In a year full of strong racing titles, Slightly Mad Studios throws its hat into the ring with the highly anticipated follow-up to Project Cars, Project Cars 2. Although the first iteration was well received, there were issues that needed to be corrected in the sequel. Depth and authenticity were strong points of the first game, and SMS looks to improve on that in the sequel, so let’s see how they did.
Project Cars 2 offers an amazing 189 cars, 63 tracks, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X support, a deep and immersive career, and a whole lot more. That list is impressive for sure, but means very little if the gameplay is lacking. Thankfully for the community it is most definitely not, in fact Slightly Mad Studios has improved the sequel in almost every way possible. Be warned though, PC2 is not a “get in and mash the gas” type of racing title. This is a game that requires wheel finesse, focus, and understanding, and if you lack in any of those areas it can make for a very long afternoon at the track. The handling has been improved, and while I tested and loved what I felt with the G920 Logitech wheel, the game can easily be enjoyed with a controller as well. During my testing I did have to tweak the control settings for me to feel comfortable, but you may love them right out of the box.
When you are racing in PC2, it will feel less like a racing game and more like a racing simulator used to train drivers. Please do not let that statement scare you off though, as the developers pride themselves on delivering an authentic experience. That experience though is one that requires you to understand the vehicle you are driving, how it handles, and the track you are racing on. Not every track is set up for speed, and it is incumbent upon the individual to utilize the practice options given to you, if you want to be successful at each venue.
While AI inconsistency is a negative, it doesn’t mean that your digital opponents perform badly on the track; it simply means that they are inconsistent in their behavior and aggressiveness. I found myself having to adjust the strength and aggressiveness of the AI often, and you most likely will have to dial them in using the AI difficulty and aggression slider at each track. Overall though, the game provides a stern challenge, but one that can be adjusted and adapted to your skill-set in almost every way possible. When all is said and done, PC2 feels great on the track, provides a difficulty with longevity and substance, and options galore.
If you played PC1, then career mode will have you feeling right at home. If you didn’t, well, you’re in for a treat. Career mode in PC2 offers a wide array of vehicular disciplines, and enough that surely one can find a style and path that suites them the best. The developers have given the user the ability to start at as young gun and move their way up, or simply start in the main series that you want. The game offers nine different styles, full or short season, and the ability to become a factory driver for the real manufacturers. As I mentioned though, the path on how you get to your final destination is up to you, and no choice is wrong.
For the review, I chose open-wheel because, well, I love open wheel racing — makes sense. What I absolutely love about career mode is that it takes you through all phases of the weekend, and the feedback that is gathered during each session is really important. In my first race, while strong in three sectors, I was terribly slow in the fourth sector, so not only did I try different approaches; I followed the AI to access how they approached that sector. The team gives you what your potential lap time should be to help gauge where your car is at, and it’s up to you to utilize the practice sessions to see where you can improve. While the career path follows a standard course, one will find other events sprinkled throughout your journey to break up the monotony of the grind. In the end though, career mode is a deep and exciting experience that will provide the offline user a litany of replay value, and the longevity that this mode provides is worth the price of admission alone.
Very much like the first Project Cars title, the developers have given the community a bevy of options to enjoy online. One of the most important editions to Project Cars is the ability to create a room and include a filter to keep players whose safety rating is below a certain level, out of the room. Listen, all of us have made mistakes on the track that have ruined our race, and even worse, the race for others. However, there is a difference between a mistake, and a blatant disregard for others’ safety and enjoyment. Hopefully, this new system will help promote a fun and competitive environment, without all the shenanigans that seem to coincide with online racing these days.
If creating a private lobby for you and friends is of interest, that option has returned again in Project Cars 2. One can set up a standard race, or set up a whole race weekend with practice and qualifying. The options are there to set up basically whatever type of event and style that one chooses. Even if you only have a few friends that you want to race with, PC2 has you covered, as they allow AI to fill the field and let you have friends — and of course complain about the how others are driving — because it’s always someone else’s fault.
On top of the safety-rating filter and standard race options, Project Cars 2 also offers customizable sessions that allow one to pick the track and the car, the number of laps, and so much more. If racing with friends or the general public isn’t your thing, PC2 also provides live time trials for you to compete in individually, esport events, or just catch up and watch any esport events that you may have missed. On top of all that, the game also has Community Events, which are events that allow you test yourself against others in specific races, time trials, and certain esports events. Two words come to mind when racing some of these online events: addictive and fun. I watched time fly by while racing these events, and so will you.
Slightly Mad Studios has taken everything good from their first effort and added even more. The sheer amount of depth and customization available in this title is groundbreaking on a console, and while it may seem intimidating to newcomers, SMS has set the bar even higher than most anticipated. PC2 allows one to race however they want, the way they want, and with who they want to race. All a community can ask is that a development team delivers a fun, realistic, customizable title, and SMS does that and so much more. I am fully aware of how many solid racing titles have dropped this year, but PC2 is a title that needs, check that, demands to be in your rotation of games. If you miss out on this title, you are doing yourself a grave injustice in the world of gaming.