Project Cars 2 has more track locations, cars, and game modes. It has a higher resolution of up to a staggering 12K on PC, it has Oculus and Vive support, it has dynamic weather, and the addition of Rallycross, Ice Racing, and IndyCar races. This sequel has everything the original had; but more.
A Refined Experience
The core game is still hard as nails to beginners on first look; but the sliding difficulty scale makes sure everyone has a chance to shine, once they peer into the depths of the vast customisation systems on offer here.
The control you have over your car feels more refined in this instalment, and spending time with the improved experience really builds your skills over time.
After investing an hour or two practicing a course and tuning your setup – be it by the advice of the in-game race engineer, or for the more articulated gear-head, by fiddling with your setup directly, you’ll garner great joy from hitting the apex perfectly and slamming the accelerator with ease into the straight and overtaking an opponent triumphantly, as they lose the racing line and flounder in the smoke of your tires.
The plethora of tracks and weather conditions here is vast – with nearly 200 cars, and over 140 track layouts, all with dynamic weather and time cycles that you can customise.
Virtual Reality vs. Reality
You’re still going to be better off with a proper racing wheel setup for Project Cars 2, which offers the most intuitive way to play in cockpit mode, and a VR setup will also help to truly get the most out of the pristine simulation on offer here. That’s not to say playing on a standard PS4 with a controller doesn’t deliver a satisfying level of immersion, as I found it deeply enjoyable on such a setup. It’s just worth pointing out that the extra features here are definitely worth investing in for the more hardcore fans of the series and those looking for the most realistic experience.
Speaking of realism, the quality of graphics on consoles isn’t perfect. Playing on console offers a good experience, but crowd and background textures appear a bit muddy even in gameplay on some tracks – on the other hand, the track and car animations and textures are as good as it gets, with dirt, damage, and even the tarmac beneath you showing some serious attention to detail across all console iterations.
But there is bad news for those of us who haven’t yet opted to upgrade to a PS4 Pro – I noticed screen tearing when there was a lot of action with multiple cars on screen, and it recurred multiple times whilst I was playing, accompanied by frame stuttering.
With a PS4 Pro, you’ll get a fairly solid 60FPS out of it, as opposed to the occasional 20FPS catastrophes I experienced once or twice whilst going round a bend and getting shunted by AI on the base console.
Despite these issues, it’s a good looking game on consoles with a few problems, but the best experience is obviously reserved for those with PC systems capable of running this game in its incredible 12K resolution, and for whom frame stutter is a sign that an upgrade is needed.
The single player mode is a similar fare to what was available in the original Project Cars, but with more variety on offer, and with the two highest tiers locked until you progress towards them from whatever tier you choose to start at this time around.
Each has it’s own roster of unique cars that, like in the original Project Cars, feel entirely different to each other. The one common thing between all disciplines and cars is the feeling you get, that you really are a driver progressing through a career.
The progression can be long and arduous, or short and easy, as you can customise the gameplay to your hearts content. Despite this being the most realistic driving simulator I’ve ever played, it really is possible for avid driving game players to hop into the single player mode and come out victorious – and for the seasoned player to exceed his limits and fail miserably.
Project Cars 2 online component is set up to allow a non-toxic and fair racing environment with a new feature – a Competitive Racing License.
This keeps track of an individuals reputation, which can be set as an entry requirement for lobby’s, allowing players to shut out those who continually shunt cars out of their way Burnout style, and have a good, fair race between like-minded players.
It also tacks a players ’strength’, matching you with rival racers of similar capability.
From the time I spent online, racing from karts to Indy Cars, I loved every second of shaving milliseconds off of lap times, and equally loathed myself for spinning out on the last corner, knocking myself from the podium.
This is truly an incredible online experience, and it will have you so engaged you’ll come out the other end of a race feeling like you just did it for real. I could barely reach for a drink when I found myself thirsty a few hours into online play, for fear of veering of course and crashing my way out of a race. I even considered going out and buying a CamelBak, before realising it might be time to put the controller down for a minute.
Project Cars 2 takes everything that made its predecessor great, and improves and expands it to perfection. Poor optimisation for consoles is a disappointment, but it still is a peerless driving simulation that true gear-heads will love, and it will surely deliver longevity through its online component and deep single-player options for some time to come.
Project Cars 2
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco
- Developed By: Slightly Mad Studios
- Genre: Racing
- US Release Date: September 22nd, 2017
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Project Cars 2 takes everything that made its predecessor great, and improves and expands it to perfection."