Though it wasn’t marketed specifically as a hardcore NASCAR or IndyCar simulation, a major reason many owners of Project CARS felt betrayed by Slightly Mad Studios when the title finally hit store shelves in the spring of 2015 was due to the complete omission of oval racing within the simulator. Despite WMD preview builds containing partially constructed versions of Daytona, Charlotte, Bristol, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to compliment the assortment of dedicated oval track cars within the vehicle roster, and an announcement claiming the Indianapolis 500 would be present within career mode, the game we could actually go out and purchase failed to include any of this content whatsoever.
It took several months for Ian Bell and the team at Slightly Mad Studios to address this issue directly, and when they did, it basically came out that the game’s artificial intelligence simply couldn’t handle going around in circles. After a very difficult launch which saw sim racers running out of patience during the process of waiting for routine title updates provided by Slightly Mad Studios, it certainly wasn’t something the average Project CARS owner wanted to hear.
According to a recent leak spotted within a very specific 4Chan thread, it appears Slightly Mad Studios have made it their mission to include oval racing in Project CARS 2. Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Daytona International Speedway are all appearing within the track roster, most likely selected thanks to each venue accommodating multiple racing disciplines. All three feature infield road courses used by a multitude of sports car series, and all three serve as stops on both the NASCAR Monster Energy Series schedule, as well as the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. So while European road racing fans will undoubtedly scoff at the inclusion of stupid American ovals, it’s not like these tracks will be completely ignored by all but North American owners of Project CARS 2.
That being said, many questions still linger about the quality of oval racing in Project CARS 2. The original version of the crowdfunded racing simulator was not known for its complex artificial intelligence, as my own experience with the game across several different platforms warranted numerous situations where the AI cars were unable to complete a full-length event without falling victim to pathetic pit stop strategy or basic pace issues. Oval racing is an entirely different beast compared to road racing, with multiple lines each serving a unique purpose, pack dynamics not always producing an instant “this route is faster” option, and complex tire strategies radically changing the pace of one car with each passing pit stop. These are advanced computer opponent behaviors that were far beyond what the original game could ever hope to accomplish, so I definitely find it hard to believe these hurdles are completely in the rear view mirror.
Online racing, however, might be decent – though we’re unsure if safety cars will appear in Project CARS 2, meaning users might have to conduct their own caution laps.
Regardless, it’s a meaningful piece of info that displays while some have every right to be on the fence about Project CARS 2 given the shaky state of the original game, combined with the reputation Slightly Mad Studios have earned within the sim racing community over the past few years, it’s nice to see photographic evidence of the developer taking aim at something they simply couldn’t get right in time for the first game. The Daytona road course is fantastic and deserves to be in much more than just Forza Motorsport 6 as default content for a mass-market video game, Indianapolis will complement the inevitable inclusion of modern IndyCars, while Texas will give the stock car guys among us a stereotypical cookie-cutter circuit to unleash both eras of NASCAR-spec sedans.