When I play Project CARS 2 I feel a little amazed that we’ve reached this quality with racing game simulations. There are mainstays like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, and DiRT but few are as unforgiving across the board. A maddening yet enthralling concoction that few will be able to adapt.
This is not an insult but a compliment, if you’re willing to work for the adoration of the genre. Slightly Mad Studios offered a bevy of vehicles, real-world tracks, wrapped up in quantum physics with their first iteration — it didn’t resonate with everybody, and those fundamentals are further reinforced here. Love it or hate it.
The predecessor gave you all the power but the responsibility and skill was overwhelming, and with Project CARS 2 the same rules still apply to rigid effect. Knowing this, Project CARS 2 is instantly familiar starting with the usual career mode that gets you acquainted to the basics of go-kart racing, or just barge right into to circuit prestige. Both methods should ease newcomers and indulge veterans of the previous title, a rarity of freedom compared to other racing campaigns.
However, that’s one of the reasons why this game is initially appealing, you can jump into everything with eagerness and curiosity — nothing is off limits here. It is just as satisfying as it is aggravating to be able to pick something as raw and untethered as a McLaren P1 or Porsche 918 Spyder then just as quickly regret your choice; usually at the first or second apex or when your engine inadvertently destroys itself. The ability to second guess yourself when a race series feels impossible is a small relief within itself to almost being an admission, otherwise petrolheads probably won’t need to be coddled.
Exhibitions, practice, online multiplayer provide an equally hearty amount of customization, which is borderline obsessive. Beyond the typical options of changing the number of laps and competitors on the track, even the weather, time, and dates are adjustable for absolute realism in mind. You can recreate the glory days of JGTC to exact specifications during the 1990s, or make a dream FIA 24-hour endurance race in the wet.
Real difficulty involves learning how your preferred vehicle handles in the pavement and how much effort is required to compete. The AI itself is average but seldom consistent, they will dominate flawlessly or randomly be as dumb as a box of rocks, a little disappointing without human counterpart. That said, online play is a lot more rewarding and should offer more challengers then you’ll ever need in the lobby, because after all, this is a community assisted labor of love with full matchmaking lobbies. Expect something fierce as eSports integration is a huge focus of the developers this time around.
Content in the previous title was never an issue so the extra volume is just icing on the cake. There are now over 180 cars from 38 manufacturers, and 46 different real-world tracks that is more than twice as many layouts than before. The biggest additions to the table are Porsche, Lamborghini, KTM (to name a few manufacturers) and an official partnership with Indycar and their 2016 lineup.
I was informed of the tighter budget that Project CARS 2 is working on, but I don’t think Slightly Mad Studio quite got memo. In fact, this is one of the more beautifully detailed racing simulators I have probably seen not since the first one, and I dare attest that the aesthetics graphically rival the likes of bigger contemporaries of the genre.
Aside from the cars looking accurate, the weather elements are stellar on its own and actively change the dynamics. This goes far beyond the expected overcast and surface rain as temperature will determine how quickly your vehicle may overheat, all of these dynamics are deceptively clever at minimum. Undoubtedly the experience on PS4/XBox One is fantastic, but the PC version is superior with VR (Oculus/HTC Vive), 12K resolution, 21:9 aspect ratio, and triple-screen monitor viewing as additional features.
It would be one hell of an understatement to say that Project CARS 2 is an ambitious game, a true labor of love not just for the developers, but also through a passionate community. The entirety of it all is triumphant, if overwhelming to embrace as it was before, but that extreme level of merit is also why it succeeds here, again. Simply put: an unwavering love of motorsports is recommended in order to enjoy this.