Project Cars 2

Limp­ing over the fin­ish line

Games Master - - Review -

The most im­pres­sive thing about Slightly Mad Stu­dios’ lat­est might just be its con­sid­er­able scope. This is a sim­u­la­tion racer that will have you ca­reen­ing side­ways through dirt and gravel in Ral­ly­cross events, blast­ing down the Monza straight in a Fer­rari LaFer­rari, and en­dur­ing the el­e­ments at Le Mans in a high-pow­ered pro­to­type. The orig­i­nal Project Cars was note­wor­thy for its am­bi­tion, and Slightly Mad Stu­dios has taken things to an­other level in this se­quel. The car list is ex­pan­sive, the real-world track list is ab­so­lutely mouth-wa­ter­ing (it in­cludes Sil­ver­stone, Brands Hatch, Le Mans, In­di­anapo­lis, and Monza), and it en­com­passes seem­ingly ev­ery mo­tor­sport you could imag­ine. We’re just sur­prised it stops short of let­ting you race car­a­vans around a muddy field in Sur­rey.

Of course, none of this would re­ally mat­ter if th­ese fuel-guz­zling beasts weren’t fun to drive, and we’re happy to re­port that they are – pro­vided you own a rac­ing wheel. With the fidelity and force feed­back of a wheel, the much-im­proved han­dling and physics model re­ally comes to life. There’s a real sense of weight to the cars that’s re­flected in each bump and groove be­neath your tyres, and push­ing your cho­sen ve­hi­cle up to and over the limit is in­cred­i­bly thrilling, as you’re able to catch any dis­as­trous spins be­fore they fully ma­te­ri­alise.

This is eas­ier said than done, mind you. Project Cars 2 is a full-blooded sim­u­la­tion, and just wrestling th­ese en­er­getic brutes around the track is a feat in and of it­self. Yet learn­ing and adapt­ing to the in­tri­ca­cies of each car, and the par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of each track, is part of what makes its white-knuckle rac­ing so sat­is­fy­ing.

Han­dle with flair

If you’re play­ing on a gamepad, how­ever, your en­joy­ment will be stunted some­what. When you’re work­ing with sticks and but­tons there’s a lack of pre­ci­sion in the han­dling that makes your in­put feel fairly de­tached, and a lot of the cars are much more un­wieldy to drive than they would oth­er­wise be. Get­ting to the fin­ish line when you’re play­ing on a pad isn’t as chal­leng­ing as it was in the first game, but gamepad support still isn’t at the level you might ex­pect, and that’s dis­ap­point­ing.

The AI is a con­sis­tent nui­sance, too. While it’s not as rigid as it once was, it’s still overly ag­gres­sive at times, and we can’t count the num­ber of times a race has been ru­ined by the AI ve­hi­cles crash­ing into each other on the very first cor­ner. As soon as you hit a slight bend in the road the field of cars start to en­thu­si­as­ti­cally recre­ate that fa­mous pile-up scene in Blues Broth­ers 2000. There are other glitches as well, with the AI achiev­ing im­pos­si­ble qual­i­fy­ing times, the rac­ing line ran­domly dis­ap­pear­ing, and many oth­ers. It all paints a pic­ture of a game that wasn’t quite ready to hit store shelves.

With this in mind, Project Cars 2 is dif­fi­cult to wholly rec­om­mend. There’s a bril­liant, am­bi­tious racer here, par­tic­u­larly if you’re play­ing on a rac­ing wheel. It’s ab­so­lutely stuffed with ve­hi­cles and lo­ca­tions. Yet the threat of a dis­rup­tive bug or mo­ment of AI mad­ness in­ter­rupt­ing the whole thing is a very real and present dan­ger.

“There’s a real sense of weight to the cars that’s re­flected in each bump be­neath your tyres”

The dy­namic weather sys­tem is best-in-class, with a tor­rent of rain or snow forc­ing you to adapt strate­gies.

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