Thursday 19 May 2016

Project CARS Game Of The Year Edition

Seriously, Dave?

Look, I’m sorry Terry, all the good names for racing games were taken.

Developed by Slightly Mad Studios and out now for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, Project CARS is now getting a second lease of life via a Game of the Year edition. This includes all DLC released up to this point, and even two GOTY-exclusive cars and an exclusive track. Surprisingly (and we’re talking a birthday type surprise here, not a Jim’ll Fix It one) all of the content is on the disc. If that doesn’t give the game a proverbial rolling start, I don’t know what does.

Some racers are purebred arcade experiences, cheerfully eschewing reality to fit more fun in. Some racers are strictly aiming for the sim end of the market, with some concessions made for less dedicated souls via optional driving aids and the like. Project CARS has so much attention to detail, and is so determined to be realistic down to the final nanometre, I’m genuinely surprised that you don’t need to set up a direct debit for the virtual petrol that you use. Every time I crash, I half expect one of the devs to dive through my living room window and whack me round the head with a breezeblock for a realistic Richard Hammond experience.

It’s a lovely-looking game, with some very nice weather effects. Okay, so the lens flare on occasion can be so strong that you can’t see the f*cking track properly, but that’s pretty rare. And realistic, maybe? I don’t know; between you and me, I’ve never raced professionally. Anyway, the bulk of the realism juice has of course been ejaculated all over the controls and car behaviour. Each car handles differently, the gap from machine to machine varying from the subtle to the immense. I assume this is just like real life but, again, I’m speaking from a lack of experience here.

Even your car’s relationship with the track itself is more hardcore than you are perhaps used to. It’s a relationship with lots of sex, in that the track is eager to f*ck your car at every opportunity. The slightest lump or bump taken at top speed – or even middling speed – is apt to wrest control of your car from you, and refuse to return it until the thing has come to a complete standstill. And when it’s raining? Unless you have at least a moderate level of skill and experience with sim racers, you might want to set your speed limit to ‘Stephen Hawking’ until you’ve got a grip on things.

That’s not to say that there’s no acknowledgement of the fact that most people are a bit shit at racing games. All the usual options you might expect are available; visible racing line, braking assists, making your opponents terrified of third gear, that kind of thing. Physics still apply whether you like it or not though, so you still need to show some skill. It’s kind of like fitting your kid’s bike with stabilisers and also that bomb out of Speed. There’s nothing wrong with making a game that’s first and foremost for people who actually know what they’re doing. The ruthlessness of the game means that victories can be immensely satisfying and, at its best, Project CARS is a thrilling experience where you push yourself to the limits of your skill.

Shame, then, that the AI is a bit wank.

Actually, that’s (slightly) unfair. When you’re at the top of your game, the AI is skilled and challenging. When they’re just behind you and you mess up your braking however, or even if you simply make an imperfect turn in front of them, they’re likely to simply ram you as though punishing you for being less skilled than a real-life race driver. When this happens your car careers drunkenly off the track of course and, just to really take the piss, the AI that rammed you will usually carry on with little to no loss of control as though nothing happened. Players aren’t punished in terms of points or time for doing this online, either.

The most realistic racer ever? Quite possibly. A good one? Yes. A great one? No.

The first racer that should have its own driving test. 3/5.


Luke Kemp

Project CARS Game Of The Year at CeX

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