Two years ago, Project Cars came screeching into our games libraries, arriving with critical appeal and reasonable fanfare. It was an excellent representation of motorsport, an unrelenting simulation that focused on precision driving which was not for everyone, but heavenly for simulation fans. Slightly Mad Studios poured years of passion and experience into Project Cars and it showed, with lovely visuals, a nice range of cars and locations and a good sense of speed, and now the sequel is upon us.
As stated in my intro, Project Cars and likewise Project Cars 2 are aimed squarely at the motor sport simulation market. Real life cars, tracks and handling are provided and the key to success is precision driving, finding the perfect lines and the correct vehicle set up for your driving style and the track requirements. It can be an overwhelming task, one slip up can break your chance of a podium finish, but it can still present plenty of fun along the way.
The major mode is again the career mode, a robust mode that allows you to live out your championship dreams. There are six tiers to work through that contain nine different disciplines and twenty-nine differing motorsports that range from Go Karts to Indy Cars and Formulas to Rally Cross. The variety is large and thankfully you don’t have to start in the bottom tier from the start. Tiers six through to three are unlocked to begin with, giving you greater freedom of choice as to where you want to begin. The variety is huge and thankfully you can change the presets to have shorter races and seasons for those who are not able to commit the time.
The biggest addition in my opinion is the ability to move off of the tarmac. The inclusion on rally cross and ice racing is a fantastic idea and one that adds an adrenaline fuelled alternative to what we saw in the original Project Cars. I do love racing, and Project cars offered plenty of variety with different types of vehicles but the move to include loose track is an excellent one and one that takes the series to another level of satisfaction.
The race weekends entail a practice session, qualifying session and the race itself. For long races pit strategy can be altered, the level of customisation is great yet quite easy to do with the pit crew management. You can alter the handling of your car via a range of pre-set moves that allows you to see the result of the alterations you are making. The pit manager also talks to you via race coms during the race to give handy information, just like in real life.
If career isn’t your preference there is a host of other modes available. Single race allows you to pick a discipline, car and track. Then there is free practice, where you can choose a car, track and drive it solo. This is great for getting a feel of which car you prefer to use before choosing a lock in contract for a season in career. Esports is a mode that is your gateway to competing in the world of Esports. Throughout playing Project Cars 2, you increase your seniority, racecraft and success levels which open you to more Esports events to partake in. There are also region specific community events that are regularly updated and allow you to compete in events to rise on both friend and global ladders.
The variety on offer is huge, there is 189 authentic vehicles and 63 track locations (the largest ever in a video game) with 146 different layouts. Every vehicle handles differently and the track selection is excellent, yes Bathurst is present! Adding to the variety, Project Cars 2 has dynamic weather which also adapts to seasons and live track update which changes the track conditions over the course of the race weekend. Track degradation, rubber marks and tyre wear all combine to make the racing more realistic than I have ever seen.
The racing itself is again aimed solely at a simulation experience. Those looking for arcade thrills and forgiving driving should look elsewhere, this is motorsport in its purest form. Earning the tracks is a necessity, finding correct lines is a necessity and crashing your way through corners is a no no.
Graphics & Sound
Project Cars 2 is an expertly presented game. There is support for the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S HDR upscaling. Also, Project Cars 2 has Xbox One X support, I would be lying if I said I had not thought about how glorious this may look on Microsoft’s inbound 4K machine. The weather effects are extremely well crafted, the rain hits and streams up your windscreen in a super realistic manner. The lighting is brilliant, whether it be the sun breaking through clouds, the realistic but not overpowering glare or the use of vehicle lights at night it is exceptionally well executed.
The sound is also fantastic. You not only have the engine and exhaust sounds that are ultra-realistic, but you also here the screeching of tyres, the squeal of wipers over a dry surface before the rain becomes thick, and even the clatter of loose bits of rubber peeling of the tyres and hitting the under carriage.
Project Cars 2 may have finally found the key to competitive, level online play. The introduction of the Competitive Driving Licence which tracks your ability allows you to class a lobby to similar ranked players. The idea is remove the toxicity of online gameplay with players being penalised for misbehaving or driving crudely, or simply not being that good. Unfortunately, since I have had my hands on Project Cars 2 for a week before release I have not been able to properly test the viability of this, but it seems like a genuine game changer for online play.
Project Cars 2 seems to have a fresher feel than the already excellent prequel. The handling seems to be enhanced, still tough but not quite as relentless. The host of additions to the overall product has elevated the series from being competitive in the simulation market to being one of the best. This is the closest you will come to real racing on a console.