Project Cars

How Slightly Mad Stu­dios is aim­ing to go “beyond re­al­ity”


PC, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One

Project Cars’ ren­di­tion of Brands Hatch feels just right. We know this be­cause we’re sat in the track’s pad­dock com­plex hav­ing just driven a few laps for com­par­i­son. Even the weather on this un­re­mark­able, over­cast day has been pre­cisely recre­ated by virtue of the fact that the fas­tid­i­ous Slightly Mad team has mod­elled the near So­lar Sys­tem for each cir­cuit in the game.

“Each track has a GPS lo­ca­tion and that means that we know where that track is in the world, and we can ac­cu­rately model the Sun and the Moon and the con­stel­la­tions above for what­ever time of day or date you’re rac­ing,” cre­ative di­rec­tor Andy Tu­dor ex­plains. “You can dial it to any day of any year and it will be ac­cu­rate to what the at­mo­spheric con­di­tions were at that par­tic­u­lar time.”

Ev­ery track comes with its own cli­mate data, too, spec­i­fy­ing whether the lo­ca­tion is Mediter­ranean, marine or desert, for ex­am­ple. As a re­sult, the sun will ap­pear more red when rac­ing in Dubai due to at­mo­spheric con­di­tions. “It means that it’s com­pletely ac­cu­rate to real life,” Tu­dor con­tin­ues. “And if you’ve got an on­line con­nec­tion it will fetch bang-up-to-date weather and at­mo­spheric con­di­tions from the web.”

But Tu­dor ad­mits that 1:1 ac­cu­racy in the rac­ing genre isn’t likely to im­press play­ers who ex­pect that as a base stan­dard. Which is why Slightly Mad is go­ing “beyond re­al­ity”, as Tu­dor puts it, in a con­certed ef­fort to bet­ter rep­re­sent the emo­tional re­sponse of rac­ing around a track, not just the math­e­mat­i­cal one – which means ex­ag­ger­at­ing some fea­tures to give a greater sense of scale and drama.

“Ob­vi­ously we have the math­e­mat­i­cal data, but in games some things just look wrong, or don’t get across the ac­tual emo­tion of what it feels like to be there,” Tu­dor says. “The Nord­schleife feels like a roller­coaster – you turn round a cor­ner and there’s an up­hill climb but it just looks like a wall in front of you. So ob­vi­ously we need to cre­ate that sen­sa­tion in the game.”

In or­der to achieve this, the team com­bines per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, ref­er­ence pho­tos, and feed­back from pro­fes­sional driv­ers like Oliver Webb. And while the heartin-mouth ex­cite­ment of hus­tling a BMW M3 through the dra­mat­i­cally in­clined Hail­wood Hill that fol­lows Brands Hatch’s first cor­ner isn’t quite there, the dip cer­tainly feels more pro­nounced than in other dig­i­tal ver­sions of the cir­cuit we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced. Such cre­ative li­cence hasn’t af­fected lap times ei­ther, as proven by com­par­i­son videos of in-game laps and Webb’s real-life equiv­a­lents, which are within tenths of a sec­ond of each other. But there’s less pos­i­tive ten­sion to be found in the game’s cur­rent han­dling model. On PS4 (and in­deed with a 360 pad on the PC build), cars feel skit­tish and un­pre­dictable, while an ag­gres­sive re­turn-to-cen­tre setup snaps the wheel back in­stantly when you let go, mak­ing smooth cor­ner­ing dif­fi­cult. We dip into the build’s highly cus­tomis­able set­tings and man­age to im­prove some as­pects, while wors­en­ing oth­ers. In its cur­rent form the game feels built for steer­ing wheels, and play­ing with one im­proves things im­mea­sur­ably. Switch­ing pe­riph­er­als can’t el­e­vate the AI, un­for­tu­nately, which cur­rently lacks charisma and is ap­par­ently obliv­i­ous to our pres­ence – but at least our op­po­nents’ un­sport­ing barg­ing ma­noeu­vres demon­strate Project Cars’ ex­cel­lent open-wheel physics, as our ve­hi­cle leaves the ground vi­o­lently in a snarl of shrap­nel.

The game will ship with con­trol and AI pre­sets along­side its broad ar­ray of slid­ers, of course, and hope­fully th­ese will de­liver a more re­solved drive. Slightly Mad’s com­mu­nity-driven de­vel­op­ment has crowd sourced a po­ten­tially spec­tac­u­lar rac­ing game, but the stu­dio’s de­sire to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery player’s pref­er­ences has put Project Cars in dan­ger of be­ing pulled in too many di­rec­tions, with­out a steer­ing au­tho­rial hand to guide it back to the rac­ing line.

Open wheels

When you start Project Cars, ev­ery­thing will be un­locked: ve­hi­cles, tracks and even events. It’s a common setup for PC driv­ing sims, but this will be the first time a con­sole rac­ing game has aban­doned the tra­di­tional grind­ing tem­plate. “It’s get­ting to the point now that I think we’re all a lit­tle bit sick of go­ing into the next game and hav­ing to start at the bot­tom all over again,” Tu­dor says. “When you take into ac­count the fact that the next gen­er­a­tion of gamers com­ing in are used to hav­ing more ope­nended sand­box ex­pe­ri­ences, it just made sense to get rid of those bar­ri­ers. As soon as we did, we knew it was the right decision.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.