Project Cars 2 Review: Sunday Drivers Need Not Apply

I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, and not my team. For those ten seconds or less, I'm free. Here's our review of Project Cars 2.


Slightly Mad Studios delivered the original Project Cars in 2015. It attempted to go three-wide in the turns with Gran Turismo and Forza, and came close to making a podium. Two years later, Project Cars 2 pulls up to the line having learned from the mistakes made by its predecessor, while at the same time, doubling down on its dedication to the goal at the cost of alienating casual players. The game is bursting at the seams with content and options that will satisfy those dedicated players looking for an authentic driving game, but may serve to intimidate anyone who does not fully buy into what is being offered.

Project Cars 2 sports over 150 detailed card models

Building a Better Race Car

I’ll go ahead and be upfront about my experience with the original Project Cars on the PC. I was enthusiastic about jumping into the game because I love racing games and very much enjoy the titles that steer towards the simulation side of the track. I quickly backed away from the first Project Cars due to performance issues with the PC port. At the time, I tried playing with a GTX 970 and was unable to find a combination of graphical settings that would prevent in-race stuttering. During the times that the game ran smoothly, I found controlling the cars to be a hassle while using a regular, wired Xbox 360 pad. To call the overall handling characteristics of the cars in the first game squirrelly would be disrespectful to squirrels.

Thankfully, Project Cars 2 has moved past the cripplingly inconsistent performance of the first game. A solid, locked 60fps is attainable across a variety of hardware configurations (and from what I’ve seen online, the console versions also run well). The smooth, stable presentation is paired with a nice boost to overall image quality compared to the original game. The occasional spikes and stutters are only a concern when the game’s fantastic weather system is in full effect, while clear daylight driving is unaffected.

Project Cars 2 spent many months in the hands of players prior to release via the developer’s World of Mass Development portal. Fans were able to buy membership packages and gain access to early builds and offer feedback on their experiences. This approach seems to have paid off as controlling the cars with a gamepad is no longer an exercise in futility. Regaining control of your vehicle after you slip out during a bungled corner attempt is actually possible in Project Cars 2. A plethora of driving assists and accessibility options are at the player’s disposal to help fine tune the driving experience.

30 Karts duke it out at Germany's famed Nürburgring

The Drive To Be a Champion

Like every racing game ever released, Project Cars 2 offers single race mode, online racing modes, and a career mode. I chose to hop directly into the career mode. Upon launching the game, this mode is presented front and center, so I assumed taking this path was what the developer intended. I was prompted to create and name my new driver. Witness the birth of hotshot American driver Ass Masters. He is a loose cannon, but he will win races for a championship team. I told myself this, honestly believing it and I continued believing it up until my sixth or seventh hour attempting to make the podium in any of the three rookie series that are offered when you begin the career mode.

Each race in a series gives you points based on how you finish. Across the races in a series, your points are totaled and you can advance if your combined total points are higher than most of the pack. Getting podiums in a single race is tough when you are starting out in Project Cars 2. A couple of the series are with open-wheel vehicles and those wheels are easily tangled. When this inevitably happens to you, your chances of winning go to zero and you might as well restart the event.

Ass Masters understands that no one starts at the top and began working towards improving so he could advance in his championship racing career. This never came to pass and Ass ragequit his championship dreams around the ten hour mark. The early losing didn’t hurt Masters as much as the prospect of being an afterthought. As his hero Cole Trickle once said, “I'm more afraid of bein' nothing than I am of being hurt.”

Rainy Days of Thunder

The Track is Your Playground

Thankfully, the game offers a customizable single event mode that allows players to build the race conditions of their dreams. Project Cars 2 is loaded with tracks, cars, and environmental variables. Hundreds of combinations are possible. Recreating real-life race events is straightforward, but I found the most fun in exploiting the customization to produce scenarios that would never happen in real life. Ass Masters was never able to escape the shackles imposed on him by the career mode, but now he was going to participate in the first ever Nascar Winston Cup event held during a hurricane at Daytona International Speedway.

Nothing is off the table once you let your creativity run free with the custom event options. You can organize a Rallycross event in Dubai during a blizzard years before Trump’s environmental policies make it a normal occurrence. Rounding up a set of 30 go-karts for a hazy, sunset-drenched race on the legendary Nürburgring was a quite a bit more engaging than repeating the same small circuits from the opening of the career mode.

A Value in a Class All Its Own

In a year where many games have arrived light on content and heavy on microtransactions, Project Cars 2 feels like a unicorn. Not once during my playing time was I ever prompted to buy cyber currency or shortcuts to locked content. For players engaged with the simulation-style approach, the amount of options and ways to customize the experience are staggering. The front end menus are bursting with toggles and sliders. While I did not test the game with a VR headset, Oculus and Vive users will be presented with a vast amount of options and can launch the game directly into VR modes via Steam. Graphics setting junkies will find an exhaustive assortment of configuration possibilities, including the fine-tuning of the post-processing features that obscure the field of view, like lens flares, dirt, or raindrops.

