When it comes to playing racing simulators, I find myself lost among hardcore fans who know the tricks to every car and every track, so when I picked up Project Cars as part of a recent Humble Bundle I was surprised to find myself having a wonderful experience. Project Cars was released in May 2015 and was developed by Slightly Mad Studios. This game is certainly one of the easiest games for new players to pick up and in this review, and as such, I want to look at what exactly makes this game a treat.
As soon as you launch this game for the first time you begin to realise how serious it takes itself, everything sounds and looks poetic as if you are viewing a famous art piece. There’s no classic pop punk music playing in the background with all these colourful banners and menus, it gives a sense of something more classical. From the get-go, you have access to all the games main modes within clicks of each other and you can get going in seconds. You are encouraged to explore the games career mode first and this was the mode I had the most fun with. As soon as I see any career mode in a sports game I must commit to it, to connect with my virtual self as they make their way up the ladders, sign contracts and make friendships that alter their popularity, project cars handles the career mode very well. I played the game with an Xbox One controller and while it felt like a better way to play it certainly had its issues at first. When I started
out I was a kart driver and it felt like I was driving an angry teenage kart who refused my commands, the driving felt terrifying as I came to grips with how it handled, it took some controller configuration (and boy is there plenty of options) but soon I had found myself a reasonably comfortable setup. It may be frustrating at first as you are constantly losing control of all the cars for an hour or so.
The career mode allows players to create a persona for themselves in the racing world and sign a contract to a certain sponsor, this all feels very real to the world as you receive emails and discussions as to your performance on the track. I did quite terrible in my first few races and my team was a bit disappointed with me, but they wanted to resign me on for another contract as they believed we could do it together. With this I found myself more motivated to understand the tracks and the way I was driving, I couldn’t just charge at a corner with brakes on hoping that I would win the race somehow, I had to think and feel like a racer and found myself improving, my team also shared the same feelings which gives a real sense of progression and allows a player to understand how well they are doing. As you continue you can join new networks who offer different type of racing allowing you to find a career that fits your playstyle.
This is where I get into the details about how customizable the game is, on the menu you have the option to create a race event which you have maximum control over how the event takes place, as well as how the good the A.I is, doing this allows you to find a sweet spot tailored specifically for you so you can push yourself for a challenge or enjoy a casual race if it’s what you’re into. I must credit the great A.I this game offers; the races feel real as opponents don’t try to smash you constantly but can put up a serious challenge at the right skill level. Being able to have a quick race at the level that suits you with any type of vehicle is a welcome feature in this game for those sessions when you need to take part in a massive event or a short 2 lap circuit.
Project Cars also offers a multiplayer mode with a server browser, settings can be customized in similar ways to the event mode. It doesn’t take too long to find a race in progress and what I thought would be a messy scenario turned out to be quite fun, you can join in at any time of a race and make up by just getting a better time than everyone else, most lobbies at the times I played seemed to favour long sessions with no clear end in sight so they could freely drive and form 1 on 1 races when someone came within their sight. I found myself being knocked to the side constantly when trying to be cocky against other racers and eventually paid for it in the form of some serious car damage.
I have yet to touch on the visuals and sound of this game, people might just think “well it’s just vroom vroom noises and 2D crowd textures like we saw on Forza 5” but this game is truly stunning to immerse yourself in. The graphics was a big draw point for me as someone who doesn’t buy most driving games, the way the mirrors perfectly reflect what’s going on around you along with the sight of the sun shining through the windshield make driving the cars in this game a very immersive experience. I found myself being lost in the world while driving and trying to take in what was going on in my environment. Obviously, this would usually end up in a crash but when you hit those barriers you really hit them hard.
Projects Cars brings to the table everything you expect when driving a car, the controls require a bit of learning first but once you get comfortable with your own style you can bring make some serious time on the track. The Career mode will likely be the mode that will suck up your time as you aim to climb the ranks of your chosen motorsport, the game effectively challenges the player to become a better driver without forcing them to do it at a crazy pace, this along with the visuals add together for some of the best virtual driving I’ve had in a long time.