Project CARS VS Forza Motorsport 6

Project CARS
Project CARS isn't suitable for everybody. After sitting down with the upcoming simulation racer, X-ONE is certain that you should be forced to answer a handful of vital questions before you’re even allowed to open a copy up, let alone get your install rolling.

“Thank you for buying Project CARS, anonymous gearhead,” the Slightly Mad Studios representative would say while handing over a copy of the questionnaire. “Please prove yourself worthy of this Community Assisted Racing Simulator before getting started, otherwise your licence shall automatically be revoked and your copy of the game destroyed.”

You scan through the questionnaire. Does the idea of a 250-lap endurance race around Silverstone get you riled up in all the right places? Is managing the optimal caster and camber angles on a vehicle more important to you than partying with your friends? Have you memorised all car manufactures by year of origin instead of your children’s names and birthdays? 

Does even the idea of playing a racing game that doesn’t feature working wing mirrors sound like heresy? Are you willing to sacrifice your sanity to dragging the Toe-In Angle as close to zero degrees as potentially possible? Do you hate life, but love cars?

Did you answer ‘Yes’ to all of the above? Good news, there is finally a game for you! You are clearly slightly mad about automobiles, and to be honest, you have to be if you want to play and more importantly enjoy  Project CARS. The rest of you, well, you might not be ready for what  Project CARS has got going on. It’s somehow made  Forza Motorsport 5, GRiD and Gran Turismo feel like arcade racers. To be fair, it should probably be acknowledged just how big of an accomplishment this truly is: Forza has been the reigning king over Xbox’s racing domain for a decade.  Project CARS has just cruised onto the scene with its hippy crowd-funding ideals, impressive PC simulator features and ludicrous graphical fidelity and challenged the champion at its own game.

Forza Motorsport 6
Trying to get information out of Turn 10 on Forza Motorsport 6 is akin to attempting a refuel on the newly announced Ford GT supercar at speeds north of 200mph. It isn’t impossible, but it’s pretty bloody difficult. That said, it has been worth every effort, because 2015 marks ten years of motorsport dominance for the long-running Xbox franchise and we feel like it’s time to start the celebrations. A decade of unrivalled supremacy in the simulation-racing sphere; one that has gleefully whisked us away to enjoy the world’s most incredible cars, tracks and locations time and time again. But times they are a-changing.

As the Xbox One ushered in the next generation of interactive entertainment in November 2013, so too did Turn 10 attempt to usher in the next generation of racing games. It’s fair to say that Forza Motorsport 5 perhaps wasn’t the triumphant Xbox One debut many expected it to be.

In fact, the launch title was more of a pit-stop entry than a podium placer. Turn 10 can’t afford to let that happen again; it has genuine competition in the form of Project CARS on Xbox One. The crowd-funded, community developed racing game has been picking up traction for the past 12 months and with its release on the near horizon Turn 10 will need to appropriately listen to fan criticism following Forza 5, assess the successes and failures of its newest rival, and be mindful of the feedback from  Forza Horizon 2, if it wants to retain its crown. Thankfully, we believe Turn 10 when the studio says it has enough experience and tools at its disposal to get back on the right track.

“We’re celebrating our ten-year anniversary in 2015, which means when we started out, gaming was in a very different place,” considers Turn 10 Studios’ community manager Brian Ekberg in an exclusive interview with X-ONE. “A decade ago with the original Forza Motorsport, we didn’t have the tools to listen and react to customer feedback the way we can today. We didn’t have the tools to rapidly deploy improvements to our game experiences. In short, we’ve learned a lot about the diversity of our player base, what they want and how we can best deliver that to them. That touches all aspects of the Forza experience from the car and track lists, to the feature sets, to the online capabilities, and much more.”

Project CARS
“The racing games out last year were all in the ‘arcade’ or ‘action’ space you were going off-road in a free-roaming world or sliding around corners to collect points and grinding for cash to get the cars you really wanted to drive,” considers Project CARS creative director Andy Tudor to X-ONE in an exclusive interview. “Project CARS is a competitor to Forza and Gran Turismo, it’s at the simulator end of the [racing] spectrum.”

