Review by Brad L.
I have always had a love/hate relationship with even the simplest of serious racing games. Oftentimes I take corners on too fast, or I start spinning out because I dared touch the brake at some point. This frustration of racing games has applied to games like Driveclub, GRID, Need for Speed: Shift and the F1 series of games. My absence of ability hasn’t been through a lack of trying, as I’ve always wanted to get into racing games, though not even being able to come a place in the first race or two in various games made me felt alienated. I eventually gave up and resigned myself that serious racing games was a genre I would just never get along with.
Related read: Matt's review of the original release of Project Cars on PlayStation 4.
Then came Project CARS.
Even though the game is arguably harder on the driver due to the fact it comes across as more realistic than other racing sims, it does a much better job of introducing non-racing fans into the game as a genre to enjoy and take seriously, rather than be frustrated with. That gauge that appears on the track for beginners and changes colour depending upon how fast the car approaches the corner, letting them know when to break or ease off the accelerator, was better implements in this game than any other that I have tried. I managed to actually complete multiple races in a row without spinning out. I enjoyed myself immensely as a result.
Even with weather effects altering how to handle the car, Project CARS eased me into it. It’s not an easy racer by any stretch (anything above beginner level is quite punishing), and it still takes a lot of patience to learn the corners and how the weather affects the way the car handles, but at least I know what I’m doing now. I actually feel like I am building myself up to the point where I can start winning races eventually. The real-time corner gauges really helped me out, and I’m at the point now where I can race without them. Thanks Project CARS!
Now, I understand that not everyone is completely terrible at racing games, so for those who are already adept with racing games and are looking for a great racing experience. Project CARS has you covered. From go-karts to formula one cars, there’s a bit of something for everyone here. Feel like driving a Mitsubishi Lancer around Bathurst for no other reason because you can? You can totally do that. Want to tweak your car like a madman in just about every way possible? You can do that too! It actually got to the point where the customisations left me in a pool of confusion, but this is less to do with the game and more to do with my knowledge of cars. The good thing is that customisations aren’t totally necessary unless racing on the more difficult tracks or figuring out how to shave off precious milliseconds off of a record time. Taking the time to figure out how Project CARS can cater to whomever approaches the game is absolutely worth every minute.
Adding to the customisation options, the ability to customise weather patterns and time of day makes for an incredibly different experience each time. So not only are there over thirty tracks in the GOTY edition, each weather customisation and car type completely renews the track again, making for a seemingly unlimited number of combos and ways to enjoy the game. While I cannot vouch for the regular edition, as I never played it, the GOTY edition has everything completely unlocked from the start. I enjoyed the fact that I did not have to win races to earn money so that I could buy a car, then have to upgrade it by winning more races. It is absolutely clear to me that the game was created as a beast to be enjoyed, and not a chore.
Of course, in career mode, the game starts off with go-kart racing, so in that sense you cannot jump straight into F1 racing, but that makes sense in career mode. Almost all the customisation options are available while playing career mode as well, with only the choice of car and weather being the only real customisation missing, which is fine, those are impossible to dictate as a driver in the midst of their career! You can still customise the length of the race, how easy/brutal the AI drivers are and totally customise your given vehicle, which is great.
The idea that career mode isn’t needed to unlock all the vehicles and tracks means that most players will simply enjoy playing the game for what it is. And also allows the player to join in the comprehensive online mode straight away. While the online mode showed me that I have a long way to go in terms of my ability compared to just about everyone I came up against, there were little to no shenanigans, I never found myself being tossed to the side of the road like a piece of garbage like I have in other games.
The game is gorgeous too, with each car given incredible attention to detail, with even the interiors worth having a look (though I honestly cannot play this way myself!). Each car looks incredibly like their real life counterpart and the game never dips in FPS, making the experience completely immersive. The tradeoff may be in the tracks having less detail overall, but when speeding around as fast as you do, it is hardly noticeable unless you are looking for flaws. Just be mindful when looking at replays or taking screenshots.
Project CARS is my new favourite racing game to date. Previously I was exclusive to Mario Kart and Need for Speed, and would never delve outside of these titles in fear of looking like a complete chump. Project CARS changed that for me, and may have actually opened up my eyes to a new genre I hope to enjoy even more as time goes on. It’s a game that takes itself seriously while allowing beginners to approach it and feel secure in their ability, not many racing games do that. Definitely take the time to appreciate Project CARS for what it is, as it’s a great game, made even greater with the additional GOTY content.