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Matt Bejang
Matt Bejang

Project Cars 2 UPD

The original Project Cars from Slightly Mad Studios didn't exactly set the world on fire, but provided Forza with some fair competition in the simulation racing market. Now Project Cars 2 is back with improved graphics and handling, robust weather effects, double the cars, and more tracks than any other racing game. But can it stack up to the Forza series in actual quality?

Project Cars 2

Still, the career structure impresses. It's broken up into six tiers, each with multiple selectable motorsport series, for a total of 29 series. With nine total disciplines (karts, open wheels, GT, touring cars, rallycross, prototypes, and more), you get a lot of different kinds of races to choose from. Since you can jump around between tiers, you're not locked into a linear structure like most racing games.

As you progress in the career, you'll unlock two additional types of races: manufacturer drives and invitational events. The former are manufacturer-specific races, and the latter are Project Cars 2's equivalent to the Showcase events in the Forza Motorsport series. They showcase specific cars and track conditions (some historical). You can jump between manufacturer, invitational, and regular career races at any time.

As you'd expect from a game with cars in the name, the cars all look terrific in Project Cars 2. Everything is modeled down to the slightest detail, including multiple realistic cockpit views with hands on the steering wheels.

Project Cars 2 launches with 189 cars, more than double the original's 76-car lineup. While the garage here can't hold a candle to Forza 7's whopping 700-car lineup, 189 vehicles is still way more than most players will ever get around to driving. Nearly all of the major manufacturers are accounted for, though Hyundai and Subaru are disappointingly absent. Still, you get 11 Porches, which are probably more exciting than a few Asian cars.

One slight disappointment is the lack of visual customization options for cars. Unlike the Forza series, Project Car 2 has no livery editor. Not only that, the livery selections available are fairly limited. Forget about mixing and matching car colors and decals. Cars typically have about 20 livery options, and that's it.

Hosts have a ton of options too, making it possible to create extremely specific multiplayer races and series. You can select from all 146 tracks and every car (no buying cars here), fully customize the weather, number of laps, realism and difficulty settings for all players, and much more.

Behavior can be an issue in online racing games, and developer Slightly Mad Studios has even taken that into account. In addition to rating players' overall skill level, each player has a reputation rating based on how aggressively they race. Thus lobbies can restrict anyone who likes to play bumper cars from entering, hopefully making for a more peaceful experience.

Slightly Mad Studios has rectified some of those missteps, but not before broadening its take on motorsport to an exhilarating degree. Here's a game where you waltz in the rain around Knockhill with those wonderfully pliable Ginettas, making the most of a best-in-class weather system; spit dirt and gravel in a run around Hell with a group of rallycross rivals; go wheel-to-wheel with 30 other cars at 230mph in an officially licensed Indianapolis 500; watch the sun set and rise over a multi-class race at Le Mans in the best video game approximation of the classic 24-hour race since Melbourne House's Dreamcast classic; or, perhaps, dare yourself to take the now extinct Masta Kink flat in a Lotus 40 in the original 14km layout of the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps. If you've any love for cars being driven competitively, your own particular passion will doubtless be found somewhere within the bustle of Project Cars 2.

That authenticity reaches out to other parts of Project Cars 2. Its assists now include a setting that replicates those on any given car - drive a GT3, for example, and it'll come complete with the ABS and traction control that allow amateur gentleman drivers to comfortably drive these thoroughbred beasts - in a feature I'm always amazed isn't now standard across the entire driving genre. As to how the cars actually handle, it's certainly better than what went before.

On a pad it's playable, at least - something which I don't think could really be said of the original on its default settings - though it struggles to communicate what the car's doing, which results in a slightly detached, overly loose feel to the handling. It's a significant improvement, though it's not best-in-class. On a half-decent wheel it's a different story, of course, and with a good set-up the cars do a lot more talking. There's still not quite enough weight there to trouble the likes of Assetto Corsa or iRacing - in my opinion, at least - and so Project Cars 2's rides end up enjoyable but never quite excellent.

