I mean, you all knew a post on this topic was coming at some point, so let’s just address the elephant in the room and bring ourselves up to speed with virtually every other sim racing outlet on the planet.
Early yesterday morning, Slightly Mad Studios finally took the covers off of the sequel to their 2015 crowd-funded racing simulator after a few select weeks of the odd leak or two, revealing Project CARS 2 to the masses with a ninety second official trailer followed by an influx of gameplay footage captured by third party journalists – who were most certainly under an embargo. Like all new games, there’s certainly a lot to talk about; new cars, new tracks, new weather, and improved visual fidelity, but like all new games, the immediate surrounding coverage just isn’t what a lot of people interested in this game want to see.
Let’s take it from the top.
Compared to the mundane placeholder introduction that was uploaded a short while ago as a “leaked official trailer”, the short cinematic piece tossed across all major gaming outlets does a much better job at conveying information the original failed to do; only focusing for a brief period of time on the title’s obvious increase in visual fidelity compared to other simulators before showcasing lots of AI pack racing that appears to display a much more competent field of computer opponents this time around – one of the original version’s most damning issues. I wanted to be shown the game has improved rather than told, and I feel the guys at SMS did a decent job with this, despite it being a bit on the short side.
Every other website has combed through all of the available footage in an effort to create a thorough list of the new content featured in Project CARS 2, so I’ll withhold any elongated commentary on that portion of the title in favor of a much simpler summary: there are clearly a lot of new car makers that have been willing to play ball with Slightly Mad Studios this time around, and though some of the bigger websites have suspiciously remained silent about specific licenses, leaked images we’ve discovered a while back, as well as the “leaked official trailer”, indicate the big three European super car manufacturers – Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini – will all make numerous appearances. Obviously, these are brands sim racers really want to drive, and I’m impressed that the traditionally boastful Slightly Mad Studios have not begun waving their dicks around after acquiring certain licenses in an effort to temporarily distract their customers. We’ve seen before how that approach can only go so far with the trio of Porsche packs released by Kunos Simulazioni.
The track roster has also seen a substantial increase as well, with Daytona, Long Beach, and Fuji Speedway all showing up at some point throughout the publicized videos – and I’m sure there are more to come. I’ve said this before in my analysis of Project CARS 2, and I’ll bring it up yet again – even if you’re not particularly excited for what Slightly Mad Studios are currently building, they’re certainly doing their best to cram the game full of content in a manner similar to ToCA Race Driver 3.
On paper, it looks okay. At least there’ll be a lot to see and do.
But unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on the most important aspect of Project CARS 2 – the raw, unfiltered gameplay. And this is because either Slightly Mad Studios, or their overlords at Bandai-Namco, have created a hardcore racing simulator intended to be a step above what Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo offer, yet conduct their promotional campaign in a traditional mass market manner, leading to a situation where the people Project CARS 2 was created for, still don’t know very much about the game despite all of this media buzz. I don’t really care for assigning specific blame here, the point is that none of this is what sim racers wanted to see.
It’s very hard to learn about what this game does differently or improves upon compared to it’s predecessor, when all YouTube footage uploaded immediately after the embargo had been lifted features people who can barely drive in a straight line. Unlike the Grand Theft Auto franchise, where the emphasis is on exploration and experimentation rather than player skill, being able to drive a virtual race car efficiently is the key to getting the most out of a hardcore racing simulator. I mean, this is a large portion of the reason why many PC racing sims barely ship with any features aside from basic race options – the goal is to simply go faster than your previous outing, and better yourself as a driver.
And unlike Grand Theft Auto – where an entire world of variety shows and comedic sketches exist to entertain the masses within Rockstar’s sandbox – on the race track, a tenth is a car length, and a half second is your reputation.
The customers who will sit and play this game long after release want to know about aerodynamic elements of certain vehicles, tire heating patterns, and what the new dynamic weather does differently compared to the old dynamic weather. Yes, it’s ridiculously nerdy stuff, but the people playing these games are ridiculously nerdy. We’re talking about a racing simulator where you can sit down and participate in a full twenty four hour endurance event if you choose to, not something with takedowns and traffic checking. What I’m getting at, is that a teenager barely managing to stay on-track does nothing to inform the core audience – who will play this game well through the end of its life span, buying every last piece of DLC you churn out – still have no idea what they should be getting excited about.
