Publisher: Slightly Mad Studios
Distributed By: Bandai Namco
ESRB: E for Everyone
Slightly Mad Studios, known for their work on the Need For Speed Shift series, makes their first attempt at a racing simulation game for consoles and PC, known simply as Project Cars. Its game engine includes features such as dynamic weather and time of day, full pit stops, full racing days, realistic handling, and current generation graphics. Buckle your seat belts, you’re in for one heck of a ride!
Upon first loading, Project Cars asks you about your skill level. If you are new to racing games, you may want to go with the lower difficulty options. Gamers new to the racing simulator world may want to start on the novice difficulty which gives you full braking assists, stability control, no damage, and easier AI. You can change these anytime in the game between races.
There are multiple modes to choose from in the game: Career mode, Solo (also known as Quick Race Weekend), Online, Driver Network, Practice, Random and Time Trials.
Career mode is the staple of this entire game. Upon choosing career mode, you enter your first and last name, a social media handle (think Twitter) and a car number. You then choose which tier you want to start in, ranging from Go Karts in tier 8 to the Le Mans Prototypes in tier 1. The game doesn’t force you to pick a certain tier, but to get the most out of career mode, I recommend starting from the bottom and working your way up.
Once you have chosen where you want to start in your career, you are offered a few contracts. There’s no need to sweat over who to choose at first, because they’re more for flair. The contracts are basically choosing the team you want to drive for and for progressing through Career Mode. If you do well enough during the contract period, you can either re-sign with that team for another year, or sign a contract for a higher tier if offered. Once a contract is chosen, you are taken to your career dashboard.
The career dashboard is the central hub in career mode. It allows you to check your mail, tune your car, view race results, keep up with stories in the racing worlds, and see what fans say about you!
Check your calendar, choose your race and go make a name for yourself!
Having trouble with a specific turn or track in general? Want to test out a car or master its handling? Maybe you just feel like messing around? Free practice mode is a no rules, no boundaries mode. Use this if you want to tailor your skills for career mode, or to prepare for online. Slightly Mad Studios also offers a free car DLC each month, so this is a good opportunity to test out your new rides!
Solo mode is for those who just want to set up a specific race to your liking. You can choose the track, vehicle type, weather, lap times, qualifying, practice, and whatever other modifiers you want.
Online mode is pretty self explanatory. Set up races with your friends or trade paint with other players!
Driver network allows you to participate in specific challenges. Try to be at the top of the leaderboard by the end of the event for your chance to win prizes!
This mode puts you right into a randomized online race!
Race against ghosts and compete for the best time.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, it’s time to go racing! Drive out from your pit box and get on that track! The controls are very comfortable to use. It’s the typical setup as any other racing games, using the triggers as your acceleration and brake. The cars handle very realistically; you cannot take corners too fast, you cannot slam on the brakes without losing control and you definitely cannot oversteer too much because you will spin out. This may be a problem for some beginners, so make sure to turn on those assists!
Once you are able to master the handling, you can try more complex racing moves such as drafting. When you are racing around the track, your car faces an airflow pushing against it called drag. One way you can reduce drag, and ultimately increase speed for a short period is to draft. Drafting happens when your car gets behind an opponent’s car, which in turn reduces the amount of drag pushing against you and ultimately making you go faster. Using this technique, you can also perform what is called a slingshot. A slingshot happens when you’re in the draft gaining speed and momentum, then suddenly decide to exit the draft and use that extra momentum to pass the car in front of you.
The weather system is becoming a big thing in modern racing games, and Project Cars does not disappoint. You can definitely tell a difference in handling not only on wet vs dry road conditions, but hot and cold. In solo mode, Project Cars allows you to set whatever date you wish to race in and depending on the area affects the track temperature. In warmer weather, the tracks heat up the tires more quickly thus giving the cars more traction. In colder weather, the effect is the opposite.
The game offers a plethora of tuning options to adjust your car to perfection. For example, if the road is rough, you can soften the suspension for a smoother ride. Not only does that help you navigate through the track, but causes less wear on your tires. A little rain making the car undriveable? Switch your tires over to rain tires, which have a groove to prevent hydroplaning and a softer compound to increase friction and keep your car sturdy. Be careful though, using rain tires on a dry track will demolish them in no time at all.
Each car handles differently on different tracks, so there isn’t any universal setup. For novice racers, the default setups are good enough. However, if you want to win online, you better start mastering the art of tuning or else the only way you’ll win is if everyone else crashes.
Project cars offers a plethora of cars for both casual race fans and car aficionados. Some popular brands included are: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ford, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Formula Cars. I drive a Mustang in real life, so I find it really neat to be able to drive one on the tracks in this game. My favorite thing to race in the game however, is the 250cc Karts. They are speedy and wacky to handle but at the same time really fun!
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There’s no hiding that Project cars is a beautiful game. The visuals in the game, from the grimy roads to the lens flare are nothing short of amazing.
The authenticity in the audio is stunning. From the engine screaming to you crashing in to the wall, it sounds like you are part of the action. Project Cars also made use of the Dualshock 4’s controller speaker. During the race, your crew chief talks to you through that speaker as if you were actually hearing him through a radio. There are also some parts where text is read aloud to you through it.
There is no soundtrack playing during a race. There is a soundtrack played in the game menus and while it is nothing special, it is good enough to get the job done.
There are also many camera types to choose from. There is front bumper, cockpit, passenger, front hood, roof, helmet cam and third person. No matter what view you like, Project Cars thought of them all!
Slightly Mad Studios had some competition in the racing simulation genre. Sony’s Gran Turismo series and Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport have been the essential racing simulation games on consoles for quite a while. They did an excellent job with the Shift series last generation, but their new generation title Project Cars gives both Forza and Gran Turismo a run for their money. I am not saying Forza or Gran Turismo are bad games, mind you, but Projects Cars’ free DLC, comfortable controls, weather dynamics, amazing visuals and authentic feel keep me going back for more.
The Bottom Line
Project Cars not only sets the standard for new gen racing games, it redefines them. From its authentic gameplay to the little quirks thrown in, it will keep you entertained for hours and hours on end. If you are new to the genre, it’s a great start. If you aren’t, it’s a great addition. So what are you waiting for?