The largest Reader Submission we’ve ever received here on PRC.net, avid reader Ruben Galvez Lopez has taken the time to write a lengthy review of the controversial crowdfunded racing sim Project CARS for us, and no aspect of the game has been left ignored. Grab some popcorn, you’re going to be here a while!
Hey James, it’s been a while! I want to send you another piece about Project CARS. I understand the focus switching away from this particular game, by now pretty much everybody knows the kind of train-wreck that awaits them if they bother playing it. But I want to give a bit of insight about the extent of the problems still present in the game now that half a year has gone by since the game hit the shelves.
Cars flying all over the place and weird paranormal shit take the spotlight given their comedy value, and the reports seem to focus in these eye-catching problems. I must say we’ve left that stage behind, and to be fair these incidents are VERY rare these days.
But there sure is work left to do for SMS to get Project CARS anywhere close to becoming reliable. After a good number of hours behind the wheel and a lot of frustration, I think I can make a detailed list of all the problems holding the game back.
The AI are still a bunch of incompetent and lunatic entities living in their own world, driving by their own rules. On top of lacking pace and racecraft, they get away with crazy track cutting. The grass won´t slow them down, the gravel won´t do anything to them, the high curbs won´t upset them… and they sure make good use of that. Having said that, their behavior changes from class to class, ranging from completely worthless to OK-ish. I´m not too fussed about it since I´m a multiplayer guy, but a lot of people purchased the game after promises of an amazing career mode. That’s something you’ll never have without decent AI, and this game doesn’t have it.
Tires also suffer from crazy leaps in quality when you switch from class to class. Some tires change nicely over their life cycle: they show noticeable and progressive wear, they react to overheating losing instant grip and wearing faster… while some others are utter failures. The Pirelli Trofeo shows absolutely no trace of wear, and it feels exactly the same all through its life. The wear indicator goes down and the tire remains in perfect condition. It feels the same at 90% life and at 10% life. You just keep driving EVEN MORE laps on it and it keeps full grip with the indicator showing no rubber left (which means it´s running on the carcass according to SMS/WMD guys) and, surprise, you´re still doing PB’s. Then at some point you pick tire damage, and that’s it. On top of that, the tire is inmune to overheating: no matter at what temperature you run it, it will have the same grip levels if the tire is green, orange or red on the indicator. Here’s a video explaining what I mean.
Anyway, it´s not a specific problem, plenty of other tires show all sorts of problems: intermediate tires being useless in some classes (wets being faster regardless of how wet the track is and how hot they´re running), absurdly low wear levels making medium and hard compounds pointless… The kind of stuff you would expect to be tweaked during beta stage still needs heavy work in a lot of classes.
There’s also a huge problem regarding camber settings: For some reason they have a huge influence on straight line speed, and almost no effect on the lateral grip levels. You´ll see everybody running negative camber levels close to 0 to avoid carrying a virtual parachute down the straights. And it doesn’t stop there: playing with the camber levels and tire pressures will do nothing to the inside-middle-outside tire temperatures. 0 degrees of camber won’t melt the outside of your tire, -5 degrees won´t melt the inside: The temperatures barely change even with extreme adjustments. As a result, you can´t use temperatures as a guideline to select your camber levels and your tire pressures. This makes me wonder what the hell is wrong under the hood of the game, as even basic stuff like this doesn’t react the way it should.
Pitstops are also completely flawed in many senses. They finally managed to -almost- stop players from leaving the pits with tires they didn’t want or random fuel levels. This bug barely manifests anymore. But some utterly stupid design decisions still remain in place. You have to wait until the pit lane entry to modify the work your pit crew will have to do, and if your team is in the first pitbox, any strategy change means being stopped with your crew waiting while you fight with the menus. The pit stop duration doesn’t change to match the times you see in real life: the stops are outrageously slow even in series as Formula 1, and that completely changes the optimum strategy in a competitive race.
Carrying excessive fuel around the track is often better than running as light as possible with your desired strategy, all because the re-fuel rate is so slow that the weight penalty of carrying fuel around is negated by the need of taking more liters once you pit. Repairs are FREE: you can get new aero bits, brakes and even A NEW ENGINE in every pit stop, and the stop will last exactly the same time as it would do otherwise… Again, this opens chances to silly exploits like running a wastegate pressure that would normally mean a retirement, or closing the brake ducts and destroying your brakes every stint.