I think I’m going to get in big trouble for mentioning this, but there were talks – just talks people, calm your shit – about having somebody from PRC attend the Project CARS 2 reveal party at the Mercedes Winter Driving Test Track somewhere in Sweden. I straight up declined the offer, suggesting the folks at SMS to pursue our boy Sev instead (as it’s less of a logistical travel nightmare considering he’s already in Europe), but at the end of the day priority was given to mainstream gaming media regulars; the kinds of people whose job it is to evaluate everything from FIFA and Grand Theft Auto to obscure lesbian walking simulators and Super Mario Galaxy for major publications.
Which is okay; it’s their job to do so, while for us it’s just a hobby, and it’s wrong to snub them of actual work. Personally, we don’t mind missing out on an event like this in the end, as it saves us a literal shit-storm in our comments section, but at the same time, there ends up being a legitimate downside when you don’t have actual wheelmen checking out your game; sim racers who can ask the tough questions and tell curious fellow hobbyists eagerly anticipating this title exactly what they want to know.
The initial unedited gameplay footage is borderline unwatchable and can’t be used in any meaningful way, and the hardcore simulator guys whom the franchise was primarily constructed for back in late 2011, still don’t have their questions answered, because the initial influx of videos never gets to that point.
I don’t want to make people sit through others crashing and bashing their way through a hardcore simulator, so I’ll just attach the following screenshot to make my point very clear: I was really hoping to learn about what may entice me to purchase Project CARS 2 on launch day, and instead I saw multiple videos of people who – in a very general sense – struggle with the tutorial mode; jacking up all of the driving assists and still plowing into other cars while naming their videos titles such as “how to racing-sim like a not idiot.”
It’s easy to make fun of these people and call them noobs for their inherent lack of skill, but in a situation where literally nobody knew anything about this game prior to, well, today, it’s important as a company to properly establish why previous customers and those on the sidelines should get excited about the next product. After six minutes and fifty one seconds of watching this dude skid all over the place, I have the exact same questions about the game as I did before clicking play.
That’s not good.
This footage is supposed to almost double as ground-level marketing material to get me excited about Project CARS 2, and instead I’m clicking off thirty seconds into a clip because the guy behind the wheel has an intolerably bad set of skills. I’m intentionally watching your videos to learn more about the game, but then I’m also intentionally leaving prematurely primarily because I’m not learning anything and being subjected to someone playing the game so poorly it doesn’t show off any of the fancy new features. Back to the drawing board.
What’s also not good, is that now you’ve basically come out and revealed that a lot of these very important gaming journalists invited on a special trip can barely play your game. Let’s look past the obvious “we threw a private party for critics” thing here, because I can and most certainly will knock that all day, but I’d like to sit down and examine what’s Bandai-Namco and Slightly Mad Studios have accidentally put on display. Members of the gaming press – the same individuals or colleagues of said individuals who will undoubtedly review Project CARS 2 later in the year – are incompetent when it comes to race car simulators. Their own YouTube videos clearly put that on display for the world to see. And we’re not talking “I lose more games of FIFA than I win, but I still sort of know what I’m doing and just play shitty defense because I’m lazy” incompetence, oh no, this is like, “driving a barbie jeep drunk at 3am on the night of your bachelor party ” incompetence.
Mute the volume, ignore the narrators reading from a list of features, and just watch the driving for a turn or two from the official PlayStation Access channel. It’s excruciating. I’ve seen homeless men have more control over downhill shopping cart drag races than this guy piloting the Mercedes AMG GT3 – and those Safeway carts don’t come with anti-lock brakes, input filters, or traction control.
Unmute the volume, and one of the narrators refers to an online race as a match.
Obviously, video games don’t discriminate, and there’s no qualifications per se when it comes to hardcore racing simulators, but how are the same people who can’t drive a virtual car more than fifty feet in a straight line, supposed to accurately assess a modern racing simulator? It will be extremely suspicious if one of the outlets that proudly displayed their lack of car control on YouTube suddenly gives the game a score of 95 come the fall of 2017, so as a marketing team in charge of organizing this stuff, why even let that kind of situation arise in the first place?
It’s extremely poor foresight.
Yes, Project CARS 2 has been officially revealed after months of speculation and weeks of leaks, but we still don’t know anything useful about it from a sim racer’s perspective. Yes, there’s more content. This was obvious from day zero. But the new weather effects, refined handling model, Livetrack 3.0, and even the built-in league functionality – things sim racers really do want to understand and learn more about – have been temporarily relegated to the level of marketing buzzwords in favor of a very mundane and excruciating mass-market approach, which sees non-drivers attempt to play a game they wouldn’t otherwise purchase for their home console setup after clocking out.
And as a result, dedicated sim racers, the crowd this franchise has been built for, funded by, and originally named after, have been left completely in the dark as to what they can expect this fall.