Pro­ject CARS

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS -

Pro­ject CARS is a driv­ing game for PS4, Xbox One, Wii U and PC that had a very in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment process – it was crowd­funded by gamers and driv­ing fans. Slightly Mad Stu­dios, the de­vel­op­ers of the game let back­ers de­cide highly im­por­tant as­pects of the game in­clud­ing the cars and tracks. The re­sult? A highly di­verse driv­ing sim­u­la­tor that stands sep­a­rate from the likes of The Crew.

Though re­ferred to as a game, we’d class Pro­ject CARS as more of a rac­ing sim­u­la­tor. Why? Be­cause games usu­ally in­clude some kind of story mode where you un­lock cars, parts or new tracks – Pro­ject CARS doesn’t have this. There are no car up­grades, un­locks, story line or ex­tras for do­ing a race par­tic­u­larly well, much to our dis­ap­point­ment. We like to no­tice pro­gres­sion when play­ing a game, and while this is ev­i­dent by mov­ing up in classes, this isn’t earned – you can join any rac­ing class, even if you’ve just started play­ing for the first time.

There are four rac­ing modes: Solo Race, Online, Ca­reer and Driver Net­work. The Solo Race is where you have com­plete free­dom over the con­di­tions of the race – you choose the car, track, re­stric­tions, set­tings and even the weather con­di­tions. It’s where you can prac­tice with any car and is where you can re­ally hone your driv­ing skills.

Online is where you’ll be fac­ing real-life op­po­nents from around the world. It brings a whole new as­pect of game­play as you have to look at what cars your com­peti­tors have se­lected and de­cide what can keep up (or beat) them. But it’s not just about speed – you have to take into con­sid­er­a­tion other things in­clud­ing how many turns there are, how long the course is and even the cur­rent weather.

The only frus­trat­ing part of the online ex­pe­ri­ence is, oddly, the other play­ers. For those of us that like to play rac­ing games prop­erly and en­joy the pre­ci­sion of rac­ing, hav­ing some­one ram into the side of you to cause you to spin out and loose your lead is in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing. It doesn’t hap­pen with ev­ery race, but it’s rage in­duc­ing when it does.

Ca­reer mode is where you as­sume the role of a rac­ing driver look­ing to progress through­out the ranks of mo­tor rac­ing. The mode is classed as a ‘ca­reer’, and one would as­sume that means start­ing from the bot­tom and work­ing your way up, but in­stead Pro­ject CARS lets you se­lect what­ever class of rac­ing you want from the get go. There is pro­gres­sion as you move up from the se­lected tier af­ter win­ning cham­pi­onships and un­lock­ing new con­tracts, but we’re not too sure if we like the idea be­hind this.

As you’d imag­ine, the bet­ter the class, the more fun the cars are to drive. It’s also true of the op­po­nents in our ex­pe­ri­ence – lower class AI driv­ers seem to be ex­tra slug­gish, with one of our wins com­ing with a 30-sec­ond lead with­out ad­just­ing the AI dif­fi­culty. It shouldn’t be as easy as it was ei­ther, as we rarely saw another com­peti­tor once we reached first place. It’s only af­ter you progress through the var­i­ous ve­hi­cle classes that the AI be­comes more chal­leng­ing.

The Driver Net­work is where you can get an over­view of your Pro­ject CARS ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing your per­for­mance in races and your online rep­u­ta­tion. If you’ve saved any photos or re­plays dur­ing races, this is where you can find and share them. The best part is the Time Tri­als, as the net­work stores both the lap record for ev­ery player on ev­ery track and the ghost data that de­tails how they achieved it. This is then used in time tri­als, mean­ing you can race a player’s ‘ghost’ to im­prove your own lap time.

Tracks

As we men­tioned ear­lier, back­ers of the sim­u­la­tor had a huge say in cer­tain el­e­ments, in­clud­ing which cour­ses would be fea­tured in Pro­ject CARS. It has over 60 cour­ses, in­clud­ing pop­u­lar UK cour­ses Cad­well Park, Don­ing­ton, Snet­ter­ton, Oul­ton Park, Brands Hatch and, of course, Sil­ver­stone. Many tracks also have al­ter­nate race lay­outs that bring new chal­lenges to cour­ses you may know well.

One as­pect of Pro­ject CARS that ev­ery­one men­tions is graph­ics. We were teased with a se­ries of beau­ti­ful clips and screen­shots prior to the re­lease, de­pict­ing beau­ti­fully high def­i­ni­tion cars and the most re­al­is­tic weather sys­tem we’d ever seen in a game. This got us very ex­cited to go hands on, but when we did we were met with an over­whelm­ing feel­ing of dis­ap­point­ing. Don’t get us wrong, the graph­ics are far from ter­ri­ble, but they’re far away from what was shown prior to its re­lease.

You can tell that a lot of work has gone into the car mod­els, as they’re hands down the best-look­ing el­e­ment of the sim­u­la­tor. It’s a shame that this level of at­ten­tion to de­tail wasn’t ap­plied to the tracks, as we no­ticed that cer­tain el­e­ments of tracks were sur­pris­ingly lowres as we drove around them. We know that many peo­ple won’t pay at­ten­tion to back­ground mod­els like trees and bushes, but we think it makes a dif­fer­ence whether they are pixel­lated or not.

The in-car POV view is a favourite of rac­ing-sim fans, so it was im­por­tant for Slightly Mad Stu­dios to get it just right. We think the de­vel­op­ers hit the nail on the head with the in-car graph­ics, as ev­ery dial is re­spon­sive, mir­rors ac­tu­ally show you what’s be­hind you (un­like other driv­ing games where it’s blurred) and you can ap­pre­ci­ate the level of de­tail avail­able.

How­ever, we no­ticed that the graph­ics var­ied be­tween con­soles – the PS4’s graph­ics were ac­cept­able, but those pro­duced by the PC ver­sion were much bet­ter. There are rea­sons be­hind this, mainly down to

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