Project Cars Review: Bringing Up The Rear

After being hit with several delays, Bandai Namco and Slightly Mad Studios are getting set to release Project Cars. But is it a racing game that will gain the mass appeal others in the category have received over the months? Let's find out in our review.

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The world of car-racing games has been in dire need of a true simulator experience given the majority of games released in 2014 have been a mix of arcade and sim. Project Cars is developed by Slightly Mad Studios, which was founded back in 2009 to create their first racing title, Need for Speed: Shift. Since then, Slightly Mad Studios has developed several titles since then with Project Cars being its first realistic driving simulator. After racing through countless tracks around the world and finding myself behind the wheel of a wide variety of vehicles, I can safely say that only realistic driving simulator aficianados need apply. 

Eye of the Beholder

On a powerful PC, Project Cars is visually stunning as many aspects of the game have a high amount of detail to them. Weather effects, realistic vehicle damage, and cockpits are just some of the details I couldn’t get enough of. There’s nothing more beautiful than the setting sun shining in through my windshield as I attempt to overtake other racers to get into a higher position. It looks even more beautiful when I’m leading the pack and I’m able to enjoy the scenery without any distractions.

But if I learned something in my 30-something years on this planet, it’s that beauty is only skin deep and Project Cars is quite shallow in terms of what it offers. Upon logging into Project Cars, I’m presented with the option to start my racing career, partake in a free race, jump in or create an online race, check out community events in Driver Network, or race ghosts in Time Trials. Out of all of these options, the one that took the most of my time was the career mode. I either gained notoriety when I succeeded, or sympathy from my fans when I had an off race. I started in the humble beginnings of kart racing, which then lead me to race super karts and continue moving up to bigger and better vehicles.

Career races were pretty easy to understand at first. I completed a qualifying race to see where I’d place in the actual race that would take place afterwards. The qualifying race also allowed me to tweak my vehicle to perform to my taste, although Project Cars doesn’t offer a tutorial as to what changing each aspect of my vehicle will do. For example: I could increase or decrease the air pressure in my tires, but I have absolutely no knowledge how that would benefit me and I really shouldn’t have to conduct research on the Internet to find out. My pit crew would offer advice from time to time, like recommending getting my tires hot so they’d have better grip, but these tips felt sporadic and weren't catered to my needs.

As I progressed through my career, I was then able to take part in a practice race in addition to a qualifying and actual race. While it allowed me to better prepare for my big race, I found having to partake in so many races to prepare for just one to be more annoying than anything. It also didn't help I would, at times, speed through a track over and over again with no real end during both my practice and qualifying races. I would often result in simulating each race's end, which would mysteriously put me in last place, regardless of my performance.

Accurate to a Fault

There are over 70 vehicles available to drive in Project Cars, and they all look and sound accurate to their real-world representations. I could only assume they also perform just like the real thing as I have never sat behind the wheel of any of these cars, like the BMW Z4 GT3 or McLaren P1. All of my previous video-game driving experience went out the window as I needed to rely on real-world driving mechanics to succeed in Project Cars. Instead of keeping the gas pushed down for the majority of  the race, I needed to ease off of it a lot more as I finessed my car through the twists and turns of each track. I also needed to make sure I didn’t accelerate too far into a turn or else I would find myself sliding off of the track.

Because of that, I feel Project Cars won’t receive the mass appeal games like Forza Horizon 2 or DriveClub have received. Instead, only those who are really into realistic driving simulators may flock towards Project Cars, although they might get bored easily considering there really aren’t any unique game modes either. It carries a sense of realism in spades, but there isn't much under the hood. At least it supports VR headsets, so I could also see those looking to get that level of immersion within their racing games giving Project Cars a shot. Outside of those target demographics, Project Cars will most likely frustrate mainstream racing fans with its real-world driving mechanics, but may entertain realistic driving simulator fans who know their way through similar games. One thing is for sure: Slightly Mad has created one beautiful racing sim that highlights the look and feel of high performace vehicles.


