As an Asian driver, the highest accolade of my driving career is not getting into a traffic accident – yet. Touch wood that will never happen. So with the bar set at ankle-height, I ventured into the virtual world of Project CARS 2 to see how I would stack up against a group of AI drivers.
Unsurprisingly, I got spanked in nearly every race, and the game reminded me that just because I have never gotten into a car accident, it doesn't mean I'm ready to join professional racing teams.
Project CARS 2 is designed for those that aspire to compete in the 24 hour race at LeMans, or dream of the day they can participate in the Bathurst 1000. Right off the bat, the game reminds you that it is a racing simulator, and not an arcade game. From tire pressure, oil temperature, to fuel, these factors affecting a successful race are all presented on the HUD. The introduction of a beginner's setting helps ease the frustration, but it's still no cake-walk.
Developer Slightly Mad studios has made an effort at broadening the difficulty to accommodate for gamers of all levels. More setting adjustments are available to help players to tailor their experience, and concise explanations of various disciplines of racing are available to help them decide on which type to choose. Having more settings to adjust so both beginners and experts can jump in without hampering the former’s learning curve will help usher in new fans.
Although the settings can be overwhelming at first, I was given a manual with recommended settings for beginner, intermediate and expert drivers. My hope is that this will be included in the full release to help people adjust settings to suit their level.
Like Project CARS, multiple disciplines are available: from simple go-karts to high performance, custom-tuned Le Mans vehicles are open for your choosing. Although the roster is slightly less than its contemporaries, the variety of vehicles in Project CARS 2 is impressive. It's also obvious the favourites are chosen, rather than overwhelming players by sheer numbers. It’s a case of quality over quantity.
While the gameplay is slowly getting perfected by the developers, graphics-wise it’s still lagging in comparison to other racing games like Forza or the now-defunct Drive Club, not to mention the upcoming Gran Turismo: Sport. However, during the intensity of the race, you don't necessarily stop to admire the foliage on the side of the tracks.
The vehicles, however, do look amazing, as they are the heroes of the game. Every detail is covered, including unique camera views for the cockpit, first featured in the predecessor. Additional weather options also immerse you in the realism of the driving. Driving through Ruapuna at the crack of dawn, in a blizzard, is an experience no other driving game can provide.
Playing an early version of the game on a PS4 wasn't overly transformative, but the ability for the game to cater for multiple mediums, including VR and multi-monitors on PC, makes Project CARS 2 one of the few multi-platform racing game to come out in 2017.
There will be a lot of competition in the racing genre in the last half of the year, with Forza Motorsport 7 coming in like clockwork on Xbox and PC, and the long-awaited Gran Turismo: Sport due on PS4. Project CARS 2 will carve out its own niche in the simulation racing sub-genre. It can also be tailored for a variety of displays, making it a great choice for gamers wanting to create a custom racing experience.
Tony previewed the game on a PS4 debug kit provided by Bandai Namco. The unit was not running final code.