Developed by Slightly Mad Studios – the team behind the hugely popular Need for Speed: Shift – Project Cars is one of the most realistic racing games ever made. The game was funded with money raised by the developers and a community of gamers, and was designed to offer players an unprecedented amount of vehicles, tracks, playing options, and freedom.
There has certainly been some hype for Project Cars, but does it provide the immersive realism and open-ended fun it promised?
Let’s take a closer look.
No XP? No Problem!
While games such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport featured the ability to ‘level up’ with experience and earn money to buy new cars, Project Cars removes this completely, instead giving players an amazing amount of choice from the get-go: all vehicles and tracks are available to enjoy from the start. Want to play a season of karting? You can. Want to jump straight into a GT5 and go for it? Feel free.
The game’s career mode allows you to begin where you want to: if you want to be authentic, you can begin on the karting circuit, winning races to climb the ladder through the fun of Touring Cars and Open-Wheelers. While the sheer amount of options presented to you can feel a little daunting for the first-time player, once you pick your path, you’ll soon settle in. As you progress, various teams will send you contract-offers, giving you the choice of who you drive for.
Working up through championships means players need to work hard in practice, qualifying, and numerous race sessions – while these can be skipped, or simulated, you’re likely to need all the practice these provide. Slightly Mad Studios have done a fantastic job creating realistic AI, which is definitely more impressive than that in some other racing games: fellow drivers move as they should, competing for space without running into you. This is a welcome feature, given how tricky some vehicles’ handling can be.
Handle with Care
One of the key aspects of Project Cars‘ innovative realism is the way in which cars handle significantly different to each other. While other games might make one car a little more slick than another, nothing really compares to this.
When driving karts, losing control and wandering off-course is fairly easy – and spinning out is even easier if you push the pedal to the metal too hard. On the other hand, touring cars offer a more forgiving experience, with easier handling and a more robust feel – strike another vehicle with enough force, and you could face disqualification. As there are no tracks or vehicles to unlock through achievements or money here, a feeling of accomplishment comes instead from winning races and mastering the handling of each type of car: while this might take more time, the reward is definitely there – you’ll find yourself feeling exhilarated when you achieve a personal best at Le Mans, in a way that finding a souped-up hidden car would struggle to match.
Play it your Way
Project Cars offers more than 60 vehicles, and over 100 courses across 30-plus locations, providing players with hundreds of hours of gameplay. Racing fans will recognise such famous tracks as the UK’s Brands Hatch, Circuit de la Sarthe (the Le Mans track), and Germany’s Nurburgring – the wide variety of settings, and variable weather conditions, brilliantly showcase the game’s gorgeous visuals. Project Cars’ impressive freedom of choice even applies to these weather effects, with players able to select whether they race in rain or sun, day or night, and plenty in-between. With such realism, and dozens of cars in any one race, the frame-rate can lag at times, but this is easy to forgive considering the sheer gorgeousness on display, and it never affects the gameplay.
As well as the amazing career mode, players can also enjoy quick races and online multiplayer: playing against like-minded players is great fun, particularly with the massive range of cars and tracks available. While other racing games – such as Driveclub, for example – may offer more multiplayer fun in the long-run, Project Cars is definitely worth hopping online for.
So, is Project Cars the success its funders were hoping for? Yes, absolutely. For dedicated racing fans looking to try something a little more realistic and immersive than some of the over-the-top, high-octane titles on the market, Project Cars is an essential purchase, with awe-inspiring depth and stunning customisability.