Project CARS Review – A Serious Racer for Petrol Heads

Slightly Mad Studios released its community based racing game Project Cars on consoles and PC platforms. In a genre dominated by well established brands, how well does this new entry stack up and more importantly is it worthy of your time and money.

Project Cars Review:

Today we’re taking a look at Slightly Mad Studios Project Cars which is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. The game offers a fine mixture of simulation or arcade based racing around real life circuits and comes with a variety of modes to keep the most ardent of racing game fans well occupied. So, where to begin. From the main menu you’re presented with the usual assortment of modes such as career, quick race, online, time trials and solo race. They are all pretty self explanatory except at the start of the process players are asked to choose from one of three levels of overall difficulty which ultimately affects how the game plays. This is essentially a quick select that runs throughout all modes of the experience, although a quick tap of the options and these can be tailored to suit, so that mean things like visual aids can be toggled to handling devices such as anti lock braking, traction control and even things like mechanical failures, fuel usage and tyre wear. There’s quite a bit of detail on offer here to suit the casual player or those looking for the full sim experience which is pretty neat.

What’s perhaps different about Project CARS in its setup is the fact of progression doesn’t rely on the constant rewarding of players as they move through the ranks. Sure, in career mode once several events in a championship are complete then a trophy is awarded, but there’s no unlockable vehicle or bonuses which is almost a standard feature. What this game does is open up the floodgates from the off and allows player the choice of deciding where to go to the point of even allowing multiple careers to be saved at any given time which is admittedly different but most welcome all the same.

Where Project CARS excels is in offering a distinct variety of vehicle types to choose from. So when entering either the solo modes, career or online you’re presented with a vast range of car types which handle quite differently. So for example there are 250cc Superkarts at the bottom end of the spectrum, road cars like the Renault Megane RS, supercars like the Audi R8 moving up to high performance LMP 2 league cars and Formula Championship racers. Throw in some classics and many variations and you’ve got a nice set to choose from. Whilst the overall numbers aren’t massive the variety is great – although the absence of rally cars is a shame and could have made the game even more complete.

Once players find a starting point, there’s further options to tweak especially when gunning for a single race using the solo option. It’s here where players can select from a number of real world circuits from the wet and often overcast Silverstone in the UK, to the arid climes of the Dubai Autodrome. There’s a lot to choose from making for a very robust set of potential choices although there are a number of popular absentees. Players can also select options such as starting position which is a godsend – so no more unrealistic always starting in last place – number of opponents which surpass 40 plus cars and optional extras such as practice and qualifying runs .Once vehicles and location are selected players can then go one step further and tweak the weather conditions and time of day. This is an excellent feature and means in real-time players can begin racing during the clear skies of day and finish the race at night in the pouring rain. Obviously, the weather has a profound effect on the vehicle handling and visibility. It’s a great feature to include and like the rest of the game offers players optional choice which can’t be scoffed at.

In terms of the all importantly handling, the game opts for a realistic slant although it has to be said, some of the default options may need to be tweaked for better results. The steering for example in our case was too sensitive and needed toning down. There’s also a heavy focus on tyre heat and grip which makes itself well known as cars seemingly slide a bit too readily on the opening lap only to grip much better on subsequent laps. This factor isn’t going to gel well with everyone and means some will find cars spinning wildly out of control a bit too easily. The game is also very punishing for those who cut edges or hit the rumble strips and accelerate resulting in spinning out and pretty much losing the race against aggressive AI that rarely makes errors. There’s no rewind feature here which means a mistake can prove quite costly resulting in restarting the race. Again, this approach might be welcome for serious petrol heads but is a bit unforgiving for casual players. That said, there’s plenty of options to tweak the difficulty to suit where lowing it to beginner takes some of the edge away and allows for some mistakes and an easy victory.

Visually, Project CARS offers some fine looking graphics with great representations of the vehicles in the real time changing environments. There’s great light reflections, glare effects and damage model alongside a great sense of speed when driving the high performance vehicles. Whilst perhaps not the best looking racing game overall in some areas, the sheer number of options and real world settings make for an authentic looking experience overall. On the PS4 at least performance remained steady for most of the game with an impressive 60 frames per second throughout which is great.

Audio is fantastic with some real meaty sounds for the various vehicles. This one really does require a nice pair of headphones or sound system to get the most out of the attention to detail here. Other ambient sounds are captured well, and there’s a bit of menu music to suit the mood or not as it can be switched off if desired.

In terms of length, the career mode being the most meaty part of the game is long and will eat away many hours of racing. To put in perspective, just racing the opening Kart events can surpass several hours of play time before moving up the ranks. This is a game to last for any racing fan, and whilst the manufacturers might be limited – No Ferrari cars for example, there’s enough options here to keep interest way into double figures and beyond.

For those looking to take events a step further there’s a comprehensive online area where many games are being played and the option to create lobbies with specific requirements whether that be racing in thunderstorms in karts to long road trips on the west coast in super cars. Couple these options with community challenges and you’ve got lots to aim for, potentially brag about and compete against.

Project CARS stands as an excellent entry into the racing genre and one that’s well crafted for those who take racing seriously. Whilst there’s some things that could be better suited for a wider audience, as a serious racer this is one of the best around. Ultimately progression is slow but at the same time fun. The lack of immediate reward is an unusual choice but somehow doesn’t make the experience any less which is gamble that’s paid off. Racing fans rejoice this is well worth picking up. Casual players will find some entertainment here too but will need to tweak the options to suit.

Score 9/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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