Better Late Than Never
I know. Project Cars 2 is overdue. You’ve probably read the reviews on other sites (are we allowed to name the sites?) and have made several conclusions based on the ratings that were given, and I’m here to tell you why it took so long for me to get off my ass and start writing it. Project Cars 2, simply is one of the best racing simulators I have played in this Playstation generation.
First things first, some may argue that compared to other full on simulators such as Assetto Corsa and iRacing, Project Cars 2 only ever qualifies as a semi-sim in those eyes, mostly due to lack of extensive physics and support the former 2 have, but that’s just nitpicking it. At its core, PC2 can still be considered a simulator, very much so compared to the likes of Forza Motorsport 7 and Gran Turismo Sport. Whatever the argument, there’s definitely no denying that PC2 has polished all of its shortcomings and added new things to the table, so much that it makes the first iteration pretty much obsolete.
Let’s talk campaign. The campaign modes here are essentially similar to the previous outings, you’re given a choice from starting out at the very bottom (karting), and work your way up through the disciplines into the top-tier, from which you can compete in multiple top-tier disciplines and earn the coveted racing triple crown. All in all, there are 29 racing series to suit your fancy, and you’re allowed to start from whichever you choose. Wanna go into the classic racing league first? Go right ahead. Want to start in a one-make series instead? Why not? Only the top tier leagues are locked, inserting a sense of progression as you crunch your way through. The locking of the leagues also encourages you to try out the lower powered machines first and learn the car and discover your driving style. Speaking from experience, it’s not really a wise idea to jump straight into an LMP1 Le Mans car after driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10.
The segments are also broken off by the occasional manufacturer invitations, basically becoming a test driver for the factories taking you away from the racing for a simple cruise down the highway or basically just trashing a really expensive car that you would normally not be able to, much less afford to do in the first place.
The handling model has been refined to no end. Straight out of the box, the controls are weighted nicely and feel planted. I never got the opportunity to test it out on the steering wheel, but the response and feel on the controller is second to none. Season yourself enough, and you’ll notice that the slicks feel stickier and require more effort to turn in. You can catch a skid by balancing the throttle and be on your way. The game encourages you to be aware of the wear and temperature that you’re putting on the tyres with its real-time telemetry data, training you and teaching you to conserve your tyres, adjust your suspension, and fuel mapping to be as efficient and effective in a race. Cars with huge wings and higher downforce values will feel noticeably more stable during high-speed corners than cars without, and failing to manage your tyre temperature will result in you not taking a corner at the speed that you’re used to, or skidding out. Factors such as these help the player to be more acutely aware of how their car is performing, putting strategy as a much much more decisive factor than a fast lap time.
Coupled with a massive selection of tracks, you’re pretty much selling a bit of your soul to the devil. Look at it this way. PC2’s track count is thrice the amount that GT Sport has to offer, and almost four times the layout. The game includes cult classics in various formats as well as old race tracks like the full sized Hockenheim circuit, as well as historical venues like when Spa-Francorchamps was still just a road with metal dividers, and Monza in its more dangerous layout, without the chicanes to throttle your speed. The track selection is massive, and the budding enthusiast can easily sink days trying to perfect their racing lines and lap times. Top it off with customizeable weather slots, and you’ll have chaos on your hands. If you’ve never tried to drift your Lotus 98T in a heavy blizzard at 10 PM in the Dubai Autodrome, now’s your chance to do just that. Ridiculous weather changes only add more variety to the plate; seeing racecars skid around in total disarray is hilarious when the rallycross machines get through just fine.
Which brings me to the selection of cars. PC2 carries roughly the same amount of vehicles as most triple A racing titles, but are vastly more varied in terms of disciplines. Pick your fancy from road cars, track cars, classic cars, IMSA race cars, Indy cars, open-wheel cars, rally cars, drift car, rallycross cars. The curated selection brings about more than enough disciplines to play around with, and with the addition of the Japan car pack, bolsters the selection of Nissan and Honda vehicles at the player’s dispose. A personal favourite of mine to play around with is the Honda 2+4 Concept, essentially a motorbike on 4 wheels, that’s easy to wring out of its comfort zone and playful with its skids. The only problem is that even with a huge selection, someone who’s been through the list will eventually gravitate towards a few, discouraging experimentation and variety. However, the sound redeems everything. There’s nothing more visceral than the growl of an AMG GTR, nothing more piercingly loud than a LaFerrari. Turbo wastegates can clearly be heard dumping charge when one releases the throttle, and whooshing when the accelerator is stepped on. It’s an aural joy to be blasting down the Bathurst straight howling in a classic Porsche flat-six before stepping off only to be treated by a frenzy of flames from the exhaust, accompanied by the squeaks and clunks as the chassis strains against the G-force. It’s beautiful.
Even after countless tries, I still managed to screw up my laps. Just goes to show how incredibly steep Project Cars’s learning curve is.
The online mode too is a joy to be in, drivers are very respectful towards each other and follow the rules of racing so that everyone has an enjoyable experience. The game also includes several esports mechanics, such as the ability to broadcast and commentate on races while it is ongoing, potentially making PC2 a platform for competitive racing other than GT Sport.
The only gripes I have with this game are that the rules are ridiculously strict. Sometimes it punishes you when you’re not at fault and will force you to give up your position so as not to incur a penalty when it the AI was the one who forced you into accidentally cutting the track. Not only that, the AI too can get pretty imbalanced. For example, if the AI is set to aggressive, not accelerating and following the correct lines will result in the other cars punishing you by hitting your back and basically create a catastrophe as you and 10 other opponents spin out. It’s one that requires a bit of finesse in perfecting the setting to your skills, but I have yet to discover mine yet.
Apart from that, PC2 is an amazing game that completely encapsulates the rawness of motorsport in a game. The little details add so much more to the feel and environment, essentially making the game rich in detail. Couple that with being able to drive rare and expensive historical cars without the fear of crashing hanging over your head is just a magical experience. Only the AI settings and the simulator learning curve were a bit of a downer, but that’s just nitpicking for me.