Project CARS review
Another chapter in racing games has just begun! Project CARS (sometimes will be referred as PC) is the latest racing game to hopefully provide people the need for speed they crave. Before I get started, I want to go ahead and say if you haven’t already you should definitely check out Rocketrob’s 1st impression he posted earlier for another view on it as well. As for me, for those of you who may not have seen my review on Gran Turismo 6 (GT6) I made a while back, I like to cover all bases and casually compare it to some of its counterparts like GT6, Driveclub, etc. so let’s get started!
I’m going to go ahead and get the main topics out of the way first. For those who are maybe unfamiliar with the tone it is trying to set, Project CARS (as the name suggests) is a community assisted racing simulator – key word being simulator; however, don’t let that rub you the wrong way. PC is a game that has been created with the player in mind. In other words, you define what you want to get out of it. Want to feel like a racing god and make everyone else seem like insects? Want to have the most realistic experience you can get and hone your skills against worthy opponents? It’s all there for you to choose how you want it! Things like:
-Driving assists (ABS, traction control…) -Damage (visual, real…) -Tire wear / fuel usage
-Flags / penalties -Opponent skill -Race length
All these things and more help you get what you want out of PC.
Since it’s a simulation, let’s talk about the physics. For people like me who like the smaller things in life, Project CARS definitely delivers! Wrestling with the moving weight and soft springs of a Caterham Fireblade is distinctly different from a precisely tuned, lightweight, and powerful formula A car, but it doesn’t have to even be that wide of a change to notice it. Now for those on consoles…. this game is a handful with a controller. The cars will get loose on you, you go to countersteer and it whips back the other way, and this keeps happening over and over again until you slow down enough or you end up spinning. I believe that the physics are correct, it’s how they implemented it and transferred it over to fit the controller layout is why this game can sometimes be frustrating. As of writing this review, the developers are aware of the problem and are at work trying to resolve it.
Another great aspect about their physics engine is the weather capabilities and how it affects the cars. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to GT6’s weather with real grip conditions. In GT6, There is a huge drop in performance when you go from dry to wet conditions. The racing softs give no grip whatsoever and the heavy rain tires give ok grip but nowhere near what they should. Comparing GT6 to reality, the racing softs should have the same grip as the heavy rain tires and the heavy rain tires should get you close to what you were running in dry conditions ( close being about 6-12 seconds off ). PC gets this right. At Imola, I was about 7 seconds slower in wet conditions compared to dry and if the worst case scenario happened and I got stuck with slicks in wet conditions I would be 10 more seconds slower a lap but I could at least get back to the pits and change tires unlike GT6.
Some other things that are definitely worth mentioning are:
-The damage model is very good! Your car could range from minor scratches to losing front and rear bumpers, hoods, trunk lids, etc.
-The grip when you go into either the grass or dirt is far more realistic in PC than in GT6 (where you might as well be ice skating).
-In general, PC makes racing against AI – regardless of the skill setting you have it at – a more enjoyable experience. Lower settings you get to enjoy seeing AI make mistakes amateurs do and higher setting you seem to be racing with veteran racers who aren’t afraid to retaliate when you put a bumper to them.
-physics engine can handle up to 45 cars (number is different depending on car. Stock cars is the standard 43 for example) on track at one time with little drop in performance.
With all the robust physics under the hood the outer appearance of PC is equally as amazing. Cars are simply gorgeous. The colors pop and how the light reflects off the fenders is simply breath-taking. What’s even more impressive is when you drive in the rain. How the water interacts with everything, whether it be simply water beading up on the hood or ripples from water droplets as it forms into puddles on the track, far surpassed my expectations and Slightly Mad Studios should be commended for it. The great thing though is you don’t have to be in the rain to see the magnificence of the graphics. At night, depending on where you are racing at, the race can be a nice scenic view like Azure coast or a plunge into absolute darkness at Nurburgring where all you have to guide you is your lights, the moonlight, and the occasional campfires of spectators.
While you take in all the sights you can also hear the wide variety of sounds you experience as well. In PC, unlike GT6, each car has a distinct engine sound and can be heard in several different ways such as the sound from behind the exhaust, inside the car, and even inside the helmet of your driver. To go even further, some cars you can sometimes hear a number of different things going on in the engine, such as the engine itself, the turbo/supercharger spooling up, the blow-off valves or the waste gates (slight difference between the two).
Some will be quick to say that Driveclub has better graphics and weather effects. I would agree that overall it does; however, given that PC has probably the best simulation physics for consoles and it is still able to have that level of graphic quality and running at 60 fps almost all the time…. I’d say it balances out.
Project CARS’ theme of play how you want to play applies to the career as well. Here you have three ultimate/historic goals to achieve:
-Zero to Hero: win the LMP1 world championship within ten seasons
-Defending Champ: defend a championship for three consecutive years
-Triple Crown: win three championships in three different motorsport disciplines
To accomplish these, you can start wherever you want. You can take the standard approach and go from karts all the way up to LMP1, you can go straight into the top tier, or choose whatever motorsport interest you that is available. Besides the races that are for the tier you choose you will also get invitations to participate in special events with different types of cars. This helps to break up the monotony of using the same car over and over again and lets you get behind the wheel of something that will keep you on your toes. As you complete these and other events you get accolades which later lead to endorsements. You can kind of look at it as a separate trophy system. You have the PS4 trophies for PC itself but inside of PC you can ultimately get all accolades, endorsements, and invitations on top of the three historic goals mentioned above. Needless to say, there is plenty of content in the career alone to keep you entertained.
