I remember seeing the previews for Project Cars and thought to myself, wow that game looks amazing, there’s no way it will run on my machine. But sometimes the video game review gods are kind. Just last week I went and built myself a new gaming machine. So along comes Project Cars and I am suddenly eager to see my PC get put through its paces.
And boy howdy does it ever. Project Cars has by far the most realistic rain I’ve ever seen in a game. The lighting is beautiful, and there are camera angles galore. And the car models. Car models so detailed you’d be forgiven for thinking maybe you were at the track yourself. In desert races the sky can become a muddy brown because of sand kicked up by your tires.
Oh, wait, you want to know about the rest of the game? OK.
Project Cars has a career mode. And like many other sims, the game attempts to give you a feel for race day by letting you make your way through a day at the track. You’ll go from running practice laps to making adjustments before going out and qualifying. And of course once you qualify it’s off to the races to see how many points you can score when you cross the finish line. You can skip all of the practicing and qualifying but it’s not as simple as mashing a button to skip ahead. You have to aim first, then mash.
The main single player campaign in Project Cars is called Zero to Hero, and you start as a lowly schlub joining the world of motorsports at the very bottom of the pile. Specifically in Go Karts. And after you’ve spent a racing season getting used to driving those, you’re moved up to…bigger Go Karts. I’ll be honest here, the game nearly lost me with its obsession with Go Karts. But power through that, I swear there’s some good stuff here. And fortunately for you, you don’t have to start your career as in Go Karts. If you don’t want to do the entire Zero to Hero thing you can always start your progression higher up the food chain. I started a second character and began my racing in pre-F1 series race cars. This was immediately more fun than any of the Go Kart races.
Of course the Zero to Hero mode is not the only mode offered by the game. There is an online mode, single race mode and practice mode, where you can take any car in the game onto any track in the game and just blast around until your hearts is content. I did just that in an Ariel Atom V8 around the desert track of Dubai, and really enjoyed the sense of speed and thrill the engine sound brought on. You can also race against ghosts from online, picking a car and a track and going at it with a rather spectral looking version of whatever car it was that they chose to beat the lap in. I’m serious, the ghost car looked a little more spooky than I was expecting.
The variety of tracks in the game is solid. It does offer both new and nostalgic tracks for people who have played these sorts of games before. Laguna Seca makes an appearance, and it was like I had never left, climbing that hill, then braking at the top, hard left, hard right, then around the bend. I felt right at home there. The Nurburgring makes an appearance as well, with numerous subsection versions and the whole enchilada. Newer tracks to me game play wise were some British F1 tracks. I recognize the names Silverstone and Donnington, Monza and Imola from watching Top Gear (long may it reign). Other names are world famous, like LeMans. In total there are roughly 30 tracks and over 100 variants built from those main ones.
If you ever wanted to race around the track and see a graphic displaying how the tires are doing compared to how much power your engine is laying out, this is the game. Even in the more arcade like mode of the game you can still set a number of options to make it just a bit more simulator like if you choose, including deciding how difficult your AI opponents will be. The default AI difficulty is likely too easy if you have ever played a racing game before, so consider upping that a little.
You are not limited to one career in the game, which is nice. You can have one driver making it in the Zero to Hero path while your other driver might exist to give you thrills and chills racing against F1 cars.
The User Interface of the main menu is a little on the convoluted side. Embarrassingly it took me more than a little while to find the command to exit to the desktop. Not years or anything foolish like that, but a subtle X at the top of the screen does not scream out to be noticed when the rest of the menu is brash and big.
There is no superfluous music in the game, no need for a licensed techno track to play when you round every corner. Instead the only song you’ll hear is the squealing of tires and the throaty roar of whatever race car you happen to have chosen, and they sing quite well. You are able to stream from Spotify with built in functionality if you choose. But why when the demons trapped under the hood sound so good?
The game is compatible with Oculus VR and all sorts of control schemes, and is even helpful enough to let you know how a person is playing in the menu, if they are playing with a steering wheel or mouse keyboard or joystick. I do believe that wearing a Rift while playing this game with a wheel would probably be as close as it will get to a person of my heft and stature actually racing. Also, you know, I’m not insane enough to want to do it for real.
Short Attention Span Summary:
More Forza than Forza Horizon. It doesn’t have 1000 cars but you can tweak the ones that are in game to no end. Very definitely worth your time if you have a rig to run it and are into racing games.