07th May2015

‘Project CARS’ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf

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Project CARS is finally here and after all the delays the final release version is available and I’ve been lucky enough to play it over the last week and get a feel for the game.  With lots of promises made and more importantly a lot of driving hours to put in, can Project CARS live up to the likes of Microsoft’s Forza and Sony’s Gran Turismo?

On the scale of arcade style racer and simulator, Project CARS is closer to being a simulator.  It features a punishing level of challenge that never lets you lose focus, even if you put on all of the driving aids and hope for the best you still have to work your hardest on track to win the race.  Each car has a different feel and driving style, requiring you to learn the nuances of each vehicle, but this is what makes Project CARS so much fun for the driving fan, it just feels right.

In the marketing for the game they state that the game has been tested and approved by both gamers and real racing pros.  When a statement like this is made you come to expect something special, and something different than the average gaming experience (or just accept it as hype).  There are certain elements that show a level of reality in the way the cars react, and most impressively this reveals itself in the physics of the game.  When practicing and qualifying for example often the tyres are cold, which means the opening laps should be used to warm them up, or suffer the consequences.  Until you get used to this it is often too easy to try to go that bit too fast and slide straight off the track or be swerving around the track as the car fights against your control.  These are the things you have to learn about the vehicles in Project CARS. There has to be some level of respect for the power they are giving you on the track.

When starting the career mode you are put into the karting circuits, where response to the steering wheel is high and mistakes come at a high cost.  This lulls you into a false sense of security, as they are quite easy as long as you don’t make any major mistakes.  Through the games email system though you’ll soon find yourself invited to other tournaments where the car type change, this is where the game starts to introduce you to some reality, no two cars are going to react the same to your driving so you as the driver must be the one to adapt.  Moving from a kart to a more powerful vehicle is a harsh change that often leads to the practice laps being used just to get used to the differences you face.

When impacts come during the race, and they often do, the physics feel realistic and make for an immersive experience.  Though I will admit when I first started to play my panic of losing the race was a second though compared to me being impressed with how cars reacted to sudden shunts and major accidents.  As you play you’ll probably want to check out the camera choices too which is easy enough to set.

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With camera choices there are the typical in-car options and the ones you expect on the outside but the most interesting one is the helmet cam.  Playing this one for a while made it obvious that this would be perfect for the supported Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus headsets.  Even without the Virtual Reality headset though the helmet cam works surprisingly well and adds an interesting edge to the game, even improving the experience somewhat.

Another thing that will affect the way you drive is the dynamic weather and environment.  I found myself impressed with the way that rain isn’t just something that will be there as soon as you start the race.  Often as you are pushing your car to the limit you’ll start to see the odd raindrop hit the screen, before the full rainstorm hits and your driving style once again has to adapt to keep you on the track.  This adds to the challenge and highlights the fact that you have to be constantly aware of your environment, be able to interpret the car you are driving and push for the successful race.  If you are qualifying for example you will realise that if you’ve not got a good time in yet and the rain has come you aren’t going to hit the good time in the wet.  The Le Mans 24 Hour race also adds the night and day transition, and the fact you have to turn your lights on.  Or do like me for a few laps and assume that the game turns them on automatically then complain that everything has gone too dark.

What will make Project CARS connect with driving game fans is the way the cars feel, and the level of detail that has been put into the driving experience.  Will hardcore fans rate this high? I’m not sure I can answer that question as they themselves will have their own view on what a game like this should provide.  All I can say is I was left with a feeling that this simulator was created with a view of bringing the driving to the driver and not just giving them a nice shiny car model to drive that drives like every other car in the game.  In Project CARS you have to adapt your driving to each car you choose and the races never feel like you are driving on autopilot where your attention can just turn off for a few seconds.

I’d say Project Cars was well worth the wait.

***** 5/5

Project CARS is available on PC, Playstation 4 and XBox One on May 8th.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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