. It’s got very impressive weather physics as well, complete with rain drops and puddles, and dynamic clouds so certain parts of the track will get wet quicker than others, or consequently dry out quicker, making wet conditions especially tricky to drive in. Mirrors, hood pins and even stalks on the steering columns will bounce around over bumps. Most impressive of all though, is that every gauge, in every car, works. I’m not talking about speedometers, I’m talking about oil temperature gauges, g-force gauges and lap deltas. The odometers work, even the air temperature gauges and clocks. It’s a level of immersion that no other car game in history has attempted.
It’s a hard game to fault. Its AI are some of the most impressive I’ve seen. They anticipate corners, and fake to the inside line to block you or to set up for a better run out of the next corner. With a difficulty slider that goes from 0 to 100, it’s also very easy to pin point a level of skill that you feel comfortable with, allowing to challenge yourself and have a close, exciting race every time.
IT PERFECTS EACH AND EVERY DETAIL WITH
SUCH A FINE PROFESSIONAL EXECUTION
Truthfully my only complaint is I wish there was more. Not that it lacks content, I’m just being a greedy hedonist hell-bent on reality being overruled by proper VR where I can be a race car driver dammit.
It really has been something special to watch where this game has come from and to see now where it’s going. It perfects each and every detail in such a fine professional execution that I simply can’t say anything bad about it. In fact, I’ll say this, it’s the best car game that’s ever been made. It offers the most player freedom to choose their style, impeccable realism, a career mode that’s never been done before, and visuals that are easily the best on the market right now.
Real simulation games were never all that popular. For that reason I commend Slightly Mad for making a game that they and their millions of fans wanted to play. It easily could’ve been another crummy Need for Speed devised entirely to scam 12 year olds, who just saw the latest Fast and Furious movie, and have no idea how cars actually handle. But instead, it’s the furthest thing from it. Have a pint on me guys.
PROJECT CARS REVIEW
By Aaron Bishop on May 7, 2015
Some images from Slightly Mad Studios