It has a tough act to follow, can Project CARS 2 continue to raise the bar?
Project CARS is one of the games at the very forefront of bringing esports to the mainstream. It’s been utilising professional drivers to straddle the gap between at-home simulator and game, and the results are spectacular.
Number two is released on Friday, September 22, having built on the excellent base of the first – an indie game that took it to the might of Gran Turismo and Forza. It has done so through genuine kudos: René Rast and Tommy Milner are among the team of developers dealing with the car physics side of things and track realism.
The danger, you suspect, is going too far. It needs to be entertaining, and it can’t be so difficult that you need to have your race licence in some sort of recency.
But the balance appears to be right. It’s difficult, but in a way that challenges you to master it. The cars have their own quirks and no car feels the same, suggesting the input from the drivers is being put to good use. That means you can simply go around different tracks in different cars for hours and never feel you’ve done the same thing twice. And you’ll still struggle to get a handle on it.
There’s a huge choice, too, but not of your obvious cars. Lotuses from the ’60s, Batmobile CSLs through DTMs of the early ’90s and recent prototypes can all be taken out on an excellent range of tracks – even with a selection of the best liveries. Rallycross is available for the first time, too, and it’s devilishly difficult.
The track characteristics are also where Rast and co. come in: if there’s a bump missing, a dip, anything, they tell developers Slightly Mad Studios and it’s added into the game.
The graphics are improved from the first, and the little things really do catch your eye. The period Transit van at the Rouen hairpin as we overshoot in a Lotus 38, say, or the bales and advertising boards whizzing by at original Silverstone; the extra mile has been devoured, more than just gone to.
Many will simply load it up, head straight online and race away. But career mode allows you to work your way up the ladder through various series and cars, and the custom race means you can just jump in a car, choose a few car types to race against and go to Brands Hatch, Watkins Glen, wherever you choose. You can effectively create your own historic GT and prototype race, historic F1 race or bring together just about anything for an all-comers race. Getting bored of it is going to take some time.
Having a wheel and seat will help get the best out of it – we’re using the Thrustmaster T300 plugged into an Omega Racing RS9 seat – because the more analogue controller input might not allow for the intricacies of the various cars.
Project CARS 2 has set the bar high for the upcoming Gran Turismo and Forza 7 to match – it is a game that really is for racing enthusiasts from racing enthusiasts, not some marketing department that doesn’t know there’s more to motor racing than Formula 1.
Project CARS 2 is out on PS4, Xbox and PC on Friday, September 22