It’s supposedly a leak, and not the final production Slightly Mad Studios have intended to upload on a public platform this far ahead of schedule, but proper moving footage of Project CARS 2 has finally graced every major sim racing publication – save for VirtualR, who openly state their allegiance to Slightly Mad Studios – early yesterday morning. Regardless of whether you loved Project CARS for the admittedly hefty return on investment it provided, were indifferent towards its existence, or downright hated it for a plethora of justifiable reasons, there’s a sequel coming later this year, and the marketing push isn’t that far away from kicking off.
As fellow PRC writer Severin Austerschmidt has been invited into the WMD program for Project CARS 2 as a guest of none other than Ian Bell himself, tasked with providing a consistent amount of feedback as the game nears completion, a lot of our readers have been curious as to how we would cover the “release” of this trailer. Would we pretend it didn’t exist, endlessly praise it in a not-so-subtle nod to our alleged overlords at Slightly Mad Studios, or rip it to bits in classic PRC fashion?
Today, I’m here to answer that question.
I don’t think the trailer is very good, and I’m left very underwhelmed by its contents. Yes, I’m aware that this is a “leak” of sorts, and Slightly Mad Studios didn’t intend for it to circulate in this manner, but it was still built primarily to introduce what the game is all about, and they could have done a much better job with the tools they have available. I’m told that this is currently the opening movie for the beta tester version of the game, so it can partially be forgiven that it’s an elaborate artsy-fartsy dickwaving piece primarily showing off fancy weather effects, but in my opinion it just doesn’t convey what an artistic piece of footage centered around Project CARS 2 should be doing this far away from release. You knew it would be in the hands of the general public sooner or later, so why not prepare for that specific scenario?
Let’s get all the fun stuff out of the way first. Yes, there’s Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ford, the Long Beach Street Circuit, Rallycross, and even a Jaguar XJ220. The commercial success of the first game, coupled with Porsche’s newfound freedom away from the stranglehold of EA’s exclusive license, appears to have exponentially grown the list of content for Project CARS 2. There’s a serious increase in the number of cars and tracks compared to the original release back in 2015, so if the team get it right, there won’t be a shortage of stuff to do. I’m officially recognized as the number one Project CARS critic in the universe, but credit where credit is due, those of you who pick the game up when it releases this fall – or potentially Christmas – will have no shortage of things to race.
But new licenses and a host of impressive new weather effects – including snow and dynamic standing water accumulation – aren’t features that are particularly high on the list of priorities for hardcore sim racers.
And they’re the ones who the game was built for, right?
The first trailer for Project CARS 2 has been directed in a way that appears to introduce what the franchise is about, rather than show off why we should be getting excited about the sequel. I find that to be a bit silly; we already know what kind of game you’re getting with Project CARS – it’s been less than two years since the first one came out, and that was preceded by four years of both traditional previews and elaborate viral marketing campaigns. Project CARS certainly isn’t reaching Enthusia Pro Racing or D1 Grand Prix 2005 levels of obscurity, it’s a franchise that rose from the ashes of Need for Speed Shift & GTR 2, currently poses a very real threat to Gran Turismo on the PlayStation 4, and acts as an alternative to Forza Motorsport on the Xbox One. Composing a trailer nearly identical to the first – with close up shots of new additions to the lineup sitting comfortably in a showroom followed by boring landscape shots and the occasional car whizzing past the camera – does nothing to really blow us away and say “holy shit, when does this come out?”
And that’s very important. You knew your army of WMD members would undoubtedly leak the first moving pictures of this title sooner or later; you can’t have something so underwhelming in the hands of the public. You have to hit them hard and make them say “you know what? I didn’t like the first one because I felt let down by it, but this looks hella cool.”
This is because the original Project CARS wasn’t all that well received by the hardcore sim racing community it was originally built both by and for over a period of four years. Though the game fared well with mainstream publications – who are tasked with reviewing everything from Dark Souls to FIFA and sometimes don’t have the specialty skills to evaluate a hardcore simulator in their arsenal – sim racers who were originally hoping to use Project CARS as their go-to simulator for the next couple of years came away from the product fairly disappointed with the end result. Issues with nVidia’s PhysX plugin often resulted in bizarre irregularities like what you see documented above, whereas traditional users like myself not intentionally trying to break the game found the Career mode very bare-bones, the artificial intelligence well off-pace, and the menus extremely confusing – and that’s before we get to the actual driving portion. I’m not saying the entire game is a write-off, but for everything Project CARS got right, it got three other elements horrendously wrong, and a lot of users felt burned by it. Some cars were a lot of fun, others were downright perplexing in how they handled. Some tracks were incredibly accurate, others – like Sonoma Raceway in northern California – were anything but.
It wasn’t what a lot of people expected after four years in development, and because of this, they’re justifiably weary about the sequel. Introducing the game to the world with a near identical trailer that showcases visual fidelity above all else does nothing to calm our fears about the upcoming product.
Where’s the field of AI cars slicing and dicing among each other, now sticking to the track limits instead of aimlessly wandering into barriers they shouldn’t even contemplate running into. If there’s something as complex as standing puddles, please tell me there’s a dynamic racing line as we’ve seen in other simulators such as rFactor 2 and iRacing. You don’t need to tell us it exists with some length explanation in a developer diary, show it to us in action. Yes, you’ve acquired the Long Beach Street Circuit… but can we race IndyCars there? Give us a brief shot of Graham Rahal’s Honda tearing up the final sector. Let’s see cars rubbing fenders without being glued to each other and shooting off into the barrier. How about a clip of mixed class racing with a field of competitors that’s appropriate for the given discipline? Sim racers had to create their own app just to arrange an appropriate field of AI cars for endurance racing events… Will they have to do the same in Project CARS 2?
You don’t have to acknowledge the flaws of the first release and publish a list of things you fixed in the trailer to satisfy thirty people on RaceDepartment – merely show us things that weren’t possible in the original game. As a customer, I want to see “oh shit, they got oval racing AI working after not including it in the first game, I’m pumped!” A McLaren P1 sitting in a dark showroom does nothing to retain my interest after I’ve seen the same McLaren sitting in Forza’s showroom… and Assetto Corsa’s showroom… and DriveClub’s showroom… That sort of thing.
Yes, there were a lot of new cars, tracks, and weather options. Hooray! More things! All the things! Exclusive things!
But I didn’t learn anything about the sequel, and that really matters when many placed the first rendition of Project CARS firmly in the ehhhhhh territory. The bottom line is that I wasn’t captivated by what I saw. It was structured in the same manner as the original; cars in a showroom, look at these pretty graphics, and extreme close-ups featuring mere snippets of racing action where everything held together just long enough for it to be included in the video. I wanted to know why I should get excited about this game, and this trailer never once brought me to that point. Sure, it’s something internal, created as a placeholder or whatever, but Slightly Mad Studios knew one of their rabid fans would send it out to the general public sooner rather than later.