The idea behind Project CARS (Community Assisted Racing Simulator) was based around funding and assistance by a dedicated racing community and developers from Slightly Mad Studios – the minds behind the Need for Speed Shift series. Throwing their doors open to the public, the developers were able to develop a racing title by gaining feedback and insights from professional drivers and gamers. This helped shape the game that it is today. A racing title for racers, by racers.
With different types of players in the racing genre, upon entering the game – you’re granted preset difficulty options. Depending on your level of skill with simulation racers and past experience, Project CARS will adjust the settings accordingly. You can however tweak every single setting of the game in the options afterwards.
One of the biggest things you’ll notice with Project CARS is its attention to detail. As mentioned above, you can customise every single aspect of the difficulty options such as ABS braking, driving lines and more. You can even customise the graphics options on the console platform turning on/off options like Bloom effect. I’m not exactly sure why you would turn down visual settings on the console platform as it runs pretty well without any hiccups.
Project CARS is visually stunning and this is coming from a console standpoint. While it may not match the PC version of the game, it’s quite impressive on the PS4 platform. Each car has been beautifully recreated from interior to exterior showcasing how much has gone into the detail of the vehicle. Driving from the helmet point of view, I’ve found myself at times too distracted looking around the interior of the car and missing the start of the race.
The ability to customise the HUD of the game also helps personalise your Project CARS experience. If you dislike the minimap on the right hand side of the screen, you can shift it to your left or even completely remove it. In saying that, you could completely remove the HUD altogether. You can rely on the in-car speedometer to increase that level of simulation. If you want the authentic experience of real racing, having no HUD at all completes it.
There’s many ways to get into racing in Project CARS and unlike traditional racing titles, you can choose where you want to start. Want to start with powerful prototypes or open wheels? Well you can. No more grinding through the lower tier cars to get what you want, Project CARS is all open straight from the start. If you’re keen to learn the ropes – starting your career with race karts is probably ideal. Here, Project CARS teaches you the basics of vehicle control and race rules. Once mastered, you can move up the classes for something a little more faster.
“Unlike traditional racing titles, you can choose where you want to start. Want to start with powerful prototypes or open wheels? Well you can.“
The career mode is very personal following the likes of titles like the F1 series. In career, you are treated like a real race driver with contracts and endorsements. There’s also a little bar on the side called FanChat which showcases what social media thinks about you. Did a bad qualifier? They will react to your performance. Yes ok, I was asleep at the wheel during that race.
Apart from Career, there’s several other modes available in Project CARS. Quick race weekends are similar to the events found in the career mode without the extra aspects such as contracts – this is the mode for you. There’s also practice session where you can test different cars and tracks available without the AI. Great if you want to learn how to drive the available cars and master your turns for each track.
The time trial mode has a live leaderboard showcasing the best times for each track and car. If you’re that can kind of racer that live off shaving seconds from real world opponents, this is the area where you’ll be spending most of your time.
Coming down to the actual racing itself, Project CARS has really found the perfect level of simulation. It provides all the challenges of real racing from mastering that downhill run on Mount Panorama to handling incredibly powerful machines such as the McLaren P1. You can’t take corners without strategy and in Project CARS, you will learn how to break accordingly and when to overtake the opponent. If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of racing, you can further your experience with manually setting up cars, finding that right balance and even customise your pit stop run.
That famous helmet camera from Need for Speed Shift 2 makes a glorious comeback with Project CARS as its single-handedly one of my favourite views in any racing game ever made. The helmet camera replicates the drivers vision narrowing down the field of view of the visor. It also adds-in body movements when it comes to braking and taking corners plus added blur effect for when you’re gunning it down the straight line. It’s an awesome camera and I’m glad to see it return with Project CARS.
Adding in to the attention of detail with Project CARS, the sound design of this game is top notch. You can have the best visuals, the best interiors etc. but without the most realistic sound – it doesn’t complete the car. Slightly Mad Studios knows the importance of vehicle sound and they didn’t sacrifice it with Project CARS. The notes and rumble of each car is incredibly unique and hair raising. From down shifting to the backfiring – the audio is some of the best I’ve heard in a racing game.
Playing on the PlayStation 4, the developers have incorporated the pit-2-car radio straight into the built-in speakers on the Dualshock 4 controller making it quite immersive. The actual radio chatter has been quite well done offering updates on the situation in the race and potential advantages/strategies. Instead of throwing unnecessary chatter, Project CARS pit-2-car communication feels more authentic and useful than other games.
One of the major and probably only downfall with Project CARS is the quite minimal line up of cars at launch. While we do have an excellent list of cars ranging from the McLaren to Pagani, there’s some notable brands missing from the list. Iconic cars such as the Nissan R35 GTR to the Lamborghini Aventador (just to name a few) are not present in this game. While not a serious issue as cars can be added to the game post launch, it’s somewhat disappointing to see some favourites missing. The game still ships with 78 cars at your disposal plus the new Lykan Hypersport so there’s still plenty to play around with from launch.
Project CARS pretty much tops every single point when it comes down to the racing genre leaving no stone unturned. The list of cars could do with some more brands but that’s something that can be added on easily down the track. If you want the most authentic, challenging and no frills driving simulator to date then Project CARS is probably the best thing out there.
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One and PC.
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.