Any players that are serious about taking in the full Project Cars 2 experience will need a steering wheel, shifter and pedals. While it is much more forgiving for gamepad users than the original, deep progression and understanding vehicle feedback requires dedicated hardware. It lacks the rumble trigger feedback support present in the Forza games and the audiovisual cues provided will pale in comparison to what the player can experience with a force feedback wheel setup. While the heavy tilt towards simulation provided by Project Cars 2 is not really in my wheelhouse, I can still objectively see it for what it is, a love letter to driving that hardcore players will find irresistible. 8 out of 10 Shake ‘n Bakes

Reviewed on a PC equipped with an Intel 7700K, 16GB DDR4, and nVidia GTX 1080 Ti.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

Review for
Project CARS 2
  • Monstrous amount of content
  • Strong optimization on PC
  • Full VR support
  • Extensive racing peripheral support
  • Weather-affected gameplay
  • Intimidating for casual players
  • I don't own a force feedback wheel
  • Would have been better on the Switch
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 20, 2017 9:00 PM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Project Cars 2 Review: Sunday Drivers Need Not Apply

    • reply
      September 20, 2017 9:03 PM


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        September 20, 2017 9:21 PM

        No, you need to break them out again. Shits amazing. Fanatec wheel/pedals and cockpit and shit here, Project Cars 2 + Forza 7 on PC within a week of each other? Glorious days for sim racing

        • reply
          September 20, 2017 9:30 PM


          • reply
            September 20, 2017 9:40 PM

            Get a PlaySeat Challenge.

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            September 20, 2017 10:16 PM

            Exactly why I got one. Got so tired of hooking it up and unhooking. I was just lucky I had the room.

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          September 20, 2017 9:43 PM

          Forza 7 is terrible to play with a wheel, though. It seems the devs totally focused their input system on the Xbox controller, and wheel support was only an afterthought. The game feels very realistic when you play it with a controller, but with a wheel, it feels like playing Outrun on those 25 year old arcade machines.

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            September 20, 2017 10:17 PM

            Man I just played the Forza 7 demo, no assists, and it feels glorious. I think it has even better real feedback than Project Cars. I was seriously impressed.

            Fanatec ClubSport Elite wheelbase + ClubSport v3 Pedals.

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              September 20, 2017 10:22 PM

              I did have to change some onboard settings on the wheel (not in-game settings) to get things feeling right, but I have to do that to my liking with almost any game.

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                September 20, 2017 11:04 PM

                How can you fix the game software's 180° rotation limit or its +/-2° dead-zone by changing your hardware's settings?

                At 200+ km/h the cars in the Forza 7 demo snap out and oversteer like crazy when I turn my wheel 10°. I'm sure the game translates those 10° of rotation into much more, like 40°, but without showing that in the wheel animation (which maxes out at +/- 90°). The whole input mapping is fundamentally designed for controller input.

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                  September 21, 2017 6:55 PM

                  We're playing it more tonight, will find out some detail. My brother mentioned the oversteer thing but I haven't or didn't notice that myself, Fanatec wheel at 36 or 360 degrees and it does seem to have that range of motion, but perhaps we're not understanding the limitation as you are.

                  If we move the wheel to 90 (or 900 degrees) theoretically increasing the deadzone, it behaves as other games do at 900. Also we're on hood cam so maybe I'll see the wheel stop at 180 in cockpit cam, I wasn't trying that last night. I feel like I need to see your setup and have you here personally to point out what you see, maybe we're having the same problem and don't know it? Again though the more time we see with it, the issue may become obvious.

                  Understeer feedback is amazing though, I think this may be the only game where I can tell without a doubt I've broke loose. It obvious in other areas that you're not going to make the corner (screeching tires, vibrating wheel) but F7 seems to do something a bit more/better with it.

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                    September 21, 2017 8:32 PM

                    Alright yeah it's kinda fucked, I totally see the 180 limit. Sucks, I was having fun with it.

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        September 20, 2017 11:15 PM

        you can just give them to me. thx

    • reply
      September 20, 2017 9:48 PM


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      September 20, 2017 10:28 PM

      IIRC the big knock against pCars 1 was that it didn't have laser-scanned tracks while some competitors did. (Didn't bother me much, I liked pCars 1 well enough.)

      Did they get laser scanning for this one?

      I also wonder which will do better between this and Forza given they are both coming out at the same time. I'm inclined to think Forza will be the better game or at least more popular but I wonder what the big racing fans will think.

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        September 20, 2017 10:59 PM

        Yeah, PCars2 tracks are laser scanned (most of them at least).

        I'm sure Forza will sell more, as will Gran Turismo Sport, as they have much bigger marketing budgets and are also focused on casual racers who play with a controller.

        If you want more authentic racing championships with practice and qualifying sessions, a realistic physics and damage model, and if you have a wheel, then PCars2 is for you. Although supposedly the controller support is way better than in PCars1.

        If you want to quickly jump into 2-3 lap races without practice and qualifying sessions, and play with a controller, then pick Forza.

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      September 21, 2017 7:18 AM

      <3 Ass Masters

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      September 21, 2017 1:18 PM

      SMS is a trash company. Do not support them.

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