The user interface doesn’t escape stupid decision making either: Some critical data is entirely missing from the telemetry on the HUD. If your car doesn’t have a MOTEC display in the car´s virtual wheel or dash, you can´t check water and oil temperatures without 3rd party apps. That means you are completely blind to set your cooling levels for a lot of cars, and you´re forced to run an outrageously draggy car (or do shitloads of trial runs) to make sure you´ll last the distance.
Collisions are deeply flawed: cars get “glued” together when they touch laterally. Door to door contact in a corner will mean both cars going wide together, only recovering control once they slow down almost to a stop. You can imagine the effect this has on GT classes where contact is very common, and God save us when the oval content is released. It´s not going to be pretty. It´s hard to explain, but again you can see it in action at 4:10-4:40 in this video:
The game lacks fidelity to the real cars in terms of performance. A lot of cars do lap times several seconds faster than their real life counterparts. Their Formula B car -an unlicensed second tier single seater akin to GP2- can beat with a full tank of fuel the current generation Formula 1 pole position times. Their Lotus 98T , in downpour conditions, can lap Monza several second faster than the 2008 F1 cars did in similar conditions. You can brake as much as 50 meters later in this 1986 death trap than Vettel or Hamilton were doing in 2008, you can corner faster than them, and it´s not all that hard to put the power down in this 1000hp turbo-lagging beast.
The replays are completely broken. The array of bugs includes cars entirely missing from saved replays, wrong cars and liveries being shown on rival cars, retired cars remain parked in their grid spot ruining any start finish line shot, long replays crashing if you rewind, weird warping engine sounds from rival cars, your car being much louder than the rest, the wrong steering rotation angle being shown on on-board cameras…
By now you must be already be thinking “the game really stinks”, but only now do the extremely bad bugs manifest themselves…
The game crashes. A lot. Some combos are just impossible to race. The Audi R8 road car can´t handle bottoming down, and it can do all sorts of crazy shit every time it touches down. The car might switch off. Or stop instantly from 250 km/h. Or freeze the game. Again, it´s not a one car issue. Last couple of weeks we have tried to get an endurance championship going on. The game crashed on me in round 1. The game crashed on me a dozen times during practice for round 2. The game crashed for me again four laps into the second round. And it´s not only me, 7 out of 15 racers got a game crash during round 2. And believe me, it sure wasn’t an obscure or rare combo: the PS4 version of the game simply couldn’t handle LMP1 cars running around Spa for 90 minutes. The game is running on 6.0 version right now, and it is far, FAR more crash prone than on release. And it wasn’t any more reliable back then!
Project CARS is also dangerous for your hardware. Yeah, you heard that right. Some weird bugs make your wheel do erratic shit sometimes when you are leaving or joining a session: you can find yourself without FFB at all as you exit the pits, your wheel can start turning on its own at crazy speed as the loading screen disappears, you might get a weird canned FFB effect that makes your wheel vibrate massively every time your front wheels slide… It’s Russian Roulette.
My wheel has damage close to the left full lock position because sometimes the game would make it turn for no reason in the menus, so it has hit full lock at warp speed like 100 times by now. When it auto-calibrates, I need to help it starting to turn right once it has found left full lock because it gets sticky there. I’ve had to unplug it in the middle of sessions to avoid damage as that strange vibration FFB effect I mentioned kicked in.
Seeing DLC coming out at a steady pace while the game remains in this condition feels like a kick in the groin. To end the submission, I want to give everybody an advice: Stay the hell away from PCARS2. It’s not only about punishing these scammers for their dishonest behavior with this game, think for a second what are the chances of them releasing a solid product next time! Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…
Damn. Well first I obviously need to say thanks for throwing a 1,500 word review at us, because not only does it give us something to post on a relatively slow Saturday, but having a Project CARS guy sit down and explain exactly what’s wrong with the game, front to back, is doing a great service to our readers. I don’t own Project CARS, my time has been limited to illegally downloaded copies of Version 1.3 and Version 5.0 (plus the final few WMD builds), so I’ve never invested the laps required to unearth every game-breaking aspect that Slightly Mad Studios ban users for talking about.
It’s unfortunate to see what’s become of this game, and how the community was turned upside-down to get to this point. Look, crowdfunding isn’t always a bad thing, but turning investors into viral marketers hell-bent on spreading the gospel of pCars… There was no room for error the moment that approach was taken, and unfortunately the game shipped in a state where game-breaking bugs were the main highlight. If there’s anything to be learned from the tragedy of Project CARS, it’s that the sim community is extremely gullible.