I’D LIKE to preface this review by saying that I’m more of a car guy than I am a gamer, so if you’re looking for a review that hyper-analyses the frame rates in Project Cars 2, this ain’t it. The following is a seat-of-the-pants account of the game, based on an arvo spent playing it at the launch event at Bandai Namco headquarters in Sydney.
I believe the most important aspect to consider when evaluating a car racing game is where it sits on the spectrum from arcade-like titles such as the Need For Speed series (which aren’t true-to-life enough to interest me personally), to full-blown simulations like iRacing, which can at times be too challenging for your average punter. I like the idea of hardcore simulation software, but I’d happily trade the tiniest bit of realism in favour of more playability and razor-sharp graphics. For me, Project Cars 2 occupies that sweet spot.
Needless to say it’s the sequel to Project Cars, which drew its fair share of critical acclaim upon its release in 2015. This latest instalment is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC, and features over 170 licensed vehicles and 60 locations with over 120 track layouts. Even more will be made available over time through downloadable content. The makers of the game claim that it was developed by gamers and thoroughly tested by world-class race car drivers, so you would expect entertaining yet realistic gameplay as a result.
My first stint was in a Porsche GT3 RS at Mount Panorama, and with the driving aids switched off and the difficulty of the AI cars cranked, I did several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of virtual damage in my opening lap. After a red hot start I ploughed into a number of my competitors at Hell Corner, then stoved the Porsche into the wall at The Cutting, The Dipper and The Elbow.
It was about that time that the operator realised I was no Digital Stig, and restarted my six-lap race with the driving aids fettled and the difficulty dialled back a smidge. It made the world of difference, and while I still had to work hard to turn consistent laps I was really able to enjoy the experience. Plus, I won, and winning is important.
The Mount Panorama circuit has been reproduced with consummate accuracy. I know this because I used to do several laps of the joint every week while ‘studying’ at the adjacent uni. I can also lay claim to having won a trophy in a real-life motorsport event at The Mount – First in Class at a Bathurst Light Car Club Supersprint. Sure, I may or may not have been the only entry in my class, but in the profound and immortal words of motorsport icon Dominic Toretto, winning is winning. In any case, I’ve spent a fair bit of time at The Mount over the years, and I’m happy to report that the makers of Project Cars 2 got it spot-on. This is great news for Aussie gamers.
My second stint was in a current-model Mustang at the famed Laguna Seca circuit. With about half an hour of ‘seat time’ under my belt, I was really starting to gel with the Project Cars 2 handling model. The first game copped some flak for a lack of realism in the handling department, but that certainly wasn’t my experience with Project Cars 2. The physics seemed spot-on, and when combined with truly impressive visuals, it makes for a realistic and immersive drive.
I attempted a Rallycross event in my final session and it was by far the most challenging format, but also the most enjoyable. You can back the car into turns with a mix of lift-off oversteer, left-foot braking and/or the handbrake, then mash the throttle mid-corner and hang on for dear life as you battle to control a wild tank-slapper for the entire length and breadth of the next straight – it’s seriously fun.
Nine times out of 10 I ended up sliding backwards into the scenery on entry to the following corner while practically shitting myself with laughter, but with a little more time, some refinement of car set-up and a defter application of the right pedal, I feel like mastering the Rallycross events would be a really rewarding challenge.
In short, Project Cars 2 is a whole lot of fun. The graphics and physics are on-point, and it offers enough adjustability that anyone from a casual gamer like myself to serious enthusiasts will enjoy the hell out of it. The game goes on sale 22 September 2017.