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Project Cars 2 Review - hard as hell, worth the sweat

By Scott Newman, 21 Feb 2020 Reviews

Project Cars 2 Review

Steady updates help Project Cars 2 retain 'must-play' status for serious simmers, even more than 2 years after launch

The follow-up to the well-received hardcore racing simulator Project Cars, a product of Slightly Mad Studios, Project Cars 2 picks up the baton and takes the franchise into a new age. While its predecessor was born of a crowd-funding campaign, for PC2 the title takes on a more professional sheen with gorgeous visuals, plenty of diversity in racing codes and a physics engine that promises one of the most accurate virtual racing experiences you can buy.

PC2 has been released for around 2.5 years now, but thanks to running updates it’s still a cutting-edge racing sim that’s a perfect stepping stone for gamers looking for something a little more serious than Gran Turismo Sport or Forza Motorsport 7.

What do you need for Project Cars 2?

Project Cars 2 is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Playstation 4. Virtual reality is supported with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and triple-screen is also supported for PC users. Visit the Project Cars website (www.projectcarsgame.com) for the required PC specs. Wheels are supported and, to be frank, are a must.

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How much does Project Cars 2 cost?

You can find pre-owned copies for as little as $29. At the other end of the spectrum you can buy the game from the Microsoft Store for $99.95 or from Steam for $84.95. Downloadable content packs are available for $14.95 each or grab them all with a Season Pass for $44.95 ($42.95 on Steam).

What’s Project Cars 2 like to play?

Now? Awesome. My initial experience wasn’t so pleasant. As an avid fan of the original Project Cars I bought the sequel as soon as it came out only to be left disheartened by weird handling quirks: the Lamborghini Huracan would power oversteer wildly and uncontrollably in every gear and the GT3 race cars would spear off the road at high speed, just when you’d expect downforce to stick them to the road.

Messages of concern to Simply Mad Studio on social media were not responded to but clearly taken to heart, as upon re-installation (along with a colossal 60GB of updates) Project Cars 2 is the racing sim it should’ve been from the start. Even without the DLC there is an incredible array of machinery available to sample; it’s far too extensive to list here, but think of a racing category (IndyCar, Group C, Group A, historic F1, production cars, Rallycross, LMP1/2/3 and much, much more) and it’s likely to be represented here.

Likewise, the variety of tracks is massive. Again, think of a track you’d want to drive and it’s almost certain to be here: Bathurst, Nurburgring, Spa, Le Mans (old and new configurations), Hockenheim (ditto), Laguna Seca, Indianapolis, Daytona, Monaco just to name a few. There are also cool point-to-point road courses, mixed-surface rallycross venues, ice-covered proving grounds, go kart tracks and a number of club-level circuits like Cadwell Park in the UK and Ruapuna Park in New Zealand.

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One caveat to the enjoyment of Project Cars 2 is you have to use a wheel. You have to. There are gamers out there who play it with a controller very successfully but they’re missing the point of one of the best driving sims around. The biggest compliment I can pay PC2 - or any driving sim - is that skills are transferable; if it would’ve worked in real life it’ll work in the game and vice versa. As such, get a wheel. I tested PC2 using a Logitech G29.

It’s easy to identify the unique handling characteristics of various cars and having been lucky enough to drive some of those in the game, it feels pretty accurate. Active weather is a challenge and if the rain starts coming down you’re going to want to be on the right tyres as the track slowly gets slipperier and slipperier. You can even drive in the snow if you really want to.

For car setup geeks every possible parameter is available to tweak, but for those who don’t want to dive in each car has a ‘loose’ and ‘stable’ default setup as well as ‘OEM’ for road cars. Furthermore, you can talk to a ‘race engineer’ and by answering a number of questions - e.g. “car isn’t turning” “car has no traction” - have the setup fixed for you. It’s a good solution.

There are so many cars and tracks that simply sampling them all in free practice or custom races should keep you occupied, but dive into the Career mode and you have the chance to progress up the motorsport ladder. Clear improvements have been made from the first Project Cars, which was quite linear in how it made you progress.

Now you can choose to start at the top and jump into prototypes if you so wish, or you can elect to start in go karts, sports car or touring cars and progress along a different career pathway. There are a number of side events that quickly open up as you go along that provide access to different cars and tracks to give you a taste of more exciting machinery.

Are there any downsides to Project Cars 2?

As good as PC2 is, it’s not perfect, but mainly just needs a bit of care. As far as I can tell the vast majority of bugs have been eradicated, though some of the AI driving can be a bit wobbly, but usually just makes them easier to pass. For some reason, most cars are set to ‘loose’ for their default setups, which you may prefer but doesn’t help the learning curve.

It always pays to check which setup is selected before starting a race, too. On a number of occasions the competition has disappeared into the distance only to check and find out my car is on hard slicks instead of soft, or road tyres instead of track tyres. Other than that, the only thing to note is that this is a simulation and can be quite difficult, but stick with it and make use of the driver aids to help the process if you need them.

The learning curve is brutally steep, but the rewards are great.

Verdict

After a shaky start, the continued hard work of Simply Mad Studios to iron out the bugs and improve Project Cars 2 has paid off with a top-flight racing sim. It’s much more accessible than the likes of iRacing yet realistic enough to be a legitimate simulator. Whether you’re slithering a C63 Coupe around a sodden Silverstone, in the middle of a GT3 battle pack at Spa or topping 370km/h down the old Mulsanne Straight in a 1970s prototype, Project Cars 2 is guaranteed to provide driving thrills.

RATING: 4.5/5