The original Project CARS was a hugely ambitious game that took me quite a while to give a go because of how impenetrable it seemed at the outset. After my initial impressions of it at E3 2011, I didn’t feel like I would quite fit in with the style of game Slightly Mad Studios seemed to be going for of the super realistic, merciless racing model. Up to that point, I had grown accustomed to being able to suit a racer to be a little more than arcade, but not completely over the board difficult. Gran Turismo at first, then Forza Motorsport, my videogame racing career became overly dependent on braking lines and the on and off ABS assist at turns. It felt safe, comfortable, something I could always come back to and succeed, despite making mistakes.
A year or so ago, though, I decided to give that game a spin, and it frankly became one of my favorite racers on PC. Somehow, the prospect of having to start from the very bottom of the racing food chain and even then, being forced to deal with all sorts of complications and difficulties and all, felt better than continuously go for higher levels of licenses (Gran Turismo), or checking off a laundry list of racing events over and over (Forza). Granted, I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the latter because of not owning an Xbox One, so it personally felt perfectly alright to dedicate myself to a single racer for a little while.
Fast-forward to this year’s E3, and lo and behold, I had a new Project CARS game to check out during my time at Bandai Namco’s booth. For as information-heavy as their presentation felt, with many features and additions being thrown at us during the twenty minutes or so we sat in to watch that — according to the producer, he had material for an hour that ended up condensed to that short amount of time — I didn’t have any trouble getting into Project CARS 2 when it came to playing the demo. The main takeaway I had from the presentation was that the game now would be fully dynamic. Things such as the passing of time, change in weather, and even track terrain deformation would really impact races. From the little I played, that really seemed to come into play during my second race.
The first was pretty much a standard rally event within the confines of a dirty track, and for better or for worse, I did as okay as anyone would do in a quick demo during E3. I didn’t particularly feel like the game behaved much different from the usual rally racer, even though the weather didn’t really change during my race. Still, the game played as well as I remembered of Project CARS. The real difference came when I started the second match, driving down a tarmac road with a normal sports car as rain suddenly started pelting the track hard. The driving felt squirrely as expected for a wet track race, and the puddles did their job in making me more careful. Though it was a concentrated demo built and focused on a key feature from the actual game, I’m interested in seeing how that will play when say, starting a game off in a sunny day, with the appropriate tires, and then have the weather go bad on me. Would I be able to make do with those if I can’t change them right away?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care at all about the prospect of starting another career in yet another racing game, but Project CARS 2’s sounds interesting enough thanks to the brand loyalty system that could potentially add more crossroads to your game, if you will, depending on the car brand you most like driving with. Then again, the producer was emphatic in mentioning how it would be possible to gain the favor of all manufacturers. I’ll probably stick to one, but that left me curious as to how a brand would behave if you get whisked away by a shinier coat of paint and more horsepower from the opposition.
The prospect of playing a racing game that takes into account so much variation, so much so as to take real world data and have it apply to track conditions in real time is alluring, and given how much of a focus the devs are giving to an online environment in the game, be it the inclusion of online tournament and broadcast options, it really feels like Project CARS 2 is betting it all on being constantly online. I’m curious to find out how it will turn out for anyone not at all interested in partaking with strangers via the Internet, or the more casual racers looking for something that goes beyond the usual flair of the big franchises. It’s that potential that could very well set this apart from the pack.
Project CARS 2 hits the track sometime later this year on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.