Project CARS Review: Slide Right


Developer: Slightly Mad Studios

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Platform(s): PC (Version Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, SteamOS

Release Date(s): May 7th (PC digital release), May 12th (PS4, Xbox One), TBA (Wii U, SteamOS)

One of my fondest memories of the PS2 was exploring a completely new genre (to me) in simulation racing by playing Gran Turismo III. Starting out with the PT Cruiser on open tracks and making your way up to Jaguar Formula 1 racing vehicles was a long, arduous, but rewarding journey across dozens of race tracks from around the world. The game best personified a deep love and respect for the history and tradition of cars and racing culture. Project CARS (or Community Assisted Racing Simulator) takes that admiration for racing as a skilled sport to heart, crafting a profound experience for the truly dedicating fan. For newbies, however, it might be a bit too obtuse at first glance.

Project CARS is about ease of access to content for its players, and the career mode reflects that. You can choose which of the game’s 16 series to start with, with each pertaining to certain types of vehicles that range from karts to F1 vehicles. Said vehicles are available right from the start, as well, meaning you have the pick of the litter to choose from depending on the style of race series you’re participating in. There are no upgraded parts or aesthetic vehicle personalization options of any kind; what you see is what you get.

Because of that, I felt like the career mode of Project CARS served more as an extended practice, one that forces your hand into trying a variety of racing options for the first time. There are no stakes at hand; if you lose a race, you can choose to restart immediately (no matter what your qualifying position is) and work your way up to a series-points-earning finish. It does make it easier to play with the more advanced difficulties for driving (manual transmission, clutching, hardnosed pit strategies), but in the end it doesn’t even matter. The only negligible bonus effect is how others see your profile’s accomplishments, and if others are playing against you to see that, the only thing that should really matter is if you can beat them in a race or not.

What Project CARS does perfectly is immerse you into the racing experience. The development team of Slightly Mad Studios did an excellent job of nailing what it’s like to drive each of the game’s dozens of vehicles in all aspects of simulation. Whether it be photo-accurate vehicle layouts, noticeable handling differences, how the cars sound revving up between gears, how rain particles splash against your windshield or how dawn/dusk rays of sunshine temporarily plays blinding tricks against you, there’s no doubt that the creators did their research when making each car’s driving experience authentic to its real life counterpart.

If there is a letdown when it comes to single-player racing in Project CARS, it’s that mishandling the AI can ruin a race if put off kilter.

The core gameplay of racing other vehicles holds up, no matter whether it be online against human competitors or against AI bots. With so many different possibilities to custom refine how your vehicles handle (down to altering individual tire weight in air pressure), you can ultimately nudge the way certain cars drive to tailor to your preferences. It makes for fair driving experiences, where skill and experience are necessary to avoiding rookie mistakes and maturing as a sim drive.

To those who mostly play arcade racers, Project CARS will definitely feel dense, at first. You must stay on the track at all times if your lap times are to remain valid, which may pose a problem to inexperienced drivers who are unfamiliar with the “test lap transitioning into qualify times, into actual race” procedure of racing. There’s no Tokyo drifting; depending on which car you’re driving, you may spin out trying to accelerate through turns in an unbecoming fashion. You’re effectively learning how to drive properly, and quickly. It may take some time to unlearn bad habits, but if you put the time in with the hopes of getting it right, the payoff of entering “the zone” is incredibly rewarding.

If there is a letdown when it comes to single-player racing in Project CARS, it’s that mishandling the AI can ruin a race if put off kilter. Simply put, due to the game’s physics, using AI cars for your own personal steering assistance can put them in an awkward position. The wrong turn on tight corners such as those in the Monaco Grand Prix track not only will just you straight into a wall on a dime (adverse to the laws of physics), but some competing vehicles might stick to walls and corners for an entire race. And when those tight corners are, perhaps, one or two cars wide in the first place, blowing through your competitors to reignite regular racing mechanics takes you right out of the simulation experience.

I respect Project CARS for what it is, even if its difficulty prevents me from cherishing it perfectly.

When you think about the concept of Project CARS as a whole, it’s truly dedicated for a certain hardcore racing fan. The openness of all its content at launch, alongside its plethora of ways to make racing as real to life as possible, is certainly something that will please the elite racing game fans who are truly here to taste racing in its many flavors. However, this game is certainly not for everyone. You have to either be immersed in racing at a very high level or be willing to put in several, if not dozens, of hours of work to get to that special place where everything pays off.

For me, I felt a mix of both. As a fan of difficult video games, I can’t help but try to meet the obstacles of a great gaming challenge. After tens of hours of play, however, I could feel only the barest of “craving” creeps start to seep in. I’m resigned to the fact that I do not have the patience anymore to learn the optimal entry speeds for the scores of turns each track has, nor the correct maneuvers to tactfully pass a competing car without colliding into them to get to that level of excellent play. I respect Project CARS for what it is, even if its difficulty prevents me from cherishing it perfectly.


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Project CARS is a great first step into the world of simulation racing for the developers. Where it is lacking in car variety, the team doubled down by making each vehicle reflect an exactitude that is genuine in its real-life responsiveness. There is a beauty not only in the game’s respect for everything cars, but for how the cars are represented in its clash with the environments at hand. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you are truly keen in replicating a true driving experience with a payoff that acts as a slow burn rather than a quick flame-out, this is the racer for you.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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