Project Cars 2
The original Project Cars was an outstanding sim-centric racer, and something that also brought crowdfunding to the forefront of racing games. Long before Kickstarter projects gave life to games and gaming-related projects, Project Cars reached its goal via an independent crowdfunding campaign before getting a major publisher deal with Bandai Namco. The first entry was essentially the summation of Slightly Mad’s work with the Need For Speed: Shift games, which were outstanding sim-style games using the NFS branding – but they struggled when it came to being user friendly. Project Cars fixed some of that while greatly expanding on the career mode and car options. It was a true simulation-style racer that went deeper than either Gran Turismo or the Forza Motorsport franchises when it came to adjusting parts of your car.
Project Cars certainly did a lot to fix the problems that have plagued the group’s games, but did still suffer from some being user-unfriendly at times. The game brought back being able to play with a wide variety of racing styles, which have been expanded upon nicely here. Like the first, you can choose a starting discipline and this is where experimentation is going to do you a world of good. Trying to go with the mini-F1 cars may seem easy, but since they control far differently than regular cars and are lower to the ground, you may be better off going with a mid-level vehicle type.
The prototype cars offer a nice challenge, and if you want to jump right in the deep end, you can start things off with a Lamborghini series. The great thing is that if you decide to not like the discipline you’re in, you can simply delete this profile and start anew. You may lose some progress and time, but it’s better to try out different styles and see what suits you best before going whole-hog into anything. Of course, if you’re the cautious type, you can always try out some exhibition races and see what you like best. Doing this also allows you to experiment with different weather options, and much like games like Project Gotham Racing 4, snow and rain can really mess with you mid-turn.
Collisions with other vehicles also need to be avoided during extreme weather conditions because you’ll spin out instantly if you aren’t careful. Racing in a sim racer has gotten fairly lenient over the years, but Project Cars 2 brings back a bit of the Metropolis Street Racer mentality of requiring you to race carefully and avoid physical racing. Trading paint isn’t good and cutting corners will nix your lap times for that race. Paying attention to your vehicle choices will play a large part in how well you do, because you can see just how easy each vehicle is to control before a race. Like the original game, it can be very easy to oversteer if you don’t learn how the vehicles work.
Going with a lot of assists can make things easier, but also forces you to lose control over the vehicle. As a result, you have to brake earlier and essentially move around the track a little bit earlier than you normally would. Playing this like an assist-less Forza game works well, but it isn’t as user-friendly when it comes to picking and choosing assists. You’ll learn what you like and what feels right via trial and error. I found the best combination was to avoid steering assists, but going with braking assist makes things easier – especially when you’re trying out a new racing style. Using this setup allowed me to have greater control over my vehicle and then tweak things as needed for certain racing conditions.
Project Cars 2 gives you more guidance than it did before by telling you how each change would affect things in the race. The race engineer setup lets you learn about how brake pressure changes affects your turning and how you need to make sure to brake earlier or adjust your tire pressure. If you like what’s being said, you can have them make the change there or opt to keep racing and maybe learn the intricacies or just change your settings and see if that works. Going back and forth between different setups is fairly easy to do and more intuitive than before – so Slightly Mad has made things better in that regard.
The core game is more enjoyable and the menu system is less obtuse as well. It isn’t quite on par with the ease of use offered up by the GRID series, but still makes doing what you want to do fairly easy. Visually, the sequel brings with it a higher level of graphical quality – with the cars being jam-packed with detail. This really shines when you’re in an extreme weather setting and see snow building up, or race in a first-person viewpoint and see the rain accumulate on your windshield. These are small details, but do add a few layers of authenticity to the experience and increase the sense of realism. While collisions may be something you want to avoid on the track, they are also an inevitability in an intense race. Fortunately, while you may wind up losing the race, you can at least look forward to being impressed as the paint disappears from your vehicle and bits and pieces of the car fly off due to high-impact collisions.
Project Cars 2 features some of the best on-track sound design out there. Going with a cockpit view allows you to hear everything around you – so figuring out where your rivals are at using a HUD-less setup works well and makes you tap into more senses to succeed. On-track guidance is occasionally offered up and does make things easier. The menu music is fine, but doesn’t really stand out – and really doesn’t need to. With a sim racer like this, being able to focus on off-the-track things like car tuning and control settings means that silence can usually be a benefit instead of a burden. During the heat of a race, having no music and just having the rumbling of the engines and clanks of metal works just fine – it’s a less-is-more situation.
Project Cars 2 is a worthy successor to the original game and fixes some of its issues. It still isn’t the most user-friendly game for newcomers, but in time you can get used to its quirks. The game definitely has a learning curve to it, so anyone looking to just jump in and dominate will be humbled quickly. You have to play with a nuanced style and can’t rely on assists to do the hard work of the race for you. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience and the dramatic increase in vehicle types and tracks, alongside new weather setups makes the experience one to remember. Project Cars 2 isn’t for everyone, but anyone who likes a good challenge and loves a finely-tuned racing game will enjoy it.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Bandai Namco
This review is based on a digital copy of Project Cars 2 for the Xbox One provided by Bandai Namco.