by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
On the grid
Over the past few months, racing fans have been spoilt for choice. In particular those people who love to push themselves to the very limit and play simulation racing games. Dirt 4 brought back the parts of the series people fell in love with to begin with. F1 2017 stepped up its simulation game to another level. Yet here is Project CARS 2, a game which raises the bar even more for the hardcore racing fan.
Project CARS 2 is without a doubt the most punishing racing game I’ve ever played. Career mode takes place over seasons containing a selection of races, usually with 12 other drivers competing for points. You earn an amount of points based on how well you perform, and if you earn enough over the course of the season, you can progress in your career to the next stage. There are a number of events unlocked to begin with, with a wide range of vehicle classes, and they each essentially have their own tree of progress to follow.
It sounds easy enough, but it took me a couple of hours before I got my first podium finish. It then took me another few hours before I finished in first place. Then I had to wait a few more hours before I successfully completed any of the various seasons. The rest of the time I finished in the middle of the pack, or more often than not, dead last. There’s no rewind system. If you make a mistake, you have to live with it, and over the past few years it has become easy to rely on these get out of jail free cards. Plus, mistakes are easy to come by, as the game is serious when it comes to the way the cars handle.
For the hardcore fan
The manual setup page for your car will be absolute gibberish unless you’re an engineer, or are already well versed in car setup from other games. Unfortunately, what works for your car at one race track won’t necessarily work for another circuit, and it’s almost essential that you swap out setups throughout the course of a season. Most races have a practice session where you can test out various changes to your car. Then you will progress to qualifying, where you will set the fastest single lap time possible in order to determine starting position for the race. By then you should have a good idea of what’s working, and what’s not working, for that particular location.
Thankfully there’s a handy system whereby you can tell your race engineer what the problem is, and he will give you tips on how to fix it, or fix it automatically. Over time you might know what to change even without asking the engineer, which is a rather satisfying feeling. Sometimes the problem isn’t mechanical though. Sometimes it’s just your fault, and you need to drive better. This was often the case for me.
There’s simply a huge amount of content to be found within Project CARS 2. You will spend hours trying to perfect your driving throughout the career mode, and you will travel to real world tracks and locations all over the world. There are dozens of different manufacturer and vehicle classes to choose from, and you’re not that limited out of the gate. As you unlock more, you will be almost spoilt for choice. You will get that same feeling when setting up a custom race, as you tinker with the cars and the track and the weather and the time of day. The multiplayer system is robust too, and again you have a great deal of freedom with how you want to race.
Eyes on the skies
The impressive nature of the cars’ handling is matched by how gorgeous the game looks both in screenshots and in motion. Particularly impressive is the dynamic weather and lighting system, which is best in class. You will curse the skies as you start to see clouds rolling in, before rain causes the tarmac to become slippery. Fully wet weather will force a change of tyres, and spray from your opponents reduces visibility even further. But then the clouds disperse, and the way the tracks dry as cars drive over them is fantastic. Puddles form in depressions, and following other cars closely will dry out the surface quicker. In no other game am I actively avoiding puddles I can see on the road in fear of getting my tyres too wet.
In short, Project CARS 2 is the ultimate hardcore racing experience. Be warned though, this game is hard, and to get the most out of it you will probably need to be a racing fan, or at least be knowledgeable about how motorsport works. This is not an arcade game where you will be powersliding around corners. In fact if you’re sliding at all, you will probably be at the back of the pack in no time. If you can stick with it and get really good at it though, you will be rewarded with a very high quality experience.
Accurate car handling, best in class weather simulation.
Very hard, some sections inaccessible to casual fans.