This review is based on a PC Steam code provided by the Bandai Namco. Project Cars will be available in retail stores and in digital marketplaces on May 7 for $59.99. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Review for
Project CARS

6

Pros

  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Accurate real-world driving mechanics
  • High level of immersion

Cons

  • Lack of any unique game modes
  • Extremely long learning curve
  • No tutorial for vehicle tuning

From The Chatty

  • reply
    May 6, 2015 2:00 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Project Cars Review: Bringing Up The Rear

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 5:22 AM

      Seriously? It sounds like you wanted an arcade racer and were disappointed that it's a sim. You don't mention the dynamic weather or time of day changes or anything. There's so many things that are unique to Project Cars that you completely fail to mention. How would you compare this game to Assetto Corsa or other sims? Driveclub and Forza Horizon are in completely other genres. I never understand why they get people who don't even like a certain genre to review games in it.

      • reply
        May 6, 2015 7:36 AM

        I appreciated the review, as it told me exactly what I always want to know when it comes to racing games, which is, 'arcadey or sim?', and 'good or bad'? And I think this was a great review for someone who might be interested in trying a game like Project Cars-this review says 'hey, this might not be the game for you if you're not a hardcore fan of genre.' -that's good advice I think.

        • reply
          May 6, 2015 5:35 PM

          Thanks, Ghostman. At the end of the day, I tried my best reviewing Project Cars. I'm glad there are folks out there who were able to get some help from my review.

      • reply
        May 6, 2015 1:44 PM

        im guessing there's limited staff on hand, here at shacknews. Daniel may have been either the one most interested or with the most genre experiebce amongst the staff, so he gave it a shot. perhaps he couldve mentioned that, whatever.

        super realistic sim racing is kind of a niche genre, after all

        • reply
          May 6, 2015 5:34 PM

          If you check out some of the recent racing game reviews over the past few months, I've been handling them. I enjoy these games the most of staff and I've reviewed Forza Horizon 2, Driveclub, and The Crew for Shacknews.

      • reply
        May 6, 2015 2:38 PM

        I'm extremely disappointed with how rushed out this review appears, I don't think the review was very thorough, not enough time was spent analyzing the game on its merits (as intended by the developer) so there's a complete lack of appreciation for what they set out to achieve as a racing simulator.

        I hate to link metacritic here, but in a way this proves the point that Shacknews is just not qualified to review a game in this genre.
        http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/project-cars

      • reply
        May 7, 2015 1:50 AM

        My thoughts exactly. "Unique game modes"? Seriously? It's not damn Mario Kart, there are no "unique game modes" in motorsport. It's just motorsport. The point of simulation is that you don't make stuff up, or add things that aren't there IRL. This reviewer is like someone who expect PGA Tour to be minigolf, or expects IL-2 Sturmovik have a mode where you have to collect the balloons in a sky race against clock.

        Adding "Unique game modes" would just take all sim-credibility of this game and flush it down the toilet. This game competes with likes of Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, iRacing.

        I can't believe this is supposed to be professional review, it sounds like it was written by teenage girl, who wanted Mario Kart or NFS Most Wanted, and now is sad because it is actually trying to simulate real world circuit racing discipline.

        • reply
          May 7, 2015 2:12 AM

          Actually the career mode is best on market, when put against it's competitors. You don't mention dynamic weather, full day/night cycle, complete pitstop simulation, very fluid multiplayer (all of them features that current top-of-the-crop simulation Assetto Corsa is lacking). This is sim racing, developed by sim racers, people who have wheels, triple screen setups, racing seats, shifter sticks. People who know everything about car setups and have known for 10 years (because the same principles apply to every sim, even a decade back). That's why there is no tutorial. This game is not supposed to be casual racer for masses. It was never marketed as one, developed as one, or anticipated as one. It was supposed to be realistic-to-boot and nothing else, no gimmicks, no nonsense, no dumbing down. And actually it fails on this part, because Assetto Corsa is still top in handling realism + it's more punishing when you lose grip, than this game. If you feel that pCars is "hard to drive" you obviously aren't a simmer, so why review this simulation and embarrass yourself?

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 6:17 AM

      i cant believe this isnt in the psn store for pre-order yet, wtf

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 9:51 AM

      I kinda figured it would be more Simish, wish it was closer to an arcade racee.

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 1:26 PM

      Glad to see this one turned out more sim than arcade, we already have too many arcade racers.

