Project CARS Review (PS4)
After 5 years of delays and testing, Project Cars, the latest racing title from the minds of those at Slighty Mad Studios and Bandai Namco, is finally here. When you make the statement "the most authentic, beautiful, intense and technically-advanced racing game on the planet," you had better come prepared to either back that up, or be ready to deal with the inevitable crucification that is surely to follow.
As with any sports game claiming to be a simulation of the sport it digitally represents, there is a fine line of creating a title that is too much of a simulation, or too unrealistic and teeters on the arcade side of racing. Whether you are a novice, or love an insane challenge, Project Cars does a solid job of covering both ends of the spectrum.
Another major component of any racing game is the car handling itself, and the realism that hopefully coincides with it. Each car feels different in terms of sounds, handling and ability. The difference between each class of vehicle is large to require the user to spend legitimate time with each class to understand the particulars of that car.
One of the most important aspects of any racing game is the AI's ability to offer aggressive and unique competition, without becoming stagnant and predictable. Thankfully the A.I. drivers in Project Cars are some of the best ever implemented into a game. Sure, they are a bit erratic at times, but the digital opponents you face in Project Cars mimic a real human opponent. It's exactly what you want out of any racing title.
Project Cars offers multiple adjustment levels for both controller and wheel. I tested Project Cars with both a PS4 Dual-Shock controller, and a Thrustmaster T100 wheel, and ended with mixed results. When using the wheel, i'd make up some ground on each lap. However, using a settings-adjusted controller can offer the same experience - almost. If you have the capacity to race Project Cars with a racing wheel, that is the way to go, but using a controller will in no way cheapen the experience. We all have different styles in which the way we race, and make sure you put the time in to find what works best for you.
We've found ourselves another deep and expansive online experience. It’s pretty straight forward in the fact that it allows you to pick a specific discipline and either race your way to the top, or start racing with the big boys from the beginning. What makes the Career mode so unique is that you will find everything unlocked, and no need to “grind” your way to a better experience. There is no need to upgrade your cars or unlock better vehicles in order to race different championships or disciplines that you want. Sure, you can approach it that way, but Project Cars offers the user the ability to move onward and upward simply by their performance on the track. Gone are the days of looking at the opponent next to you in the same car, only to know that their vehicle has the ability to reach the finish-line much quicker based off of what’s under the hood, not how well they can drive.
The beauty of the career mode is in the ways the game allows you to approach and tailor it to your liking. The focus is what you do on the track, not the reliability of experience points or in-game currency in order to further your career. The direction SMS approached the career mode with isn’t new, but it is definitely the path less traveled, and a breath of fresh air when compared to the grind mentality of other racing titles. Don’t think that for one second the overall experience is a shallow one because of this decision, if anything, it is enhanced in ways that many have not experienced before.
The overall presentation during career mode is a bit lacking, as you will receive pop-up notifications, and dynamic splash screens showing your accomplishments or advancements, but not much more. While we love career mode and the depth and versatility it offers, the overall presentation could have added even more to an already stellar mode, but fails to do so.
As with most other modes in Project Cars, online is completely open and adjustable. You can setup a quick- or full-race weekend with multiple practice sessions, warm-up, and qualifying. Want a three-lap race? No problem. Rather do a 50-lap endurance race? Not a problem, either. You only have a limited number of friends to race online with? You can create public and private rooms, to control who shows up. You can race with the same type of cars, or make it a multi-class race, and you can even set it up to where all opponents have the same set ups. Not a fan of racing against other people, but want to see how you compare? Project Cars has got you covered there, with community events and time trials. If you are following the pattern we have laid out, than you understand you can basically race online how you like, when you like, and with the people you like.
While there are plenty of options online to keep that crowd happy, all of it means nothing if the connection is spotty and inconsistent. Obviously I cannot speak for everyone, but in the testing we did online in multiple sessions, the connections were great. We saw a bit of warping during one race, but it was from one individual, so our assumption was the issue was with that individual. The only issue we have with the online portion of Project Cars is if you are going to give your fans all these options and the ability to add A.I. drivers into the mix for full fields, why not include some type of league set-up? Other than the omission of any type of league setting, SMS has packed Project Cars online with multiple choices and options to keep most people satisfied.
The amount of hype that has surrounded Project Cars is typically reserved for games that are considered true AAA titles, but the hype is real, and so are the expectations. Project Cars is a great racing title that offers so much to the user, and delivers in almost every way imaginable. We would have like to have seen a league option online, and a much larger variety in car selection, but hopefully these are things that can be addressed down the road. When I judge a racing title I need it to look great, have competitive A.I., and represent the sport in a realistic fashion. Project Cars does that as good as any of their predecessors, and better than most.
Learning Curve – Depending on the level of difficulty you start out at, the curve could be quite deep.
Visuals – Simply stunning on the PS4. There are times where moments in-race look photo-realistic, and the tracks are alive.
Audio – The audio is acceptable, but forgettable. The cars, tracks, ambiance and voice work sound fine, but lack far behind other components.
Value – With the amount of off-line customization and online variety, Project Cars offers more than enough to validate a purchase.
Score: 8.5 (Great)