If you like Simcade or games that have a mixture of simulation and arcade elements, your first time picking up Project CARS 2 might be an eye-opening experience.
Game Name: Project CARS 2
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), also available on Xbox One, PC
Publisher(s): Bandai Namco
Developer(s): Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: September 22nd, 2017
Price: $59.99 | Available on Amazon
PlayStation 4 Pro Support: Yes
**Review was conducted on a PlayStation 4 Pro**
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So let’s get this out of the way – there is no arcade here. This game won’t hold your hand at all – be prepared for a full-blown simulation.
That said, it doesn’t mean that the game isn’t approachable. Slightly Mad Studios has catered this game to multiple crowds, from the hardcore sim racers to first time at the wheel racers. Given this, there are multiple ways that you can get on the track. You may customize the game to your liking on a massive scale. Damage can be set to off, cosmetic or even performance impacting, while multiple options are available such as steering and braking assistance, ABS, stability control, traction control, fuel usage, tire wear, rolling starts – it’s all here. You can also enable mechanical failures, which will result in either your engine blowing up, gearbox failure, and more. , if it can happen in a real car, it will happen here. Need a driving line? W, ll you can enable that, it comes disabled by default.
Another addition, called Race Engineer, is a nice touch for newcomers to simulation racing or for those who don’t want to bother with tweaking their cars. What this does it ask a series of questions about the vehicle, how it’s performing (or not) and you’ll be given several responses based on that. Those answers will then give you several options to make changes – far easier than manually dialing in the settings. You can also customize setups per car/ track, and you can also share those configs with other racers. If you’re someone who enjoys figuring out the exact science of min/maxing your car setup, don’t worry. You still can! Keep in mind that this doesn’t work on every car as some have features that can be adjusted, such as the downforce.
The original Project CARS car selection was around 76 with 30 different tracks. This time around, those numbers have doubled. Project CARS 2 ups the ante with 180 licensed 63 tracks, and 146 track layouts. This includes a huge selection of exotics, go-karts, rally cars, open-wheel racers, and more. Track fans, we have rally courses and even city tracks! Tracks include Nurburgring, Dubai, Long Beach Le Mans Circuit, Laguna SecaIndianapolis Motor Speedway, Hockenheim, Fuji, Daytona, California Highway, and more. I literally geeked out due to the sheer number oft of tracks, many of them being my favorites, that are available. There should be more than enough to keep you busy this time around.
Each car also comes with an overall rating and a turning rating. This way, you can pick which vehicle you want to drive and how difficult it will be to drive it. This could deter newcomers but I’ll add that adjusting some downforce, as well as changing the tires will help make up for the difficulty, so don’t be afraid to try out all the cars that are available.
It’s all about you
The game offers three distinct game modes outside of the career mode: custom event, private testing, and online. These modes will let you pick your car, track and adjust various aspects such as the weather, time of day (and compression), lap count, qualifying lap, and even the season. The only main difference between the three is that with the custom event you’ll be pitted up against multiple racers (up to 31). With private testing, it’s just you, the track and your car. With the custom events, you’ll also be able to adjust the AI racers aggressiveness and difficulty, as well as select up to four other car classes you can race against. While the online portion lets you find games with racers all over the globe or you can even set up your own race, complete with your own specifications and classes. Want to race on Nurburgring while a blizzard is raging? How about flirting with disaster as you race on Laguna Seca, in the fog? Whatever you want, you can make happen.
Then there’s the meat and potatoes of the game – career mode. It’s here that you’ll create your own avatar and pick up your first racing contract. You’ll compete in multiple races, across multiple classes and you’ll be doing this for a long time. The career mode isn’t short, and it gives you total control on how you want to play. You can start from the bottom and learn how to race with the karts, or you can skip the kid stuff and jump right into a big boy car – you do know how to drive, right? To be honest, it wouldn’t be fair to describe exactly what’s in store, as it will spoil the content. Instead, I’ll leave it like this, if you love racing games that put you on the track and keeps you there, you’ll like what Project CARS 2 has to offer. Fair warning, many may find the career mode a bit redundant.
I have a beef with the AI in this game. To me, it feels that the AI simply has an unfair advantage. Mind you, I know we’re up against a computer. There are times where variables that are tossed at you simply don’t affect the AI. I’ve noticed this a lot when I’m racing in the rain, snow, and ice. When I have to slow down to take a turn or when I have to let off the throttle so I don’t spin off the track, the AI doesn’t appear to suffer the same. Instead, they power past me without a care in the world. When this happens and you blow a lead by 6-7 cars, you tend to get a bit frustrated. That’s not to say that the AI is perfect, but it’s far from that which is evident from a number of car pile-ups I’ve seen. Still, it has this uncanny ability to stay with you and surpass you if you aren’t paying attention – or even be quite aggressive and knock you off the track. Thankfully there is an option to dial down the aggressiveness and difficulty for those who aren’t ready for a harder race.
I tested this on the PlayStation 4 Pro; however, I wasn’t able to test out the HDR as it wasn’t enabled at the time. The PlayStation 4 Pro supports extends to a 2560 x 1440p resolution that is upscaled to 4K. This is a huge departure from the PlayStation 4 that renders the game at 1080p. The result is still stunning and the extra power afforded Slightly Mad Studios to add extra details to the cars, tracks, and foliage (as I alluded to before). I rarely experienced any frame drops during my time with Project CARS 2. That’s not to say it isn’t present, but when I did experience a frame drop, it was for a brief moment.
