Project Cars 2 is an ambitious follow up to the 2015 original that aims to expand into e-sports while taking on other racing franchise giants with impending releases, such as Microsoft’s Forza and Sony’s Gran Turismo. Developer Slightly Mad Studios has attempted to create an authentic and expansive racing simulator in this incredibly ambitious sequel.
It should be noted that this is not an arcade racer – it aims to be a serious simulation that racing enthusiasts can sink their teeth into. There are settings to tone the simulation down and increase braking and turning assistance to make driving easier, but with all of the assists on it still never feels like an arcade game. Even attempting to play without a wheel and just with a controller can be a test of patience with all of the assists off. Tire physics have been built from the ground up and attention to detail is amazing. Racing feels good – fast and visceral with every bump and turn satisfying. There is an internal damage simulation, but cars do not deform when they are hit, and dirt doesn’t accumulate even over long races.
In Project Cars 2, the vehicles look great, but the rest is graphically underwhelming. Collision animations look janky, some textures are low resolution and weather effects can look downright awful. Rain doesn’t interact with the windshield or wiper blades in a realistic manner, and even fog is somehow marred and unsightly.
There are no pit crew animations, with cars floating in the air oddly before they are let out by their invisible pit crew. The cars themselves look great though, with each interior fully rendered in meticulous detail. There are 180 cars – karts, stock cars, touring cars, indy cars, vintage cars and more. Each car usually has a selection of sponsored paint jobs to choose from. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to set custom livery in career mode, or have your car change appearance based on sponsorships.
There are multiple ways to play Project Cars 2: a career mode that boasts several career paths, multiplayer modes, community events, time trials and custom races. Whichever motorsport discipline you plan to pursue, Project Cars 2’s career path allows you to cross over into others as new opportunities arise. The career mode is pretty extensive – you can start from the very bottom, or at a more advanced tier if you feel like you have what it takes. Start as a kart racer and work your way up to world fame racing super cars.
In addition to the multiple ways to play, Project Cars 2 has 60 tracks that are faithfully recreated from their real-world counterparts with over 130 individual layouts. These tracks represent famous tracks across North America, Asia, and Europe and offer an astounding variety of racing locations. Weather can greatly affect each track, with four seasons of precipitation adding even more variety.
Project Cars 2 supports virtual reality headsets HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and makes for a surprisingly good VR experience. VR support can feel like a tacked on feature, but it fits naturally here. There are some UI bugs, though, with menus that clip through car’s frames, making them hard to read. In addition, the interior scale seems to feel a little off in some cars, but it’s also likely their interior is much more claustrophobic than I anticipated. Unfortunately, there isn’t any support for PlayStation VR headsets at launch.
Slightly Mad Studios has put forth a valiant effort in creating potential with Project Cars 2. It feels like a great base from which to build their planned e-sports endeavors, and their platform-agnostic approach thankfully does away with console exclusivities that its direct competitors thrive on. With Forza Motorsport 7 and Gran Turismo Sport coming out in the next few weeks to their respective consoles, Project Cars 2 feels like a first shot in a war of racing games. Project Cars 2 is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.