Project CARS Review

Project CARS Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Not everyone will enjoy Project CARS. For those who like their motorsport pure, it’s a serious, deep, and demanding racing simulation. The soundtrack isn’t pop punk, there are no explosive takedowns, and the rewinds are stingy. In spite of a few frayed edges, Project CARS has managed to successfully capture the experience of driving a real racing car on some of the world’s greatest circuits. Project CARS is a fantastic racing game with the potential to become a real force in the genre, tough, yet satisfying, cruel but fair. However, it’s not for everyone.

However, it is for anyone – and that’s what matters. My favorite racing game is Project CARS. Anyone who wants to dive into Project CARS will find a number of options and settings that can make it their own, as the list of things to tweak is extensive. From the incredibly realistic handling to the lavish graphics and awe-inspiring sound, there is a lot to admire about Project CARS, but I am especially impressed with how malleable it is.

The options keep coming in Project CARS, from braking assistance to stability control. Are you not satisfied with the placement of the on-screen track map on your HUD? You can move it. Playing with a steering wheel peripheral and seeing an onscreen steering wheel is distracting? Delete it. It’s brilliant.

The design

Project CARS Review

The best part of Project CARS, however, is the ability to customize each session’s AI difficulty and race length. AI runs on a slider from 0-100, so you can change the overall performance of the opposition in small fractions to find a sweet spot that matches your ability. Do you find yourself outqualifying the pack by several seconds? You might want to turn up the AI a few notches until they are on par with you. Do you want to compete on a short track but need a little more race time to be realistic about your chances? Add more laps to this race. All events can be easily customized before you begin. The Project CARS implementation is significantly more sophisticated and nuanced than that of the Forza Motorsports series, which offers similar scope to increase or decrease challenges before races.

You can feel like a hero if you blast through the pack from last place on the grid in two laps or if you prefer to set up for a pass over several laps, Project CARS shines with evenly matched cars, where every overtakes is a small victory. Project CARS will instantly satisfy you if you ask it to be either of these extremes. In general, low-level opponent AI is quite nervous off the start line, but, in general, most opponents show good situational awareness and are aggressive without being overbearing. Occasionally, I’ve been tagged by passing cars, but for the most part, my opponents have avoided race incidents. It was once beaten by a jerk AI driver who (illegally) did not make his pit stop until the last lap of a race and won by passing the finish line in pit lane, but it is otherwise quite well behaved. During pit stops at Bathurst, I got hung up against some kind of invisible barrier, but since there is no manual control during pit stops I couldn’t fix it and had to quit the race.

In addition to its meaty career mode, Project CARS also offers open-wheel racing, touring and GT racing, and prototype racing. The main difference is that, while you can progress through a series of tiers in each, you can begin your career at any level. 

Are you interested in starting in kart racing and progressing through the various open-wheel racing leagues until you finally land a seat in the top LMP1 league? That’s no problem. Do you prefer to start from the top? That’s fine too. Are you enjoying your time in GT4? Sign up for another season. It’s not necessary to move up if you don’t want to. You can start wherever you like.

Similar to Codemasters’ Pro Race Driver games, and to the more recent Grid Autosport, the aim is to earn drives with various racing teams. Your career email will receive offers for upcoming races from team principals; you simply need to accept the offer that interests you. Because the team provides the car, you don’t need to grind for cash or buy cars, so you won’t feel compelled to win every race for the sake of the payout. The payout is not available. It just depends on how well you play throughout the entire season. In Project CARS, there is a lot more satisfaction in a real dogfight to defend a top-10 finish than farming first-place trophies for cash in other racing games.

If you wish, you can also pursue multiple careers at the same time. After starting my first career in a one-make Renault Clio championship, I moved up to GT4 racing, but I wanted to take a stab at endurance racing and LMP1 racing, so I started parallel careers in each.

It’s your choice whether to work towards all three career goals – Zero to Hero, Triple Crown, and Defending Champ – or focus on one in particular (or none).

Through Project CARS’ one-off race weekends, you can experience racing outside your active career. As opposed to the events you enter throughout your career, the individual race weekends allow you to determine factors like how the weather will change throughout the race. You can select several weather “slots” and decide what will occur in each, as well as how fast the weather will change. This mode seems to place two cars in the same spot on the starting grid, which I haven’t seen elsewhere. The incident causes some fuss, but it does not ruin the proceedings.

When setting up online races, you get the same level of control. During testing, the online racing seemed robust and reliable, although there were some quirks in the race set-ups that need to be addressed. One player who joined our session after warm-up was driving an LMP1 car that was vastly superior to the GT3 cars the rest of us had to choose from in the lobby. The reason for this is unclear to me.

I really like the little touches in Project CARS, which is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. For instance, the leaves that blow in the wake of cars ahead of you. A shard of light piercing through treetops obscures a low-hanging sun, or the bobble of rubber marbles accumulating just outside the racing line as cars rumble by. Nevertheless, that’s a subtle flourish that can only be detected on replays. The effect of rain on windscreens is not as noticeable as in Driveclub (it is not sloshed around by wiper blades or cornering/braking forces), but the weather effects are great overall, and the tracks look spectacular in the rain. Despite some minor flaws in the pre-release versions (the animated pit stops have been removed), it makes up for them with some cool features elsewhere, such as the ability to monitor your opponents’ sections and lap times from the garage during qualifying.

Performance

Project CARS Review

Similarly, Project CARS’ vehicles ooze detail and are up to par with the competition. Vehicles in the collection cover a range of categories, from GT cars to Le Man’s prototypes, to classic racing cars, hypercars, and tracks toys. Many of the models are licensed. Even though some of the categories aren’t as populated as others (and Japanese marques are virtually absent), I still found quite a lot to like about this vehicle roster.

That said, the cars of Grid Autosport feel distinctly different from one another than those in Project CARS. Project CARS’ supremely capable handling model effortlessly converts the difference between a race car and a regular hatchback. While the former is light, agile, and grippy, when pushed to the edge they snap in an instant, and it takes a deft touch to rein them in. In comparison, road cars feel like whales. When you try to wrestle it through bends, even a performance hatch like the Focus RS feels heavy and understeers like a pig.

With a steering wheel, the effect is amplified tenfold but survives translation on a gamepad as well, although I found it worth fiddling around with the controller’s filtering and other settings to find the right feel. In either case, forget the problematic input lag from Slightly Mad Studios’ previous racer (the otherwise underrated Shift 2: Unleashed). I am not a huge fan of Project CARS’ karts, however – they are just too fast for me.

What matters is that Project CARS makes me feel like a racing driver, just like FIFA puts players on the pitch in their favorite football team. When my race engineer informed me that a member of my virtual pit crew had just fumbled a wheel nut during a particularly time-sensitive stop, seconds seemed like hours, just as they would to a real racer. It’s difficult to exit the pits after a bad stop; I wanted to curse and claw back some time, but my tires were always cold. I find it annoying; it’s not a good feeling. Yet it’s not just getting annoyed at a cheap glitch; it’s simulating the consequences of a pit lane mistake on a driver. I’ve never felt this way in a racing game before – it’s a real feeling for the first time. Thank you.

Pros Cons
Excellent visuals A few glitches
Engaging and satisfying Holes in the vehicle roster
Options abound

Conclusion

Project CARS is incredibly easy to play but extremely challenging. It sounds great, looks great, and feels even better. The action is ferocious and tactical, the weather effects are amazing, and there is plenty to do in the game. This is real racing.