Project Cars – the long delayed and awaited racing sim from Need for Speed Shift dev Slightly Mad Studios was not exactly a walk in the park when I first picked it up, far front it in fact.
I could only manage the top ten each time as well as suffering many many spin off’s and off track excursions while attempting basic corners with cold tyres.
The sheer level of content here is staggering, the car count of 60+ may sound a little on the low side but by cutting out all the low level crappy econoboxes that say Gran Turismo features (decade old Yaris anyone) the makers of Project Cars have enabled the game to be enjoyed by the causal and hardcore element of gamers.
Traditional points accumulation and unlocks of cars and liveries and parts have been done away with by simply leaving it up to the users decision to decide where they want to go and what medium they want to attempt to race in first.
To try to present a fair view of the game I started at the bottom rung of racing of Karting but I can say that it’s a brave choice by Slightly Mad studios to hand you the virtual keys to this digital driving kingdom at the get go.
The greatest thing about this format is that if you’re having a tough time of a certain racing medium, simply walk away and start out somewhere else with no unlocks to worry about its simple to do. Don’t get me wrong though Project Cars is tough and you will have to put in the time before you start winning races and bringing in podium finishes.
The downside of this slightly casual approach to the career mode does have its downsides, the winning of races may well get you plaudits from your team manager and crew but you don’t get a shiny new car to play with which can feel a little unrewarding.
Start winning and contract offers come your way at season’s end, however if you don’t like what you’re doing simply quit at anytime in the season and join another team, simple as. Ideally you can change your team as often as your underpants (eg; Gamers change twice a week?). This part however allows you to retain a light touch approach to the game and keep it fun and fresh while avoiding any slogging it out for a mere level upgrade.
After a rather poor start to my Project Cars career I started winning races and being able to take pride in my performances gaining both podiums and wins after all that hard work I put in.
The games many different racing mediums feel individual and call on you to utilize a differing skill set to master each one in order to actually compete in a race and then start winning.
Karts for example being the starter grade, they require a little sensitivity to get round the track, over cook it and you will end up facing where you have just been with man karts coming at you head on at speed.
Get behind the wheel of a full sized car and you’ll find the car a little more precise allowing you to really throw the car around your chosen track. The downside of a full sized car is that you can and possibly will crash into either other cars or barriers (or one after the other) which could lead to invalid lap times or getting kicked out of the race entirely.
Getting the hang of this game brings with it the reward of actually being made to work for each win and each hot lap. A good example of this is completing a one off race at Spa in full thunderstorms mode in a BAC Mono, firstly the track is stunning to drive, secondly the rain effects are frightening at first and the sense of speed is immense . My first few laps were spent pretty much trying to keep the car in a straight line while having my heart in my mouth at each corner scared that a car would appear out of the mist and shot me off my racing line. But as each lap passed the game me work to get the car round gradually improving my times and finish positions and thus rewarding me for all my practice.
The simulation aspect of the game your participation in full racing sessions and seasons, will allow Project Cars to keep you occupied for tens, even hundreds of hours and weeks at either a causal level or hardcore level.
Given that Project Cars only features 60+ vehicles, this amount could be considered a bit on the mean side compared to other rivals such as the Gran Turismo series (900 cars etc). Also the tracks count is anything but mean. With 30-odd locations and well over 100 courses, there’s a huge amount of variety to be found in the game.
Real world tracks such as the Nürburgring in Germany, Brands Hatch in the UK and the Le Mans circuit are all here and highly challenging, more causal examples are the tracks in France and California that are less challenging but quite stunning to look at giving great examples of the games stunning visual abilities.
Driveclub is the game to beat for visuals don’t get me wrong Project Cars is definitely a very good looking racing and is up there with the top tier of best looking games you can currently buy out there.
Again as with Driveclub you have full control over the racing conditions, to the extent that you can add multiple weather effects in a single race and go day to night and back again. The rain and thunderstorms mode has to be seen to be believed as it is hugely realistic and has you working to keep the car in a straight line while holding your breath at each corner hoping you don’t collide with a car hidden in the spray.
Another plus of the game is the menu system that uses a simple clear menu layout that makes it easy for you to jump into a local or online race if your time is limited or allows to easily jump from one section to another while easily being able to view progress and replays.
This system makes it easier as an integral part of the game allowing to you make quick progress in the game rather than bogging you down with complex heavy set menus.
Project Cars is a for the most part a game that requires practice, patience and a fair amount of skill. It’s not the simplest game to pick up and play, but it’s definitely totally rewarding when your hard work pays off with racing wins and podium finishes.
If you’re a racing sim fan then buy it, as I promise you will not regret it.