Review: Project CARS 2 — Improvements on many levels

September 18, 2017

Project CARS 2 is a step above its predecessor but it still suffers from many of the same problems as the first title on Xbox One. While the visuals may have witnessed a dramatic improvement along with its technical capabilities, playing Project CARS 2 with a controller isn’t an ideal experience. Even though the game runs at a blistering fast frame rate, the cars are notoriously difficult to handle and this is a significant challenge for newcomers. However, those with a supported racing wheel are in luck. It’s a rather sublime experience with a racing wheel but that’s only a small percentage of the gaming population. With Forza Motorsport 7 around the corner, I don’t think Project CARS 2 does enough to woo over Xbox One owners no matter how competent and realistic it might be. Unlike competing platforms, the Xbox One already has a lot of spectacular racing games like Forza Horizon 3 so you have to be truly outstanding to shine in this market.

Project CARS on Xbox One was a good-looking game but exhibited a lot of problems. Reflections were very low-resolution and there was this strange flickering bug with the shadows that caused many interiors to have a black-and-white light show every time you faced the Sun. Project CARS 2 not only fixes that, but it also looks better and feels like it maintains 60 FPS all the time. While it still has some aliasing issues, the game is much better than what we got the first time around. We’ve played Project CARS 2 constantly since last week and there weren’t any noticeable drops. This is a testament to how much more comfortable Slightly Mad Studios are with the Xbox One now. Hopefully the game will look even better on the Xbox One X when it comes out in November.

Project CARS 2 features various single-player and multiplayer events. While multiplayer races are challenging and everything you’re used to in racing games nowadays, the real star of the show has to be the career mode. Much like F1 2017, you create a driver and that individual has to compete in various events after signing a contract. There are definitely some role-playing mechanics in there because you have to look at emails and manage the upkeep of you vehicles. For those wondering, there are qualifying laps and much more. You’re definitely feel like a real race car driver due to the developer’s attention to detail. For me, this was the highlight of the experience. You should start off at the very bottom of the ladder by competing in rookie events to gain familiarity with the controls and other mechanics. Project CARS 2 is a complex game so watching tips and reading other tutorials online isn’t a bad idea either. Many YouTube channels are dedicated to racing games so they’re a great source if you really want to delve into the experience more than the average gamer.

Despite not having 700 vehicles like Forza Motorsport 7, Project CARS 2 features a wide variety of machines to choose from. The customization options are also deep so you can tweak certain cars any way you like. However, beginners should steer clear of this unless you’ve seen tutorials. If you don’t know what you’re doing you can really destroy a vehicle making it impossible to control. However, given a controller that’s still a challenge. The track variety is also impressive and I was never bored because the vehicles represent the real challenge.

As alluded to earlier, my biggest issue with Project CARS 2 has to be the controls. Even if you turn all of the assists on and difficulty down, it’s still notoriously unruly. While driving on straights and making simple turns is easy, it’s almost impossible to slow down and control the car properly using only the controller. I’m not sure what the problem is because we tried adjusting sensitivity settings and turned only some assists on and others off. No combination helps us with this issue and playing Project CARS 2 became a chore. It took me hours just to learn which camera view and playstyle worked for me. Unlike Forza Horizon 3 or Forza Motorsport 6, you can’t just pick up and play Project CARS 2. You really have to learn how to control cars at a deeper level. Maybe I’m just too used to games like Forza Motorsport 6 which are much easier. It’s definitely an extensive adjustment.

This may seem like a positive attribute to some but it makes it difficult for beginners to enjoy the game. Maybe others are too easy? Maybe this is the point of Project CARS 2? I’m not sure but it’s daunting. I nearly gave up until I mustered the courage to come back to the game. Even then, it’s not perfect and I have weeks to go to become really good at it it seems. Are gamers nowadays willing to do that especially on console?

My friend Xian has a racing wheel so we were able to test Project CARS 2 with one from Logitech. It works like a charm and makes the game an amazing simulator. If you want to become good at Project CARS 2 and want to play it on a deeper level, then you should consider investing in one. The game controls so much better because you can use your hands and feet instead of fingers. The difference is night and day. However, this shouldn’t be the case because the game should be optimized for a controller just as much as a racing wheel. It just seems like an unfair decision.

Overall, Project CARS 2 is a great game which is elevated by its career mode. The multiplayer offerings are good but I don’t really like playing racing games with others so it’s not that important to me personally. They’re still great if you must know. The main way I evaluate racing simulators is how well they control and how easy they are for beginners to enjoy. Project CARS 2 isn’t a game for beginners and if you want to get into it I would compare time spent learning to what I had to do for Elite: Dangerous which is a great space simulator with a steep learning curve. Just keep that in mind when picking up this title because once you get into it it’s incredibly rewarding. It just take a while to get there.


Xbox One

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