Everything is a sport these days. You probably don’t need to be told that eSports or competitive tag exist, but you might need to be reminded that motorsport is broadcast across the world almost every day. Plenty of games have tried their hand at capturing the essence of motorsport in different ways, but Project Cars focused on the professional aspect of racing as a career. With Project Cars 2 rounding the final turns before release, it’s in pole position but still spins out in all the same spots.
The game suffers from many of the same issues that its predecessor did. The biggest problem is the UI, which at any given time is easy to understand or surprisingly unreadable. The main menu and car-select screens are outstanding, but when you hop into a race, what menu item is currently selected is tough to make out. The menu item will slowly fade in and out of a purple hue, but it doesn’t always have a definite colour, so it can be surprisingly tricky to figure out which one is highlighted. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it adds to the general obtuseness of the game.
One of the other issues still present from Project Cars 1 is that nothing’s noob friendly. For instance, when you’re tuning up your car in the pits, you can opt to talk with your engineer for advice. This simplifies the tuning process from knowing nothing to knowing where to start, but it’s far from an ideal system. The four categories to start from are braking, downforce, suspension and gearing. As someone who doesn’t understand what any of these do to a car, none of these categories are especially useful. Sure, someone with more knowledge won’t have an issue, but maybe starting with ‘turning’, or ‘grip’ would be more intuitive. Then again, the game certainly won’t help you know where you’re going wrong in the race either.
Project Cars doesn’t make much of an effort to be transparent about its rules. If you get a penalty, it’s a 50/50 whether you’ll find out why your lap time was deleted or be told to slow down without reason. The lack of transparency adds to the general obtuseness of the game, and I’d love to see more specificity put into penalty notices so I can avoid doing whatever it was that I just did again. There’s no tutorial to speak of either, so if you’re new to cars, you’re on your own. If you can get past this, though, the game is shaping up to be pretty damn good.
The game caters to its target audience like Everybody Loves Raymond in the mid-‘00s. There are an insane number of cars, tracks and events on offer, ranging from LMP1 to Road G. You can practice on your lonesome to beat your best lap times, but the meat of the game lies in racing against others. The career mode is looking pretty fleshed out too, spanning from measly kart racing to glorious F1 championships. These first impressions didn’t give me a chance to try out multiplayer, but if it’s anything like the custom races I could make on my own, they should be… Well, it’s hard to say.
There’s a ridiculous amount of content in the game right now, but as far as customising it to do what you want, it’s a bit lacklustre. If you want session takes that aren’t multiples of five minutes or longer than half an hour, things aren’t looking good for you. I’m hoping that this can be fixed before the game comes out because it gets so many things right, it would be a shame not to nail this as well.
The game has done an outstanding job when it has come to its simulation. You can see and feel every perturbation on the track, and I could even hear the engine echo back when speeding past walls. You’ll sometimes hear your engineer talk into your ear, offering up advice and appraising race conditions. The experience is close enough to reality that it makes you wonder you’d go outside at all, but we’ll have to wait and find out if the game can take first place.
Project Cars 2 is shaping up to be a great racing sim, but there are still a few issues that could be sorted out. Adding a few features to help inexperienced drivers out would go a long way, and making the UI clearer is just a good thing to do in general. The simulation looks and feels great, although I am yet to test it on a wheel to see if it holds up (that can wait until the review). If Slightly Mad can fine tune their creation to peak performance, we might just have a winner on our hands.