The racing genre is nowhere near as saturated as it used to be, at least in regards to the sheer amount of titles out there. However, finding a gap within the genre to focus on is more difficult than ever, with the majority of racing titles covering every aspect of racing so thoroughly as to narrow or entirely eliminate most gaps. Project Cars 2 has therefore concentrated on delivering a true simulation for players to enjoy; covering a large variety of different disciplines but keeping the experience as realistic as possible. Still, the competition is strong and the timing of Project Cars 2’s release may limit its overall appeal.
Indeed, Project Cars 2 improves on the original by stepping up its realism to an impressive level. The huge variety and amount of cars each offer a unique set of handling challenges to master, making every aspect of a race a thoughtful endeavour. Simply pulling away from the starting grid requires forethought: do you gun it or ease into it? Where’s the sweet spot for traction and acceleration? What’s the turning circle like at different speeds? How does the weather affect the handling? All of these questions are thrown at you. You are driving in a simulation of immense realism and it therefore requires deep consideration.
It’s exhilarating stuff. There’s a mastery to conquer for each car and for each discipline that keeps you busy and engaged for countless hours. Learning how to drive through streets is a very different lesson to driving on a raceway, even if the cars are the same. Meanwhile, rally driving, etc. offer entirely different challenges for you to suss out. There’s so many things to learn, and with Project Cars 2 offering such as a wealth of cars, tracks and disciplines, the potential fun is endless.
Of course, this fun is only the case if you’re a driving enthusiast. Project Cars 2 has a niche market in mind. If you own and regularly use a full steering wheel setup, then this is definitely the title for you, otherwise, this focus on simulation driving is going to frustrate you hugely.
It’s a fight from the very first race. The aforementioned wealth of things to learn is an overwhelming burden on the average player. You’ll spin out simply from trying to pull away quickly from the start. Meanwhile, the dynamic weather can turn a clear day, with favourable conditions that you’ve mastered well enough to finish in a respectable position, into a wet or cold day, sending you flying off the track due to a misjudged corner or overtake. It’s a punishing game where each overtake is hard fought, each corner is an obstacle to be studied, and your car’s handling is best analysed through experience. Indeed, if you mean to master Project Cars 2, it’ll cost you considerable patience and time.
However, for some this exhausting and comprehensive schooling will certainly be worth it. There aren’t many titles quite this dedicated out there right now, or indeed even planned for the future. This is a title that you might otherwise expect from Codemasters, for its excellent attention to realism and detail. And even the likes of the imminent Forza 7 can’t quite compete at this level of authenticity. But of course, this is also where Project Cars 2 is likely to fail. Forza 7 will be far more welcoming to all levels of racing players. Project Cars 2 is purposely niche, and so its player base is specific, and you may very well not be their target audience.
For those that do live and breathe driving; that own steering wheel setups that put their actual cars to shame, and for those that drive not only to compete for position but for the love of mastering the machines, then Project Cars 2 is right up your alley. Moreover, you’ll be able to enjoy a remarkably attractive simulator at that. The vehicle models are exceptionally well detailed and realised, with equally well imitated cockpits to boot. Meanwhile, excellent lighting and weather effects brings the terrific variety of tracks to life, whether they’re the real raceways or fabricated ones. Additionally, the engine sounds almost force you to bite your lip in anticipation for the horse power you have the privilege of driving. However, the AI does occasionally let it down, with some odd behaviour when cornering creating an, often comical, sense of unpredictability, as well as the AI switching suddenly between aggressive and passive driving styles. Otherwise, Project Cars 2 does a marvellous job visually and audibly, bringing the experience of driving these cars in these wonderful locations to your living room.
There’s also plenty you can do outside of racing. Tuning your cars to suit your driving style, the raceway, or the weather you’ll be fighting against, is a considerable pastime in itself. Fortunately is very easy to do, with everything explained to you in plain English. In fact, that’s something Project Cars 2 does very well: explaining things. Each new screen greets you with a short, narrated explanation to help you on your way, and thanks to a clean and accessible UI, you’ll be diving into the career or playing quick races offline or online, with tuned or stock cars, swiftly and without confusion.
Project Cars 2 is aimed squarely at driving simulation fans, to the point where playing it without a steering wheel setup feels somehow sacrilegious. And it recreates the thrill and expertise of driving super cars, rally cars, F1, and multiple other disinclines exceptionally well. It is, however, also a difficult game to play, highly inaccessible to those less practiced with simulation driving. Meanwhile, Forza 7 is also about to be released, a title that will feature many of Project Cars 2’s strongest features with added accessibly, making this already niche title an even harder sell. If you’re a driving sim nut, then don’t hesitate to pick up Project Cars 2, otherwise, best stay clear.
Thanks to Xbox and Bandai Namco for supporting TiX