Slightly Mad Studios is an independent studio full of various racing game developers who have worked on series like Need for Speed and Test Drive, they know subject very well, and once again, the studio has proven that they might be the best at what they do, even after a rocky start on the original Project CARS that saw the first game met with bugs at launch and other issues. Instead, from the start of this game you are met with a competent game that feature realistic driving and handling mechanics, some of the best car models I’ve seen, and a lineup of cars that sings to me, too. What you’re getting is an ambitious sequel to a hard, but rewarding racing sim.
Project Cars 2 is the evolution of the first game in every way. I played the original on PC in 2015, and after playing it after being patched to be playable, I found a serious contender for realism in driving. UI issues plagued the first game are a thing of the past, instead, a streamlined UI allows for quick access to career mode, quick races, and feels much less like a chore with the sequel. The changes start at the top and go right to the bottom.
Changing menus is one thing, the meat is the actual racing you’ll do against computers and players in both offline and online challenges. The car physics have a viable overhaul, whereas previously, practicing over and over on racetracks provided the best learning experience (I spent as much time learning each cars nuance as I did in career mode with the first game) before, now, the learning curve has become better, especially on the PlayStation 4 controller. What makes the transition easier to a gamepad instead of a steering wheel is the visual cues on screen. The outside of the camera will shake, the controller reacts by vibrating reels in your fanatical steering (maybe it was just me?) and tells you when you’re off the racing line.
Being heavy footed in my everyday life did not benefit me at all while playing Project CARS 2 – this is something I need to stress because until I learned how essential braking was to fundamentals of this game, did I have a chance of coming in first place. There’s a fine line between speed, momentum, and braking that you take for granted, which lends itself here wholeheartedly. Many races ended up with me misjudging a turn, clipping a corner and ruining my lap. A lot of these split-second decisions come down to timing, timing how fast you’re going and judging when to tap the brake to keep your momentum and place in the race, there is, thankfully, some leeway and small lapses in judgment can be forgiven when compared to Forza or Gran Turismo or Dirt.
Weather is a big factor here, and the dynamic weather systems in Project CARS 2 is much better than the original, rain falls in real time, all four seasons stand out particularly well, however, racing in snow is sadistic, something I’m not a fan of, but the attention to detail is there, tires may not grip well and cause slippage. One race called for rain, starting lightly and falling into a downpour, as it got finished and the sun began to shine, I took notice of changes to the track, puddles pooling around the track. Normally you wouldn’t pay attention to something so minuscule but lap overlap I hit a puddle and my car hydroplaned, something that terrifies me during my commutes in real life. It’s marvelous how much real-world defense tips are put into use here.
Project Cars 2 features a wonderfully curated assortment of cars to unlock, and while Slightly Mad Studios could have done the simple thing and cut the selection in half, the studio offers 180 cars to discover. You’ll see Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, many of the big hitters in the auto industry are here, and many of the cars handle differently, with a learning curve allotted to each car that will require patience to study.
Running Project CARS 2 on PlayStation 4 Pro is a visual treat, playing the game in 4K HDR is striking, there is a fine attention to detail for each car’s in-game model, and in any racing title.
Tracks are wonderful and plentiful, too, with 60 different tracks that are based on real locations, as well as fictional locations. There’s maps for every type of terrain to reflect every “motorsport disciplines,” you’re also getting locations all over the world that are beautiful representations.
Project CARS 2 successfully outclasses its predecessor in every way, expanding its scope and reach by listening to the community, reworking its mechanics, and enhancing career mode. The new handling physics, the stellar car models and variety available is overwhelmingly good. This isn’t a game for just anybody, and it really doesn’t need to be – instead, it’s a competent racing game that stands on its merits apart from bigger budget games like Forza or Gran Turismo, a feat itself incredible, being developed by an indie studio with big aspirations.