And so, on paper, Project Cars 2 is the game that its predecessor should perhaps have been - yet I've still experienced one too many problems in my 30 hours with it to be able to unreservedly recommend it. Maybe it's inevitable that there'd be a bump or two in the road when a relatively small team tackles a project of such scope and breadth; it's worth reiterating that, while other games might boast bigger car lists, nothing comes close to the track list or feature set on offer here. The AI, which is often excellent, can be inconsistent; I've witnessed AI drivers struggle in the wet, and on one occasion during a rallycross event in Lohéac no-one made it past the first corner intact, proceeding to crawl around so I wound up winning a six lap race with two laps on the rest of the field.

For the sequel it's a similar tale, so long as you're interested in cars and their workings. For Project Cars 2 has a pretty clear barrier to entry: regardless of driving talent, you'll want a basic knowledge of principles like racing lines and weight transfer if you're going to enjoy playing it. Does it make for a vast improvement over the original?

Online, Project Cars 2 is mainly geared towards the hardcore with e-sports ambitions (indeed, there's a whole section for those looking to make the leap from virtual cars to real ones), and the chances are that online you'll be competing against someone with an expensive wheel-and-pedals rig.

After the first title, it revisited its tyre model based on feedback from real-life drivers in various formulae, and it has comprehensively rectified a glaring problem from the first game which meant that once you passed the limits of adhesion, the cars were inordinately tricky to regain control.

But today, I'm here to talk to you about Project CARS 2. The work of Slightly Mad Studios and a followup to the original Project CARS of 2015, it's an expansive title that features road cars, current and historic racing cars, a massive array of tracks to race on (including dirt and even ice), and some heavily revised physics. After several days behind a steering wheel putting the game to the test, I found Project CARS 2 to be extremely rewarding to play and a massive improvement on its predecessor. But it's still no easy arcade racer, and the hardcore nature of its simulation means it's not going to appeal to everyone.

There's also a fantastic selection of vehicles, both road cars and racing cars, new and old. Since the game designers also modeled historic F1, IndyCar, and sports cars from the 1960s and 1970s, that means Project CARS 2 is the closest thing you'll find to something like the classic racing experience of the old Grand Prix Legends game of the late 1990s.

Be warned: this is not a game where you just pick the very fastest cars and get straight to it. After several failed attempts doing just that with a McLaren 720S racing around the streets of Long Beach, I was wondering if somehow I'd forgotten how to drive. No, better to spend the first couple of hours beginning your career in either a kart or the Ginetta G40 Junior, a real-life racing car for young drivers that's an early step on the real motorsports ladder. You might not be doing 200mph down the straights, but you will start learning a lot.

Braking can be a tricky skill to master because our instinct when heading toward a corner too fast is to slam on the anchors. But the key is to judge that point where you've cut enough speed to make the turn. Even in real life, that's not easy, and it's an area where three-time F1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart used to have a big edge over his competition. Based on some quick back-to-back tests in similar cars at the same tracks, Project CARS 2 is much less forgiving than games like Forza or Gran Turismo when it comes to braking right.

By and large, that effort has been very successful. Though you do still need fast reflexes and your wits about you when the rear tires start to slide, it's more manageable this time around. For all the talk about professional racing drivers being able to keep their cars in lurid slides while testing the game in development, those of us with more average skill levels may find it's easy to lose a race with one misjudged corner that takes you from first to last.

There are almost 30 unique series and the player is now allowed to race against cars in a similar class. A player can pick a career and spend many hundreds of hours tinkering with and driving in every sort of race including rallycross. Or a player can just choose to practice, engage in single race mode, or race online against other human players. The player-adjustable AI is competent but inconsistent.

Until FCAT VR was released in March, there was no universally acknowledged way to accurately benchmark the Oculus Rift as there are no SDK logging tools available. To compound the difficulties of benchmarking the Rift, there are additional complexities because of the way it uses a type of frame reprojection called asynchronous space warp (ASW) to keep framerates steady at either 90 FPS or at 45 FPS. It is important to be aware of VR performance since poorly delivered frames will actually make a VR experience quite unpleasant and the user can even become VR sick. 041b061a72


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