Project CARS is the last racing sim the world will ever need | PCGamesN

Project CARS is the last racing sim the world will ever need

Cockpit view of an open wheel Formula Rookie car looking great.

The challenge in discussing Project CARS, the crowd-funded racing sim from Slightly Mad Studios, is in picking which Project CARS I want to talk about. Because it’s really a lot of different racing games under one enormous umbrella. Possibly the best PC racing game yet.

There’s Project CARS the karting sim, where you’ll race high-performance superkarts around tiny, challenging tracks that are like miniature grand prix circuits. There’s Project CARS, the vintage Formula 1 racing game that lets you take whip Jim Clark’s Lotus around the criminally under-utilized Watkins Glen circui. There’s Project CARS the highway racer, where you can launch an Audi R8 down twisting ribbons of coastal highway in California or the south of France.

They’re completely different experiences, almost from different games. But what they have in common is that they’re all fantastic.

If you played Slightly Mad’s last outing for EA, the outstanding Shift 2, then a lot of what you’ll find in Project CARS will be familiar. The handling model might be a little more manageable than in some of Slightly Mad’s other games, but they have a lock on the “grab-a-tiger-by-the-tail” feeling of high-performance cars. Their clever use of depth-of-field and look-to-apex camerawork do an uncannily great job of putting you in the driver’s seat.

But what really separates Project CARS from its peers is its sheer versatility. Not just in terms of the different racing formats and vehicle types I mentioned above, but in letting you tweak just about every aspect of the game to your satisfaction. If you want an endurance race with a series of changing weather condition over the course of a long dusk-til-dawn race, you can customize your session to be exactly that. The AI driver skill-levels are incredibly granular, so that you can just about always create your perfect competition. You can race open-wheel Formula cars around city streets where they have no business being, and you can run a Le Mans Prototype car around Nordschlieffe for 24 hours straight.

Comparisons to Gran Turismo and Forza are inevitable. Project CARS follows in their footsteps as it tries to capture the breadth of auto racing, finally giving the PC a credible omni-racer to compare against the console giants.

Cockpit view of a stock BMW chasing its peers down a coastal highway.

But Project CARS is not really a “caRPG”, to borrow a term from Tom Chick. It’s not about grinding races to get a new magic high-performance part that will give you an extra 50 bhp. It’s really more of a general motorsports game, in the vein of Codemasters’ Grid and TOCA series.

Except it has a much more demanding, less arcade-y handling model than anything from Codemasters’ outside their F1 series. I’m not sure Project CARS is quite the successor to the SimBin’s GTR series that so many racing fans have been clamoring for, but it still strikes a terrific balance between accessibility and authenticity. And in slick conditions or in awkward off-camber turns, a slight lapse in concentration or throttle management will send you flying off the track.

Project CARS is a little more reminiscent of Grid when it comes to its career mode, where you role-play your way through the motorsports food-chain, taking contract offers from new teams and transferring to more prestigious levels of racing via good performance in the lower rungs.

But it’s far less silly than, say Grid 2, when it comes to how you progress. Instead of proving yourself via three short races against AI “rivals”, you just play out an entire season a series like Formula Rookie, complete with a full grid of opponents, practice sessions, and lots of car tuning. Now, depending on your realism and difficulty settings, the series can be as serious or arcade-like as you want. But it’s never quite a fantasy game the way Grid sometimes is.

Fake social media in Project CARS.

This racing life

On the other hand, Slightly Mad do deserve credit for perhaps the greatest fake Twitter I’ve seen in racing game. Instead of the silly “views” count of Grid 2, where your latest races went “viral”, your career homepage in Project CARS is full of very-familiar looking haters, critics, fanboys and girls, and racing enthusiasts all Tweeting about your latest races. It’s just about a pitch-perfect re-creation of the motorsports Twittersphere on a summer weekend.

If only the racing AI were as convincing. While my racing opponents avoid the worst of “slot-car” driving styles, they are way, way too prone to making contact in close racing. And if you have slowed way down to recover from an off-road incident or a spin, they won’t so much as pump their brakes before catching you on their nose and carrying you all the way down a straight. If I wanted to race with demolition-derby jackasses like this, I’d go online.

I’m also still bothered by the audio. There are too many odd cuts in the engine noise or in the squeal of the tires, like there are missing intermediate sounds between high and low engine revs, or between scrubbing tires and shrieking ones.

Still, Project CARS gets a lot of other important things right. You have a racing engineer who will give you useful at key points on every lap, obviating the need for a lot of HUD elements (though you can still have those if you want). The TrackIR support and force-feedback do a tremendous job of putting you in touch with your car and the track, and the outstanding graphics and lighting are some of best I’ve seen in a racing game (and I’m not even running at full settings). And then there’s all that incredibly variety of cars, races, and tracks.

An Audi Le Mans winner rocketing down the Mulsanne straight.

In a perfect world, Project CARS might be "the last racing game you’ll ever need”. But right now, it looks like the game’s biggest enemy might be the licensing issues surrounding a lot of famous tracks and car manufacturers. You can race old Lotus F1 cars because Lotus have gotten on-board with Project CARS, and so have Audi and BMW, from the looks of things. But Porsche, Ferrari, and just about every major American (save Ford) or Japanese marque appear to be absent. Hopefully that’s something that will change with time, or will at least result in Slightly Mad going in an rFactor direction and using fictionalized versions of some classics racers. As it is, it’s still a great set of tracks that Slightly Mad have offered here, and and a decent array of cars and car classes.

Besides, part of the promise of Project CARS is there are still so many places it can go. Even a year or so ago, in a fairly early state, it was one of the best driving sims around. Now, as it approaches release, it looks like it is close being one of the best racing games as well.

