Over the years we have seen various types of racing titles that are constantly trying to outdo their competition by having more cars, more tracks and better visuals. Well, we finally have a new contender that has not only found a way to keep up with the current lineup of games already out, but also use its own voice to bring in a whole new type of fan. Slightly Mad Studios’ latest racing title Project CARS offers a sizable list of cars to choose from, a ton of tracks to drive around and while it still has the visuals to make it a contender on a spec sheet, its focus on the love of racing as a sport that makes it stand out from the crowd.
While Project CARS is far from the first title that touts its love for the sport of racing, it is the first pure title I have seen attempting to do so. Instead of losing itself trying to produce endless variations of the same types of cars, it wholeheartedly focuses its design in recreating the experience of being a professional driver and what it takes to go head-to-head against another driver. This concept allows Project CARS to forgo micromanaging a laundry list of cars only some people will ever use, and provide a set of vehicles that feel so unique from each other, that players are going to want to try each one out just to see how they feel.
Sadly, one of the things that will surely be a hit or miss for some players is the inability to personalize the looks of your vehicle. Instead of spending the time dressing up you car, Project CARS keeps its focus on keeping the player going around the track in pursuit of shaving off a few seconds each time. This is why it includes the ability to tune a number of options such as each tire’s individual pressure, but does not allow components to be upgraded as there isn’t a currency or unlock system. Each setting for each car can be saved to be used on specific weather settings and/or depending on the track you are playing on, so that players can spend their time where it is needed once they get things figured out.
Being somewhere between a novice and an amateur at racing games, I found Project CARS a slight bit overwhelming at first, and still find many of the minute adjustments you can make to your car a bit overly complicated and unclear. But, while there are a ton of community driven tutorials on the internet, it does feel a bit detached that you need to take lessons outside of the game to get the most out of it.
Thankfully, Project CARS offers a great deal of content for users of all levels to play through, and that is specifically due to the heart of the design of the game. Regardless of your skill level, if you’re interested in the world of racing, Project CARS will give you a significant amount of content to play with as you work your way to the top. This is done by the game’s ability to fully customize itself to suit your style and ability. Whether you’re a pro and need to fine tune your racing wheel, or need every assist possible to get yourself around the track, you have options and they all work with the game’s super realistic feel without ever hurting the experience.
Keeping with its ability to let players find their own way of getting around the track, it has a wide range of types of Motorsports to choose from, including: GT, Open Wheel, Prototypes, Endurance, History Classics, Supercars, Track Day Cars and Karts. Each one has its own set of cars to choose from, as well as a complete career mode that lets the player run through a number of events and choose their own team. But instead of forcing players to work their way up through the leagues, they can hop in wherever they want, as well as stay within a Motorsport for another full season if they don’t want to advance.
This is something that became an unexpected issue for me, as I found that Project CARS fails to really give itself much of a purpose or clear set of goals, besides the one the player brings with their own set of ambitions. It’s a wonderful concept being able to access everything from the start, and prevents players from having to grind through something they don’t want to play, but after some time, it becomes obvious that the only reason to go around the track…is to go around the track. That’s something that will work for a number of fans, but for everyone else, it may be more of an issue than expected.
Even though it may seem like Project CARS puts too much faith in the player pushing themselves, its presentation and design behind the experience does make it worth it if you have the heart. While it may not have the best visuals out of all the current-gen racing titles, it’s close, but its lighting system is overly diffused, which makes the world look a bit flat. It does have a great body damage system that accurately adjusts handling, as well as a great number of details that help sell the experience. Watching your driver put his foot down on the pedal when you give it gas, or even watching a single tire pick up dirt as you barely miss the track, only to have it wear off over time, are things that can be easily overlooked, but when noticed completely suck you in.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is the quality of Project CARS audio, which has to be one of the best I’ve heard in a racing game in a long time. Besides being able to hear a car’s turbo spool, you can also get a good sense of your traction by the sounds your tires make on the ground, making every facet of the game part of the race.
Much like any racing game, a great deal of its potential comes from its community and how it lets you interact with other players. After having played through various matches online, I found that Project CARS did handle very well over the limited number of players available online at the time of this review. Short of having more than a few players try to drive me off the road, the experience was pretty close to what could be gotten out of an offline race, as each car in the pack moved and reacted to collisions as expected. Given that there is a great deal of potential to meet up with players for race days, it must be said that it does feel more could be done to get players together or organized other than using the game’s invite or lobby system.
Project CARS is a great example of a game that is designed to get players to be better at what they love to do, without having to integrate designs that can hurts the game’s potential for its hardcore audience. It does a good job with its visuals, a fantastic one with its audio, and a superb one with how it handles. For fans who love a sport that requires its athletes to work for every fraction of a second shaved off, this is a must have, but if you need a game that keeps giving you motivation and something to unlock, you may find yourself putting this one in park after a few laps.
Project CARS PS4 review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on our scoring, please read our Review Policy here.