Project Cars 2
Limping over the finish line
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.