Project CARS 2 review: (Racing) sims of our fathers

Doing its best job to answer the criticisms of its predecessor, Project CARS 2 repeats as a solid racing simulation experience to an insane degree of accuracy.

Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: September 22, 2017

When I first tried out Project CARS on the PC two years ago, I had no idea just exactly the level of detail developer Slightly Mad Studios was going to include in their game. The idea of adapting your pit strategies, adjusting the PSI of individual tires to match the track’s conditions, going through the practice/qualify/compete process of races; everything you could alter seems to be something an actual racer would take into effect.

Project CARS 2 takes after its acronym, as it truly feels like a community-assisted racing simulator. Going through months of feedback by the game’s fervent fans, this title serves as a wider adaptation of what you can do in the first game while simultaneously correcting some of the problems of its predecessor.

Few games feel like true racing simulations anymore. Project CARS 2‘s career mode takes you through one of several racing paths, some of which start at the very beginning for young drivers; kart racing. You don’t have to start as a scrub, but if you choose to jump in the middle of a driver’s career trajectory you won’t be making as authentic a journey as possible. There is a slight flexibility here that was much needed in the previous game, and is appreciated today.

Project Cars 2 Ginetta G57

Bandai Namco

Racers form a team with a manufacturer, sign a contract and begin their racing careers. Whether you opt for early glitz in an IndyCar path or wish to get down and dirty in the Rallycross path, Project CARS 2 tailors its racing experiences to the player’s desires. As you progress, developing an affinity with certain manufacturers will open up advanced racing opportunities, vaulting your character further as a renowned racer.

There’s nothing quite like racing in this game that comes as close to authentic anywhere else. The developers have worked hard to improve the game’s visual fidelity, racing physics and dynamic track conditions to the point of absolute lunacy. In addition to the ability to race on the straight and narrow road or on a snowy mountainside, the LiveTrack 3.0 dynamic system details road surface conditions to the detail of tire grip, vehicle performance and surface deformities.

It’s quite astonishing to see cloud cover settle in on the east side of a track on lap one, start to pour hard on lap four and form puddles as rain passes on lap seven. Project CARS 2‘s tracks (which boast the biggest roster on consoles) can track so much road data that puddle depth is dynamic and tracked based on interaction.

As an inexperienced player, it becomes quite frustrating when you can’t excel at all facets of racing in Project CARS 2. There are over 170 licensed cars in the game, showcasing a stunning array of visual and aural experiences with an authentic attention to detail, but I’ll be damned if I can master the intricacies of offroad racing. It’s a testament to the gameplay feedback loop provided to the player, providing a majestic experience to masterful players.

Project CARS 2 McLaren 650S

That said, the UI and control options for gamepad players have been improved in this new edition. Tailoring assists and camera views is a lot more streamlined, yet there’s still an impeccable number of customization and adaptive options to your racing experience inside and outside the chassis. It’s not as intimidating this time to alter gameplay.

There’s nothing quite like that cat-and-mouse chase to the finish…

On PC, players can enjoy full VR headset support and up to 12K resolution for the true 3x4K monitor freaks with too much money to burn. Playing on a computer with an i5-4670k CPU and Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, the game’s visuals are best illustrated through the dynamic weather.

Nothing looks quite as breathtaking as racing through a full storm with 31 other real players, and Project CARS 2 offers as much with its online PC play. To my enjoyment, I did not suffer from horrendous lag and found players genuinely respectful of racing etiquette. There’s nothing quite like that cat-and-mouse chase to the finish with a player as you battle it out for 4th place! (I am not the greatest at this game).

Project CARS 2 Mercedes AMG GT3

Bandai Namco

One facet of single-player gameplay that cannot be ignored is the issues with AI racers. Out the gate, many times I encountered outright bugs with faulty start conditions, a large handful of cars just spreading out to off-road maneuvering on first turns and, sometimes, a surreal Blues Brothers-tier car pile up on narrow tracks like Cote d’Azur.

Usually, things would sort themselves out on a recent, but it cannot be ignored how immersion-breaking it is to see the entire field smash into each other and slow to a halt on narrow corners. You can’t help but stop and laugh, although it’s not laughing matter for those seriously stuck and needing to progress in the game.

Once you find yourself encountering those problems less and less, the focus of Project CARS 2 turns to authenticity. Nowhere else can you find as detailed a racing experience on track, driver and racing crew level, diving deep into the minutiae of racing culture to an absurd degree. This game is unapologetically for a hardcore racing audience, and even though that doesn’t tailor to my split arcade/simulation sensibilities, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Project CARS 2

Slightly Mad Studios

8.5

If you want a straight-up toolbox of cars, tracks, crew members and challenging competition, Project CARS 2 is the perfect racer for you. A solid campaign offers a multitude of starting points, a dynamically developed physics system takes everything about driving into account (down to tire grip) and online multiplayer gets as relaxed or as competitive as racing’s biggest fans. Minus some occasional glaring AI issues, it’s off to the races with yet another stunning simulation racer.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.