Whether Project CARS has what it takes to actually overtake and claim that coveted number one podium spot is, however, still wide open. Turn 10 isn’t bowing out of the race like some disgraced F1 driver that’s just been handed a DUI charge, it’s coming back stronger than ever in 2015 with Forza Motorsport 6. That’s why Slightly Mad Studios is doing everything it can to ensure Project CARS doesn’t repeat the mistakes Forza Motorsport 5 made at the turn of the generation. Sure, the Microsoft racer was bloody beautiful and handled like a petrol-powered dream but the lack of cars, tracks, options and dizzying reliance on micro-transactions left many gamers feeling burnt. There’s no need to worry about Project CARS, in that regard at least. For better or for worse, it’s a pure simulator experience like we’ve never before seen on console.

“It’s got the beauty and technical prowess people have come to expect from [simulation racing] games. Everything looks, sounds, and feels 1:1 exactly like it does in real life and then goes beyond [ Forza and Gran Turismo] with features the PC sim racing community have had for years that haven’t been present on console,” he said, adding. “Basically, if you want a game with a ton of different motorsports and forms of car culture on offer, a huge track roster, beautiful graphics, authentic handling, a career that makes you feel like a real racing driver, competitive online play, and asynchronous challenges with the rest of your fellow community, Project CARS is the game you’ve been waiting for.”
“Project CARS is very much like Destiny in that it’s a game built for the future”
That last statement might not be strictly true. Project CARS might offer a plethora of options, but it feels like it’s been designed to weed out casual drivers. It’s for those that gain some sort of masochistic pleasure out of being the biggest car nerd on Xbox Live. Our first hour with the latest build was spent wrestling with menus, trying to work out what car models were pertinent to each career mode option, struggling to even alter the bloody colour of cars yes, really and attempting to decipher the secrets behind the ridiculously detailed engine tweaking system. Do we understand how to appropriately alter the force feedback on the suspension to better let us tackle the Donington Park Racing Circuit? Come back and ask us later. Did our tweaks to the air intake systems make a difference to the performance of our Pagani Huayra? No freaking clue. But the whole process had staff from our sister magazine Total 911 rubbing their thighs in pure ecstasy in anticipation of the 17 March release date.

Despite Tudor’s assurances that Project CARS breaks from simulator “tradition” by “promoting freedom of exploration for gamers of all ages and skill levels,” we can’t say we totally agree. At this stage the code we’ve been hitting is still in production and subject to change the meta-game, menus and customisation systems feel almost impenetrable for those that don’t already spend their weekends tinkering under the hood of a real-life super car. That’s one aspect  Forza Motorsport still has over Project CARS; it has insane depth and customisation, but it presents it in an easy-to-understand format. That’s what those Microsoft big bucks will get you, we guess. Still, despite our headache-inducing experiences trying to figure out the finer details of Project CARS, Slightly Mad Studios is eager to convince us that it’s a product designed for the casual automobile enthusiast.

Forza Motorsport 6
We’ve already seen the “tools to rapidly deploy improvements” in action, as a response to the criticism levelled at Forza Motorsport 5. A diminished track and car list no doubt a result of the challenges in creating content for the next generation of consoles was one problem, though a healthy flow of both free and premium DLC seems to have made the best of that. Still, the bigger issue that can’t be repeated in this year’s iteration was the embracing of mechanics more typically associated with the free-to-play genre, where microtransactions and XP boosters are often found dwelling. Turn 10 responded quickly, assessed the backlash, and hastily reworked the virtual economy. But it hurt the studio’s otherwise pristine reputation and, with Project CARS finally here a game that has worked with its community every step of the way throughout development Turn 10 will need to be wary of upsetting its community and keeping its intentions as clear as possible.

“I think one of the most valuable aspects of our studio’s culture is our commitment to listening, learning and leading,” continues Ekberg. “We are intently focused on our community. Both from an individual perspective how can we make our games as inclusive as possible to new players, while still engaging the hardcore fans? and from the perspective of our larger player population what issues are players talking about? What do they care about most? What isn’t working for them?”
“Turn 10 has a genuine opportunity to create the most realistic racing experience of all time with Forza Motorsport 6”
Following our hands-on time with Project CARS, it’s clear that Forza still has one critical advantage over its peers and rivals. Engaging the hardcore in sim heaven whilst simultaneously making Forza inclusive to newbies is a balancing act Forza has always had no trouble in maintaining. We’re confident this won’t change for Forza Motorsport 6, especially as Project CARS’ menus, tuning systems and career mode are hidden behind an impenetrable wall for all but the most seasoned of racing fanatics.