If you ever need to take a break from the career you can jump into one of the many choices of online racing. There is the standard online lobbies that you can join or create, the community events which are similar to the seasonal events of GT6, and the time trials.
-The online lobbies give the same vast amount of options you find in the solo features. Lobbies can have a max of 16 cars. Coming from GT6, one thing I liked that GT6 didn’t do was that if there was two or three others with me in the lobby I could fill the rest of the field with AI of similar or slightly less skill so that there is always something going on at any given time. With respect to the quality of the online experience it worked really well from day one. The online lobbies were very stable with only a small amount of lag here and there which is a lot better when compared to how bad Driveclub’s online was at launch.
-The community events, as mentioned earlier, are like GT6’s seasonal events which allow you to use a specific car and put down times on a certain track and see how you stack up to the rest of the world. What’s cool about community events is that certain ones allow you to compete for prizes which right now can be thrustmaster gear (for those who may not know, thrustmaster has some of the best steering wheels for games you can get and they’re not cheap).
-The time trial option is similar to community events. If you think you are the best with a certain car at a certain track you can do just that. That means that there is a separate leaderboard for each track and from there each class of car.
The menus for PC are really good. The picture above shows you the main menu and everything you need is pretty much right there. If you press options you can go to your profile, garage, or option and help to change any of your settings. I would say almost anything you need to get to, you can get there in less than 3 clicks. When you’re in a race you can also change your HUD layout in terms of where the minimap of the track is, your lap times, RPM and speed, etc. and you can choose which you want to hide if you don’t use it.
-Currently, not including the 8 cars from the legendary and modified car pack, there are 66 cars available and each has their own set of liveries. I love that Slightly Mad Studios put special liveries for specific cars to pay homage to some of the greats in each discipline, for example Jeff Gordon’s rainbow warriors paint scheme and Ayrton Senna’s black and gold Lotus scheme. There is a problem with the liveries at the moment where you select the car you want and the color/livery to go with it and let’s say you back out to the main screen and go back in to see your car…. it won’t save the livery so hopefully they will fix that down the road to where so you can permanently save it and not have to worry about changing it every time.
-Every car can have a tune to go for each track and, if you ever found similarities between race tracks, you can go in and select which track you want the tune to apply for.
-There are 30 unique locations to race at with at least 110 different courses, 23 of which are real places while the rest are fictitious.
-At times the smoke from tire spin is a little disappointing. It probably doesn’t help coming from GT6, where drifts look like your engine just blew up, but I guess if you look at how smoke builds in reality, I guess it kind of makes sense. Still, I would rather have a greater satisfaction if I ever wanted to drift.
-The race engineer that is on by default when you first turn on PC is not very helpful for the most part. He mainly tells you stuff that is basic knowledge.
-For those that like to get platinums, Project CARS’ trophy list is one that is not impossible but it will take some time. Overall, it will be a nice well deserved platinum to add to the collection.
-A big issue I do have with Project CARS is that the photomode is very disappointing. Granted I’ve been spoiled by GT6’s vast options when it comes to taking photos but you would think a good portion of the community that helped developed this would want to take unique and awesome photos of their favorite experiences. The options are so limited it becomes very hard to make a picture that stands out. All you get to look forward to is, “hey that picture looks like this one here, and here, here…..” As it stands now you can:
1) Take a picture of a car on a sort of showroom floor.
2) In solo, if you by some chance catch a cool moment MID RACE you can pause and take the pictures of your car at that moment. The downside is that you can only rotate around and zoom in and out to view your car – nothing else – compared to GT6 where you have multiple viewpoints you can look from, being able to move around freely, adjusting shutter speed, focus, etc. to get the picture you envision.
3) If you by chance remember to save the replay of the race (you only have 5 seconds to decide if you want to. If not, that’s it) through PS4 you can save screenshots that way. What sort of improves the grade of photomode here is that you can take screenshots from different views inside the car which you can’t do in GT6 so at least this way you can look at the nice interiors.
For some, taking photos may not be that big of a deal but for me, and my photographer-type people out there, it’s quite a letdown.
-The sense of speed is very good! Even here there are options to customize what kind of sensation you want to get, for example when the car is accelerating or decelerating the camera moves in and out. Sometimes on big tracks like Circuit de la Sarthe it may seem like you lose the sense of speed a little but looking at real onboard footage confirms that is normal in real life.
For me, I’m glad they delayed Project CARS. I’d rather wait a little longer and let the developers make sure everything is right rather than rush it out and disappoint everyone anyway. What we have here is almost the best of both worlds. For people like me, we get the best overall simulation for consoles to enjoy and as a bonus we get to admire the astounding graphics it has to offer. Of course nothing can be perfect but the problems I found can be overlooked since some are based on personal preference and can be left up to each person as to whether it adds or subtracts from the experience as a whole. Looking to the future there are already plans to do some patches, beef up the roster of cars, etc. so there is still room for this game to grow and become and even better racing game!
Thank you for reading, hope all your questions were answered, and if you do or don’t have the game already and plan on getting it… I hope to see you on the track!
To finish, here are some extra in-game photos to enjoy.