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nu1mlock avataragent1138 avatarBelimawr avatarpgabor28 avatarMOV r0,r0 avatar
nu1mlock Avatar
772
3 Years ago

I'm really looking forward to Project Cars, I really do. But what I would like even more is a game like Forza Or Gran Turismo (hopefully Project Cars?) but with the co-op from Codemaster's Formula 1 games.

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I enjoy playing alone - sometimes. But what I enjoy even more is playing games with friends. And racing games is the only genre where I can't (except for F1, which I don't enjoy because it's F1). There are lots of racing games where you race in teams of two but none of them (again, except for F1) can actually be played with a real, proper, team mate and friend.

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I remember back in the days of Juiced for Xbox, it had a proper career mode and you'd race with a team mate. I would have loved to be able to play with a friend instead of switching controllers between games. Same goes for Grid and tonnes of other racing games.

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Basically, what I'm trying to say is - I want a racing game with a proper career mode which I can play with a friend. A team based one, not pvp.

1
agent1138 Avatar
113
3 Years ago

I miss Toca Race Driver 3, now that had variety.

1
MOV r0,r0 Avatar
6
3 Years ago

Nice preview, chimes with my experience. The AI has changed in the last few builds though - it now avoids contact, so much so that you can throw it a feint and have it drive itself off-track.

Rob's comments about audio were a little harsh. It's driven from hooks in the physics engine so until that goes final there's no point balancing it or work gets done twice. The foundation is in place, it's just waiting polish.

I love GT but it's a driving simulator, not a racing simulator like for example Assetto Corsa. But Project CARS is in a different league and the biggest differentiator is tyre physics. Now the cars and their tyres are finishing development the final product is emerging and nothing else comes close. People who say the 'bad physics' are really saying 'I don't understand games development'.

Since seat belt law in the eighties I can't drive without one in real life without feeling 'belt-naked'. Project CARS is the only sim where I get that same feeling.

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Belimawr Avatar
1288
3 Years ago

I know I will likely get hate for this, but from what I have played of this it is more like an arcade racer than a sim, the physics is generally crap and the graphics are let down by stylized features such as rain that just makes it look like moving cars are parked up.

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really the only way this is the last sim you would need is if you are trying to complete a collection of every racing sim up until the launch day of this.

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hell GT5 and GT6 for PS3 games aren't far behind on graphics and are a million miles ahead on physics generation for things such as air flow, tyre role and suspension mechanics more so in GT6. then if you throw in the graphics of the next gen racers such as driveclub and forza and you soon see that project cars took that long to come out it is entirely mediocre and will be trounced once the true next gen sims come out such GT7 and the other forza games.

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it is really quite sad as the power of PC's could do great things processing the physics and having a really good looking game, but it seems the firm willing to actually go ahead and do it doesn't exist, at one point I had hope for this and was waiting desperately for it to come out, now I just couldn't care less, it's just not what they were claiming it would be.

-1
pgabor28 Avatar
4
3 Years ago

I don't hate you for this but you are talking nonsense.

You don't even have the game on steam, so probably you played a pirated version with an old build once or twice, that could have many issues or flaws which could have been patched lately.

Saying that the physics and graphics are not good to an incomplete game is idiotism, since it could change a lot in 2 months and changed a lot since november. For example a new wet track surface will be added to the game in the next builds or at release.

It's a shame you submit this complete joke you wrote since lot of game reviewers and hard-core sim gamers praise this game a lot.

IMO you are just a general hater that's all.

1
Belimawr Avatar
1288
3 Years ago

got friends who bought into it earlier, have been using their accounts to play it as I was looking forward to it.

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on the graphics they take the time to put in rain and have it stand on moving cars as droplets, that will only ever happen if the car is standing still so as I said stylised graphics features that make the car look as if it is standing still, hell drive a normal car at 30mph and the water will be running off it, more so if it was polished to the level these are supposed to be, so as I said while the graphics are decent they made stylised choices that take away from the level of graphics and only really add to the graphics fidelity if the car is standing still.

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as for the physics they are crap, it feels like any other arcade racer, also like driveclub that is marketed as an arcade racer and not a sim, stack it up along side the physics that goes into GT6 and you will see how far from the mark they actually are, it's why polyphony digital made a point of having track racers race in the same cars on the track and in a simulator using GT6 for the times and driving lines to be that close to each other you could write it off as just being the human factor.

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yes it is an ok racing game, but to call it the be all and end all of racing sims is just so far past the mark, it shows the developers are oblivious to the external market that already exists never mind the fact firms such as polyphony digital are in the process of making new games using the new physics engines in the new consoles, to make the assumption that this will be it is just stupid and big headed by the developer.

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so to make assumptions when the big players haven't even released any info on their next gen games, is just the developer making claims they can't back up. yes if the likes of GT7 had been announced and demoed they may have a comparison, but as it stands it is only a decent racing sim if you compare it against last gen games, or the forza games on the X1 that were rushed out and barely beat the level of GT6 on the PS3.

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pgabor28 Avatar
4
3 Years ago

"as for the physics they are crap, it feels like any other arcade racer, also like driveclub that is marketed as an arcade racer and not a sim"

Absolute incompetence.

You fall off the other side of the horse. Makes your other statements marginal.

A quote from Ian Bell from the forum:

"We've had more than a hundred very positive previews for our hard work over the last week."

Sorry! Bye!

1
Belimawr Avatar
1288
Belimawr replied to pgabor28
3 Years ago

Simcity got a load of positive previews, now how did that turn out again?

1
pgabor28 Avatar
4
pgabor28 replied to pgabor28
3 Years ago

You really got me there. You won.

pffffff

1
pgabor28 Avatar
4
3 Years ago

Maybe that wasn't you in steam, whose profile I saw so if that is the case then sorry. But the other things are true.

1