Growing up a bit of a petrol-head, I was enamoured with cars and racing games. When I refer to ‘racing’ games however, usually I refer to games such as Mario Kart, Need for Speed… games I was good at. When it came to ‘racing simulator’ the technicality of driving meant that I spent most of the time off-road, or careening into walls at high speed.
Safe to say that years later, not much has changed. Getting my hands on Project CARS 2 reminded me not only how terrible I am at realistic racing simulators, but it also shows just how far the genre has come.For those of you looking for a gaming experience akin to Need For Speed or Burnout, now’s the part where you look away – Project CARS 2 is not the racing game you’re expecting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a chance. Stepping into the world of Project CARS 2, players are presented with a beautifully rendered video that shows the game at it’s rawest form – brilliantly-rendered tracks with highly-detailed cars coupled with a dynamic weather system. Hundreds upon thousands of races and vehicles are at your disposal, to forge a career path through the ranks and be the top racing driver around.
Entering the game is relatively straightforward – but each menu is explained with simplistic detail that allows you to get racing quicker. You can jump straight into a career mode and climb the ranks, or you can take your time and test out different cars and different tracks in custom race seasons. And if your skills are rusty, boy are you going to need some training!As is the aim of the genre, Project CARS 2 is all about racing simulation, and the experience it provides is exactly that. There is no wall-riding, no bumper-bashing, certainly no off-road shortcuts – you adhere to the race rules and you tune your racing technique to suit the track and the car you’re driving. Naturally, on my first few attempts at setting pace, I’d lose control completely, either by coming out of a corner too fast or slamming the brakes on too heavily before a turn. Once you begin to understand how the car drives and the layout of the track, you can adjust your racing and gameplay style to suit.
If your car still doesn’t want to do what you want it to, you can proceed to fine-tune your vehicle which allows you to get a handle on how each little adjustment (brakes, suspension, downforce) can make a big difference to the way the car controls. Too many times I found myself in the gravel or the grass just by a simple error in judgment; but as I progressed through the laps I’d understand the car more and more. But your control and understanding of the vehicle goes beyond its limitations – tyres and brakes should be warmed up and worn in, the track is exposed to wear and tear through rubber compound, and depending on how you’re playing, the weather comes into effect and can wreak havoc on the track. There’s nothing like feeling you finally have the hang of things only for rain to grease the track and send you sliding into last place!Of course the tried and true method of testing a racing game was making a single race event and hitting up Mount Panorama. Unfortunately Holden didn’t make it into the game as a manufacturer so I had to settle for the Ford FG V8 Supercar instead. Not since the days of V8 Supercars on the PS2 have I roared around the iconic Bathurst track, but after a few laps in I had the hang of it and knew where to push the car and where to ease off. Having said that, there was a lot of trial and error, and this goes to show the depth of the system that Slightly Mad Studios have gone to efforts to create; despite having similar setups, a lot of the rear-wheel drive cars behave quite differently.
I also threw down in a Camaro on the same track and got completely different handling – likely due to the mechanics of the car being different despite still being a rear-wheel drive. Going from this to racing a Lamborghini in the Super Trofeo league, the car felt lighter and more responsive but could also be quite floaty depending on the cornering.While still being over a month away from release, Project CARS 2 is looking the goods – and take it from someone who is pretty bad at racing simulators, it’s also a heap of fun. Beginners are catered for quite well with the AI able to be adjusted and tuning options ranging between beginner and hardcore, as well as starting off with lower leagues of racing and working your way up to the more intense championships. With a dynamic weather system that throws an extra obstacle into the mix, players are sure to be kept on their toes when putting the pedal to the metal in the bid for first-place glory.
Project CARS 2 manages to slot itself easily alongside the mainstay racing simulators in Forza and Gran Turismo and hold its head high – this is the closest thing you can get to real racing without leaving the comfort of your lounge room.