Of course, the game isn’t being unveiled properly until June, when Turn 10 will take to the stage at E3 2015 and no doubt blow our minds with some impressive looking in-game engine cinematics backed by a headache-inducing soundtrack. But around all of the “we aren’t discussing any specifics” and “we have nothing further to share” PR double-talk, there have been a few exciting details to glean.

The box art of Forza Motorsport 6 revealed Ford’s all-new GT car, which will give Xbox gearheads the first opportunity to take the supercar out for a spin. Ekberg assures us that this will create “exciting possibilities” for the future of Forza, as fans have the opportunity to drive “numerous other cars in the Ford Performance line-up” for the first time in the world. On one of motoring’s biggest stages, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Turn 10 also helped to unveil other vehicles making their way to Forza Motorsport 6 the brand new GT,  Shelby GT350 Mustang, and the F-150 Raptor. Not only is this a great start to what already promises to be an incredibly diverse vehicle roster, but the key art has given fans a huge boost of confidence that Turn 10 is actually listening: why else would a series that’s traditionally avoided dynamic weather and day and night cycles showcase a beautiful car in the dark with its headlights on full beam?

Project CARS
“When you load the game up; it asks you what kind of skill level and past experience you’ve had with racing games in order to dial the game to your preferences. Then when you start your new career, create a driver and sign a contract [it] feels very much like playing FIFA,” says Tudor, though we don’t recall Ultimate Team ever forcing us to chose between locking a contract with Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, Wesley Sneijder, Harry Kane or Joel Campbell down with little explanation or indication to the consequence of choosing one over the others could have on your overall enjoyment with the game in the immediate future. Like we said before, presentation of information is still Project CARS’ pitfall.

“Gaining fans, winning accolades, and getting offers from other teams feels very much like NBA 2K15,” continues Tudor, “Jumping into a Quick Race Weekend against a full grid of cars for a bit of  TOCA-style pack racing, scheduling a game with your friends on the weekend, turning up for the practice session as the others join in-progress, then heading into the race, or trying to beat your friends by downloading their Driver Network Ghosts or enter regularly-scheduled Community Events… Honestly, when you start thinking of  Project CARS  as this hub from which to have all these different experiences and experiences that are going to grow as we expand the game over time then you realise that  Project CARS is very much like Destiny in that it’s a game built for the future.”
“Everything looks, sounds, and feels 1:1 exactly like it does in real life”
The thought of three Guardians storming the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca aside, Project CARS is certainly built for the future. While the presentation could be tuned with time, the base experience is almighty enough to help eradicate any other fears. Honestly, every care in the world seems to slip away once you actually get on the track. Here’s what we recommend to all of you when you eventually get a chance to play Project CARS. Avoid career mode, and instead create a quick race on your favourite track, ramp up the dynamic weather system and time cycle to double speed, drop 35 fast cars onto the grid and get ready for the race of your life. From Karts, to F1, to hatch backs to prototype machines built with a need for speed, every vehicle handles differently, impeccably. And chaotically in the sort of race we just proposed.

If Forza Motorsport 6 has anything to worry about, it’s how Project CARS is setting a new benchmark for handling, physics, sound design and graphical prowess. The roar of the engine as you perform a delicate overtake, the twitch of the wheels as you carefully manoeuvre around a tight bend at speed and the way your heart leaps into your throat as you attempt to avoid near collisions Forza has got a lot of work to do where it counts; like we said, there’s nothing quite like Project CARS in the simulation racing genre.

“As with any healthy competition, having other games out there only makes us strive for better,” says Tudor, rather diplomatically. “Together we raise the bar in the racing genre. We don’t necessarily feel pressured, but we always set out to set a new benchmark in our games whether that’s in graphics, handling, features, or innovation and certainly on Project CARS we’ve delivered on that with dynamic time of day and weather, [high] resolution, laser-scanned tracks, a freeform sandbox career mode, [and] community-created app support.” Slightly Mad Studios might not feel pressured to deliver, but all eyes are on the start-up to see how it fares against  Forza Motorsport in the next generation. There’s no way Turn 10 isn’t watching development on Project CARS closely and trying to adapt. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a fan of sim racers.