The car models are exceptional. They are completed with some really impressive lighting, reflections, sun flare, and real-time shadows. From the slightest of details of the outside of the cars, to inside where you can observe the dash steering wheel and even the stitching on the racing gloves. The wheels are stunning, tires are easily identifiable, and are detailed down to the treads. Taillights glow while racing in the darkness, while colorful flames are displayed from the exhaust pipes when you let off the throttle. When it rains or snows, the tracks will reflect both the cars running over them, but also the environment around them as well. The tracks are also faithful to their real-world counterparts. Complete all their unique details and features that are synonymous with them. While the bystanders will cheer you on during the race, waving and pumping their fists into the air. Still, I did notice some rough spots, such the tarmac, which appears muddled and blocky at times. It’s not as sharp or as defined as I’d would expect it to be. Yet at high speeds, one would ignore this. I also noticed some odd shimmering occurring in the backgrounds, mainly on foliage and some weird blocky artifacts in my rear-review while racing. Sadly, the shadow flickering that was present in the first title is als present here. This was really noticable using the cockpit view.
Live Track 3.0 in action
I do want to take a moment and address how amazing the damage system is. Seriously, Slightly Mad needs to be applauded for this. I’ve purposely driven multiple cars in objects, just to see how they reacted to the damage. For example, after a huge pile-up that I found myself driving into I managed to miss most of it, only to have the wing of the car in front of me to break off and fly right into my windshield. I swerved, only to collide with another car, spin out, losing the entire rear of my car. Body damage is easily apparent and it extends to the entire car – the windows, windshield headlights, tail lights, the rear of the car, literally everywhere.
There’s the dynamic weather as well as the day to night cycling, which is pulled off very well. At the start of every offline race, you can choose to set a season, which affects the weather for that race. Or you can pick up to four different weather patterns and have them all roll in during a race. This includes clear weather, rain, snow and ice, fog, and more. This also plays havoc with your racing as weather affects the temperature and that temperature affects your tires.
The controls in the original Project CARS were severally lacking, those who played this know what I’m referring to. It’s perhaps the biggest sore point with the first entry. Well, I’m happy to report that the gamepad handling is much better than its predecessor. Much better! I played a good portion of the game with DualShock 4 controller and was able to play without any issues. I did have to adjust the sensitivity and dead zones, which is to be expected as everyone’s play style is different. I highly recommend that everyone do the same. That’s not to say the controls will magically make you a better driver. Some cars are pretty beastly, so you’ll have to take advantage of the assists provided. There’s no shame in using the TCS or ABS, or even the driving lines – you’re here to win. I managed to stay on the road more than with the original game, so that’s a plus for me. Sadly I wasn’t able to test this out with a racing wheel as the one I ordered still hasn’t arrived.
I’m not 100% happy with the physics in the game. At one point they seem fine, yet at other times they seem like they went to bed. When I hit a bump at speeds that shouldn’t affect me, I shouldn’t end up being sent into the grass. Or worse, flying through the air. Cars shouldn’t be able to tap you gently on the rear, which results in you spinning out, yet trying the same to the AI opponents does nothing. Crashing into a railing should stop you or at the least, slow you down. Instead, you can bounce off them with minimal penalty. Ultimately, it just feels like the cars are a bit off – that they should handle better. A prime example of this are the karts. I’ve driven my fair share of go-karts and the ones in the game handle like crap, compared to the real thing.
Ok, it’s time to address the elephants in the room. The sounds are a mixed bag, some are really good, while others are we simply terrible. It’s apparent that a lot of work went into trying to get every car sounding like their real-life counterpart, but I don’t think this worked as planned. Granted, a large variety of cars in the game are cars I’ll never get to drive, I’ve heard enough of many of these to know what they sound like. The engine sounds in the game are either very sharp, throaty and damn close to the real thing. Others sounds are muddled and are very different from the real thing. Then there’s the tire screeching, which at times sounds NOTHING like actual tire screeching. Instead, it sounds more like something like raking nails over a chalkboard. The noise is so annoying that I had to turn down the sound at times. Despite everything that Project CARS 2 does well, the sounds are not one of them. Here’s to hoping this gets addressed in an update.
Then there are the load times, which can range anywhere from 22 seconds to just over a minute. It varies depending on what track is selected and how long that track is. Where a track like Sampala took 23 seconds, a larger track like California Highway Full took 69 seconds. While exiting a race takes about 2o seconds. I suppose that’s a small price as the game is being loaded into memory. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the wait times are lengthy if all you want to do is get on the track and race.
Review Disclosure Statement: Project CARS 2 was provided to us by Bandai Namco for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Project CARS 2 PS4 Review
Project CARS 2 PS4 Review
In the end, Project CARS 2 takes everything that Slightly Mad Studios did for the original game, polishes it up and puts out perhaps the best racing title available on the PlayStation 4. Tons of cars, more tracks than you can shake a stick at, a full-fledged career mode and online options. Better controls, fantastic visuals, and PlayStation 4 Pro support. Yes, there are some rough areas and the sound isn’t as good as I would have liked. Still, in the end, Project CARS 2 is an enjoyable and fantastic effort that I’m sure PlayStation 4 racing fans are going to enjoy.
I’ll see you on the tracks when this game gets released on September 22nd, 2017!