Project CARS: aims for the stars

  “Project cars has the largest track roster of any recent racing game: locations from all around the world from australia to dubai to belgium, Japan, us west coast, and the uK. we’ve packed in over 250 miles of tarmac the equivalent of driving from times square, new york to the white house in washington.”

The racer claiming to be all things to all car fans is almost here. But can Project CARS really coast around the hairpins so many others in the genre have missed and offer accessible, muck-about thrills to one end of the spectrum, and vigorous simulation to the other ?  We slip behind  the wheel alright, pad one last time before release day to find out…

The game’s chops as a sim were never in doubt. Slightly Mad has priors in the meaty handling model stakes thanks to its Shift series, and has developed incredibly nuanced and equally demanding driving physics here. Turn all the driving aids off and just try to guide a Le Mans Prototype through one single corner, we dare you. Difficulty alone isn’t a measure of authenticity, of course, but the way you inevitably lose control conveys a sense of weight and traction that tell your brain: “Holy guacamole, I’m driving a car!”

Project CARS is even more in its element with a force feedback steering wheel plugged in a point worth labouring, considering PS4’s non-compatibility with many PS3 wheels and the astonishing price on official current-gen peripherals.

Nevertheless, the game’s many deadzone-tweaking options speak volumes for the attention its developer has bestowed on the area, so if you want a no-compromise drive in some of the world’s fastest cars, chances are you’ve been gently vibrating in anticipation of the game since it was announced for PS4.

Speedy Needs
But what about those on the other side, who’ve been starved of a decent Need For Speed on current-gen and had their patience tested beyond breaking point by Driveclub’s maladies? We’re less convinced that delivering that gamer a satisfying package is as simple as turning on all of Project CARS’ driving aids and whacking the AI difficulty down a bit. Currently we’re playing pre-final code the ‘Novice’ gameplay setting feels muted, rather than accessible.

It’d be mad not to praise the game’s looks, in particular how well the framerate holds up when we purposely try to break it by forcing 38 AI opponents in GT cars around a twisty track. And looks count for a lot in the casual racer world. So it appears there’ll be some appeal in simply picking a car and taking it for a spin while your console has a hernia from all the pretty lighting and anti-aliasing. But will it be enough if you’re not in it for the full sim experience?

There’s a career mode, but it’d be incredibly audacious to suggest it could rival Gran Turismo’s history-lesson-meets-nostalgia-hit-meets-Destiny-esque-grind. There’s little evidence of a social incentive as burning as Driveclub’s, either. And these aren’t problems, per se, they’re just indications that you’ll adore Project CARS if you’re in it for the driving, and not so much if you’re expecting a slick arcade experience.

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