Forza Motorsport 6
The addition of those two features is hardly a surprise. Sony’s DriveClub and Slightly Mad Studio’s Project CARS have already jumped ahead of Forza in that respect, and the reaction has been incredible. We’re in agreement; Project CARS showcases some incredible visual effects and fidelity, so we’re certainly excited to see what some of the best Microsoft-funded programmers and designers can do with the Xbox One and two years of exclusive development with the system. We aren’t saying  Forza needs a button dedicated to activating windscreen wipers, but a firm step in that direction is needed if it wants any chance of staying on top.

Forza Motorsport 6 will be appearing exclusively on Xbox One, ensuring Turn 10 can focus solely on delivering its most impressive technical and beautiful game to date. We can’t see Turn 10 backing down from its commitment to 1080p/60fps racing with Forza any time soon though the same can’t be said for Slightly Mad Studios, which has struggled to appropriately optimise Project CARS at 1080p/60fps across Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 4, PC, 12K resolution displays and Oculus Rift. We’ll have to wait until E3 to see if  Forza Motorsport 6 has what it takes to compete with Project CARS on a visual level, but we’ve learned to never count out a developer when it is laser-focused on one platform.

“The power of the Xbox One has enabled us to bring unprecedented visuals and features to the Forza Motorsport franchise, including an unprecedented level of visual realism at 1080p/60 FPS, and accurately recreating the physical characteristics of thousands of unique materials like metal, glass, leather, and concrete, which look real enough to touch,” says Ekberg, probably all too aware of how we’d love to virtually interact with these cars with HoloLens integration. “Utilising the power of the Xbox One, you can expect us to further refine Forza’s industry-leading simulation.”
“Forza is still the leading industry simulation experience.”
“Just as Ford has pushed the boundaries of car technology in  GT,” adds Dan Greenawalt, creative director at Turn 10 Studios, “Forza Motorsport 6 will embrace that spirit of innovation as our most technically advanced racing simulation to date, offering a fun and realistic automotive experience for both car lovers and gamers.” And that’s the key. Forza, for whatever embarrassing stalls it might have encountered recently, is still the leading industry simulation experience. From the incredible handling and physics engines behind every vehicle, to the stunning visual fidelity, roaring sound design and frame-rate stability that brings everything together,  Forza Motorsport is still the king. Turn 10 will be eager to continue to push the boundaries; improving its online stability, feature sets and diversifying its circuit and car rosters that’s a given but we’re perhaps most excited to see what  Forza Motorsport 6 can achieve with the millions of Drivatar data entries Turn 10 now holds onto.

Project CARS might be bringing robust PC simulation racing features to consoles for the first time, but Turn 10 has an opportunity to create the most realistic racing experience of all time with Forza Motorsport 6. It isn’t just about having an intricate physics engine, dizzying depth to the tuning systems, or even sublime rendering technology it’s about creating a human experience, making it feel like the Xbox One thumbsticks are somehow connected to the wheel and the triggers to the pedals.

In essence, the revolution in racing will come from whichever studio can pull you into a state of being where you unequivocally sacrifice your mind to a virtual reality; where you believe you’re in the driver’s seat of one of the most powerful and sexually attractive vehicles in the world. Will it be Turn 10 with Forza Motorsport 6? E3 2015 is only four short months away…

Project CARS is the first game that feels like it has any chance of overtaking Forza for the coveted bottle of Xbox-branded champagne. As great as it handles, it has a habit of excluding those but the most faithful gearheads. It was crowd-funded by thousands of rabid simulation fans; they demanded something more hardcore, challenging and intricate, and for better or for worse that’s what we’re receiving.  Forza Motorsport 6 isn’t out for a good few months yet, but Tudor is confident that  Project CARS  has got what it takes to overtake the behemoth franchise and maintain its lead. Mentioning with a wry smile as our interview closed, “I’m sure [ Forza 6] will be very good when it eventually comes out, but they have some catching up to do at the moment.”

Competition is exciting, it drives studios to strive for better and aim higher in its goals and ambitions. We aren’t saying Forza has ever been guilty of coasting along on its reputation, but we’re excited to see what Turn 10 can do under pressure. Project CARS is a technically impressive game, built to evolve over time alongside its huge and vocal community.  Forza Motorsport 6 will likely attempt to steal some of  Project CARS’ thunder this E3, though Ekberg tried his best to assure us that Turn 10 is happy to see Slightly Mad Studios in its rear view mirror. “We're intently focused on our vision for the franchise and commitment to quality. That vision is inclusive. We welcome Project CARS to the Xbox One.” We’re onto him.

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