I’ve always loved racing games, starting way back when playing F1 Race on the original Game Boy, playing through the night on Gran Turismo, buzzing round Gymkhana events at Battersea Power Station before cruising my way through roads trips on Forza Horizon 2. I love all the different disciplines and of course winning races. At no point have I said I’m any good at these games, but I love playing them.
Simulation racers (for me anyway) are that bit more difficult, but despite that I had a keen eye on Project CARS, could this be the one that I clicked with? Or would I finally give up the idea of trying to enjoy simulation titles?
Project CARS career mode give you the chance to play across 8 tiers of competitions, I started a new career to be presented with a vast range of different disciplines to choose from, being a traditionalist I decided to start at the bottom and work my way up, so I signed up to race go-karts. The karts take a fair bit of getting used to, but eventually I began to get the hang of them and managed to win a few races. Eventually it was time to race some touring cars and it was at this point the game started to click with me.
The touring cars are great fun, jostling for position with the other cars all while trying keep on the road is a challenge but a brilliant experience, I managed to scale the difficulty of the AI just right, they were challenging but not to the point where the enjoyment reduced, you can decide on the difficulty before every session you take part in which is a neat idea.
Project CARS allows you to define your own career by starting in any discipline, want to start you career in endurance racing? The jump straight in, it’s much better than having to race with cars you aren’t getting on with, there is nothing to stop you starting at the bottom and working your way up though, in fact there are some historic goals that include that very challenge
Each discipline requires you to learn the ropes all over again, first you need to master the vehicles themselves, and with races over 100 courses and 30 locations you’ll eventually remember how each course handles. I played the game using a controller and at first found the cars to be quite twitchy, but with some adjustments to the controller settings that problem went away. It requires patience and a fair bit of crashing too, something that Project CARS is good at handling, the screenshot below shows just what happens when you get a bit too big for your boots in the touring cars!
Project CARS has been created for racing fans and it’s easy to see the work that has gone into it, the menus are simple and easy to get around, and there are a huge amount of options to customise your experience. As well as the standard driving aids you can edit a whole host of options to improve how the controller handles the game and also edit how the weather impacts your view when driving, there are too many options to list but you can see that everything has been thought of to ensure a brilliant experience for racing fans.
The weather customization in races is brilliant, you are given four slots to choose an exact weather type or let the game randomise it for you. You can customise the speed of how quickly the weather changes during the race and it makes a huge difference out on the track. Speeding around Silverstone in a huge downpour is a real challenge as is trying to navigate heavy fog as 20 other Formula 1 cars are all jostling for pace. The courses look great, especially combined with the lighting effects from the weather.
There is a brilliant range of views to drive in. My favourite so far is the in-helmet view of the driver, it’s brilliant, but takes some getting used to, if that doesn’t suit you there are plenty of other views to cycle through, it’s worth going through them to see what suits you best. Another well thought out feature is the ability to customise the HUD, you can have as much or as little information on screen. The audio is superb, the cars all sound incredible, and the weather effects create a brilliant atmosphere, I love picking up on subtle soundbytes in games so it was great picking up announcements in the stands as you race past them. It’s a shame that the frame rate on the Xbox causes some nasty sound lag which causes an unfortunate distraction when racing.
For the most part the AI are great to race against, though they seem to be quite happy make some odd decisions that can sometimes cause some utter chaos, and then at the other end of the scale they’ll happily go off road to avoid collisions. Project CARS is the most authentic racing game I’ve played in a long time so I found it quite frustrating that there aren’t animations in the pit lanes, especially as the developers are trying to make this as real as possible.
As fun as it is to race the AI, there is nothing like getting online with your friends. Project CARS does a superb job of getting you online, races are fully customisable and even lets you fill the remainder of the room with AI, I noticed no lag while playing online and look forward to lording over my mates on race nights. There are also community events that allow you to challenge other drivers times across the world. If that isn’t your thing then you can take part in time trials or just practice in the car and course of your choice.
Project CARS for me is the best racing simulation I’ve played, yes it’s a bit buggy and the frame rate is really frustrating, but I’m having a blast playing it and I’m really enjoying the challenge of mastering the game. So much thought has gone into ensuring the game to caters for all abilities so it’s well worth grabbing a copy, and I promise you now, I will get the achievement for racing a real-time 24 hour endurance race!
Thanks to Xbox and Bandai Namco Entertainmentfor supporting TiX
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