The year was 2002. Eminem was losing himself at the top of the Billboard Charts. Nerds were flocking to see Star Wars Episode 2. I was a Freshman In college and like most college freshmen, I focused primarily on school, girls, College Baseball, girls, and video games, not necessarily in that order.
Fall Baseball had just ended, and to fill the ginormous void in my schedule, a buddy of mine suggested I try this racing video game. At that point in my life if it wasn’t an EA Sports game (Mostly Madden) or a shooter (Still mostly Madden), chances are I didn’t play it. The Game in question was Gran Turismo, specifically the 3rd installment of the series. Being the young gear head, I decided to give it a try. The car list was enormous. The tracks were awesome. I could do all the tuning on my digital cars that I couldn’t afford in real life. This was my introduction into a realistic racing sim, and I loved it. It lead to purchases of Forza Motorsports 1 & 2 & GT5 in the years to come.
In 2013 I got a text from Greg, he had just gotten GT6 as a gift from his girlfriend (later he would go on to make the brilliant decision and marry that girl earlier this summer). Naturally I dropped everything, went out and purchased the game. GT was still awesome, and now I could share that awesomeness with my Greg. We raced online for hours. We even formed a very small GT6 Online Racing League. It only lasted 1 season, mostly because Greg insisted on preparing for his upcoming wedding. The more we played it though some small things started to bother me.
I was/am a full-fledged car nut. My favorite type of racing is Endurance Racing. This is where exotic cars race in one glorious cocktail of speed, power and technology. Part of GT6’s appeal was due to the fact it featured many of these cars. Group C, LMP1, GT2 and GT3 cars were all featured in the game. Here is where it started to bother me. Some of the cars sounded nothing like their real life counter parts. Some didn’t even have their performance. But my number 1 issue was some of the cars were downright undrivable. For example; the Audi R8 LMS GT3 car was so tail happy even with the all the driving assists on that it was useless. I could go on but you get the point. I was resigned to the fact that I’d just have to deal with these things and hope some of it was fixed in GT7.
It was about this time I started to hear about a new player in the racing sim game. It was called Project CARS. I initially dismissed it based on the fact it was using the same engine as Need For Speed: Shift. Which having played, I found it to be way to arcade-y for my taste. Then I started to hear some things that piqued my interest. They were using the old Stig as one of many current and former racing drivers to help develop the games dynamics. Then I saw the car list. It wasn’t as impressive as GT in terms of volume, but it did have one thing going for it, more GT3 Cars. Aston Martin, Mercedes, Audi, McLaren, Bentley even a Porsche (even if for branding reasons it was a made up GT3 Version of RUF’s V8 911) were all in the game. The developers even said more cars would be available via dlc packs. Finally, they released trailers and good God Almighty were they good. The game looked gorgeous. I was hooked, In October of 2014 I pre-ordered the game. I have never anticipated a game release more than Project CARS. The game was delayed twice which was insanely frustrating to deal with. Finally, after 7 long months of waiting, the game was released in May of 2015.
I immediately jumped into the career mode. This mode is delightfully simple. You can elect to start at any point along the career path you want. Want to jump right into Formula cars, go for it. Want to go GT racing, just pick a level and go. Or if you’re a purist you can start out in Karting and go from there. Throughout the career mode you’re offered contracts that help you chose your path. A really cool feature is you can adjust the length of races and difficulty of the AI drivers. You can race the full 24 hours of Le Mans or shorten it to 2 Hours. Find the game is too easy, you can adjust the difficulty on a sliding scale and fine tune it to your liking.
On the tuning side of things, unfortunately you can’t modify the cars like you can in Gran Turismo or Forza. You can’t take an existing race car, for example, and throw a massive turbo on it and completely decimate the field. However you can tune on it by adjusting suspension settings, air intakes, brake bias, etc. This is one part of the game I haven’t come close to fully utilizing. Mostly because there are so many ways to tweak a car’s settings that you could spend months testing everything. While a bit complicated it does add more realism to the game.
I really like the way they went about multi class racing. It’s like real Endurance Racing. The developers obviously couldn’t get all the licenses to make it exactly like real life. So they fudge it a little bit, but this is a good thing. In the World Endurance Championship, you can race in LMP1, LMP2, GT3 or GT4. In the real WEC, GT3 and GT4 don’t race with the prototypes. At the point of release the Developers didn’t have the licenses to put a GTE (Corvete C.7R, Porsche 911 RSR etc) cars in the game. They could have been stubborn and stuck to purity and not included multi class racing. The great thing is they didn’t and the game is better for it. Combine that with the ability to have 36 cars on track (in single player mode. 16 Cars for online racing) and the game feels more authentic, even if it’s not exactly correct.
** Video I pulled while playing PC, to illustrate the pure chaos multi class racing can be.
Speaking of fudging it, I like the community developed cars, specifically the LMP cars. Again they didn’t manage to get the licenses for all the LMP manufacturers. But instead of simply making LMP1 an all Audi R18 class, or LMP2 an all Alpine A450 and Oreca 03 Nissan (same car, different branding) class, Project CARS created cars to fit within the respected classes. RWD and Marek both have P1 and P2 cars. They weren’t some half assed attempt to fill the car list either. They genuinely feel like they could be cars in real life. This is a creative way of adding a bit of originality and diversity to the game without making it feel fake.
Is it perfect? No. I do have a small issue with the GT4 cars being out there with the LMP1 cars. They are way too slow, and when you’re in an LMP1 car the GT4 cars are just in the way, especially on the tighter tracks. Combine that with the rather dimwitted nature of the AI drivers and it can be frustrating. Also the race “seasons” are too short. Often 3 to 5 races each. They tried to make them as much as their real life counterparts, so why not make the seasons longer? In my opinion this is much better than Gran Turismo. No wasting time driving small crappy cars nobody wants. I mean, come on did you really drop $60 on a game so you could drive in the Beetle Cup? No, you didn’t, so why even bother wasting the programming on it? Lastly, there are still bugs in the system. If you’re in the middle of a long race and put your PS4 in rest mode, the game can crash when you turn the system back on. They have made it better with updates, and it’s markedly better than the original release, but it is not completely fixed. On the whole these are small issues; overall the game is awesome.
36 Cars can make for some insane starts.
Project CARS has a Call of Duty feel about it. COD typically has a short story mode and fantastic online multiplayer mode. While Project CARS’ career mode feels a bit short, I feel online is where it will set itself apart from its competition. Project CARS was community funded and developed and that’s exactly how the game feels, community oriented. I look forward to racing Greg and Hansen online.
All told Project CARS is one of the best racing games I’ve ever played. It’s a welcome change of pace to the Gran Turismos and Forzas of the world. The graphics are gorgeous. The GT car list is better than any other console game out there. It satisfies my borderline insatiable need to go GT racing. In my opinion Project CARS is a must have for anyone who enjoys racing games.
To get your copy of project cars, click here.