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 1:46 PM

      is this the same game that had that beta/demo that was in that bug test map with all the cazy loops and car crushers and stuff? like a nutty destruction derby? the name seems the same

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 3:12 PM

      watching the two lets plays that Joe posted, seems like he really enjoyed it

    • reply
      May 6, 2015 5:37 PM

      I hate careers that make me start with kart racing, realistic kart handling doesn't transfer well to games.

      • reply
        May 6, 2015 5:45 PM

        You can skip it.

        • reply
          May 6, 2015 5:48 PM

          What, how?

          • reply
            May 6, 2015 6:03 PM

            When you start a career. A screen shows with all the available disciplines. Simply click on the one you want. Project CARS doesn't lock away anything behind game progress like most racing games do.

      • reply
        May 6, 2015 6:01 PM

        That's one thing he didn't mention or didn't know. You can start your career in any class you want. You can start in the prototypes if you want to.

    • reply
      May 7, 2015 7:32 AM

      While I can understand Daniel's score given his review history (Driveclub, The Crew, Horizon2), this review does seem a bit shallow. Multiple reviews have commended the game for its ability to be as difficult or as easy as you want. The game can be a hardcore sim, but you have so many options in terms of driving assists that even a novice can have a great time.

      IGN's Luke Reilly is the go to guy for racing games at that site, and he put it best "Project cars...is not for everybody. It is, however, for anybody."

      All that being said, I don't think it's fair for everyone to jump down Daniel's throat over not liking certain aspects of a hardcore racing sim.

      • reply
        May 7, 2015 4:56 PM

        The problem is he was reviewing a race simulation and dinged it for being a race simulation, and not being an arcade racer like Forza/Driveclub which he probably personally enjoys more.
        I can appreciate his opinion for a personal review like we would see on Steam but not for an official review by a game site like Shacknews which should review the game within the type of genre, it would be like reviewing Pillars of Eternity and complaining about it having too much hardcore RPG party management and not enough random hack and slash like Diablo3. I'm usually a lurker and appreciate Shack reviews but this one is pretty far off from the scores of other good game sites, nothing personal but I just hope the feedback is used in future Shack reviews.

        • reply
          May 8, 2015 7:04 AM

          I'm sorry, but I'd like to chime in with why he ACTUALLY dinged the game. Here's what I read:
          1. The game doesn't explain the effects of making changes to the car. 2. It's shallow; as in the options available were standard, not refreshing or groundbreaking (at least that's my take on that part). 3. It was annoying to have to partake in so many additional practice races before the real race.

          I understand what some commentors are saying about how the game is niche-but what I think many ppl here fail to grasp is that this is a review for EVERYONE. Not just for people who are already into a specific genre. If I casually stumble upon Project Cars in the store as someone who is kind of into racing games, this review is perfect for me to check out before I make a purchase.



          • reply
            May 8, 2015 8:08 AM

            Those features of not explaining the effects of car setup changes and not having any refreshing new or groundbreaking (a.k.a unrealistic) game modes would be the came for any current and past good race *simulators* - i.e. Assetto Corsa, rFactor2, RaceRoom Racing Experience etc, and overlooks the depth of features that are unusual as a simulator (changing track conditions, changing weather, night racing etc)
            I agree that it's very useful info for anyone coming from arcade/console racers like Forza or NFS or DriveClub so that they can know if this game would be interesting to them (i.e. warning folks this is a hardcore sim make sure you're up for that) but the review saying "Accurate to a Fault" and complaining that you can't leave the gas pedal floored through the corners and having those core simulator features affect the score just makes Shack look like they are not up for reviewing simulations and should stick to easy games. Again I say this as feedback for future reviews as a longtime lurker or Shack who actually reads and appreciates the front page and reviews, not just the chatty.

    • reply
      May 14, 2015 6:58 AM

      You gave it an appropriate score but one of your positives is actually a major negative. It's far from a real-life sim because the force feedback is contrived and bland and the handling model is not at all intuitive. When compared to sims like rfactor2, Assetto COrsa and iRacing, this is just a hodge podge of an attempt at being a sim. The force feedback settings in game a disastrous. One shouldn't need a 2 hrs tutorial on how to make the force feedback for wheel users bearable. SHame as it had dynamic weather and sweet eye candy. WMD totally missed the mark.