Blast down realistic tracks in fine-tuned super cars.
PC Release: September 22, 2017
By Ian Coppock
Coming down the track now is Automobilista, a Brazilian racing sim that—oooh, right into the barriers! Coming up behind Automobilista is Assetto Corsa, an Italian competitor that looks to be doing quite well and—agh, it looks like the driver’s AI has shorted out! That’s okay, because Gran Turismo Sport is speeding down the track and… oh. Looks like it’s a PS4 exclusive. Disqualified! What’s this new vehicle sneaking up and stealing first place, though? It looks like Project CARS 2!
After two years in the body shop, Project CARS 2 has finally released onto the racecourse. Created by the one and same Slightly Mad Studios that developed Project CARS, Project CARS 2 is the developer’s latest attempt at snagging first place in the world of racing simulators. Like its predecessor, Project CARS 2 is a glossy title that lets players get under the hood (literally), and race dozens of super cars across a plethora of detailed tracks. Project CARS 2 emphasizes both customization and close attention to realism.
Project CARS 2 is a right and proper racing sim; anyone looking for a stunt racer or an experience more akin to, say, Trackmania 2 is in the wrong place. Trackmania is a great game, but it’s an arcade racer. Project CARS 2 is a game for the hardcore motorhead. The title boasts advanced car physics and features a lineup of real racing machines from prestigious manufacturers. The game also makes quite a few upgrades over the original Project CARS.
Before going any further on Project CARS 2, the answer is yes: the sequel has Ferrari cars. For all the amazing driving that Project CARS offered, the title also offered a conspicuous lack of famous manufacturers. It’s hard to picture a racing sim that shows up to the track without the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche in its motor pool. Project CARS 2 rectifies that issue right away, sporting cars from all three of those companies as well as Nissan, Jaguar, and other new additions. It makes for an impressive gallery of cars.
Of course, this also means that players have more vehicles to choose from in Project CARS 2 than most other racing sims out there. With all of these manufacturers each featuring diverse classes of vehicles, Project CARS 2 offers up a delectable (and enviable) garage of possibilities. Players can access these vehicles at any time for offline test runs or multiplayer matches. It’s worth testing each vehicle out on the track first; no use getting into a high-stakes race with a vehicle that has unfamiliar handling.
Another improvement that Project CARS 2 makes over its predecessor is that it has even more customization options. In Project CARS, players could make a few suspension and tire pressure adjustments, but Project CARS 2 flings the toolbox wide open. Players can continue to customize tire pressure but can now make new adjustments to their car’s suspension, dampeners, and gearing. The amount of customization available in this title marks a significant improvement over that of the original Project CARS. Players who mouse over different functions can get a pop-up window explaining how they work.
Additionally, Project CARS 2 features a new “Race Engineer” utility that allows players to select queries about car performance and get the game’s take on them. The feature is a thinly disguised troubleshooter, but it’s a great way for players new to racing sims to get the facts on car performance, as well as recommendations for fixes and improvements. The Race Engineer is a great olive branch for both newbs who have no clue what they’re doing (ahem) or vets that want the game’s opinion on their setup.
Though Project CARS 2‘s customization improvements are a boon for all racers, the game’s willingness to provide information makes it one of the most user-friendly racing simulators on the market. Racing sims can overwhelm and unsettle players new to the scene with all the customization options, but Project CARS 2 circumvents intimidating newbs by going the extra mile to provide detailed, concise information on how race cars work.
Project CARS 2 also makes itself user-friendly by streamlining its menus. The menus in Project CARS were a bit of a jumble, but Project CARS 2 benefits from a simple, clean UI. Race modes and configuration options are all neatly arranged inside just a few menus, making it simple to navigate the game, pick modes, or tinker with system performance. Like Project CARS, Project CARS 2 features an incredible options menu with dozens of in-depth toggles. Just don’t try to run this game on anything but a big rig.
After selecting a car, a paint job, and a racing setup, players can take to the track. Project CARS 2 features a variety of race courses from all over the world. A few, like the Azure Coast track, return from Project CARS, but the game also features entirely new courses. In addition to customizing weather, players can now choose which season to drive in, among a few other new toggles. The courses are where players can see Project CARS 2‘s most dramatic graphical improvements, as the photo-realism (especially of the tracks’ backgrounds) is stunning.
Less dramatically improved are the cars themselves. Project CARS 2 doesn’t look all that different from the original Project CARS, but let’s be far; the original is a gorgeous game. Project CARS 2 doesn’t feature dramatic graphical improvements on its vehicles, but that’s not a big deal when the first game was already one of the most graphically sophisticated racing simulators. Players can expect more lighting, more gloss, and more impressive weather effects.
Project CARS 2‘s vehicles also don’t handle all that differently from their counterparts in Project CARS. Players accustomed to arcade racers might have some trouble getting used to this game’s more realistic driving, but few feelings are more rewarding than nailing down a super car’s handling. Project CARS 2 pays close attention to how a vehicle would handle in real life, and players should also remember that tire pressure and physical damage can alter its performance. Different tire pressure affects driving, different damage affects steering and alignment, so on and so forth.
One of Project CARS‘ biggest drawbacks was its draconian penalty system. Project CARS was infamous for having a system that would commonly ignore players totaling each other’s vehicles but bestow life bans for brushing against a barricade. Project CARS 2‘s penalties are a bit more consistent; players now get disqualified no matter what object they brush up against. Additionally, players that execute an illegal move like cutting through grass are now given the chance to return to their position in the race instead of being disqualified outright. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s definitely a bit fairer.
Even though Project CARS 2 runs well on high-end PCs, the game is not without a few conspicuous issues. One of the silliest bugs causes cars to clip through race handlers as they emerge onto the track. Another issue is long stretches of time spent waiting for a game when a server is visible. There are also allegations that the game doesn’t register tire heat, but thus far these accusations are being made infrequently and by forum posters who are angry that they just lost a big race, so… take those with a grain of salt.
By and large, though, Project CARS 2 runs like one of its high-end vehicles. Even the most jam-packed races still achieve a silky smooth framerate. Players also won’t spend all that long waiting for a race to load, even if they front-load events with all sorts of changes and specialized adjustments. Running Project CARS 2 on a potato machine is still not recommended, but players who have a decent rig can expect decent performance.
Project CARS 2 distills all of this racing awesomeness into a few simple modes. Players can create a Custom Race, choosing everything from the number of opponents to the number of laps, or give different vehicles a spin in the Private Test mode. Most players are going to be found tearing it up in the Online mode, where racers from all over the world can gather. Players can also create their own events and make them public or private as they see fit. All of these modes are neatly arranged and concisely explained.
Project CARS 2 also features the return of the single-player Career Mode, in which players create a racing persona and take part in tourneys on behalf of fictitious driving clubs. The mode gives players more flexibility in choosing a starting point for their career, but otherwise remains about as dry as Project CARS‘ Career Mode. Indeed, it could be argued that the sequel’s Career Mode is even drier, as the game strips out the names and personas of the player’s racing crew (shallow though they may have been). Still, the driving AI is greatly improved, and players can now adjust its aggression.
Project CARS 2 is best enjoyed with friends and human opponents, both of whom are plentiful as the game basks in the glow of its release honeymoon. Project CARS 2 represents a significant improvement over the original Project CARS and is one of the most customizable, user-friendly racing sims available. Players of all skill levels can expect to attain some success in the game thanks to its emphasis on fair penalties and thorough explanations of car functions. Get the game and enjoy some of the most fun high-gloss racing this side of PC gaming.
You can buy Project CARS 2 here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.