While the usual list of sim racing outlets are adhering to a strict collection of officially released media from Slightly Mad Studios when it comes to covering their upcoming racing simulator, Project CARS 2, hardcore sim racers found deep within the semi-private forums of both Kunos Simulazioni and Sector 3 Studios are sharing an abundance of yet-to-be-revealed information with fellow community members about the title. Dancing carefully around treacherous non-disclosure agreements and other unmentioned contractual obligations, rogue virtual auto racing enthusiasts are doing their best to bring unbiased info about the simulator to an audience who will not fall for vanilla marketing tactics accompanied by generic promotional material.
And that means it’s our turn to shine a spotlight on these revelations. Images of the built-in online league functionality found inside the online portion of Project CARS 2 have surfaced on the official Assetto Corsa forum of all places, indicating sim racers should expect a very streamlined experience that will see the software itself handle the heavy lifting of running an online league – a fantastic change in pace compared to how previous simulators traditionally required the work of a few dedicated individuals just to open a private lobby for the series itself. All of the inane, time-consuming bullshit of running a private rFactor or Automobilista league will now be contained completely within the application itself in a very Madden or FIFA-like sub-menu, allowing users to focus primarily on the racing element while the game handles the important bits automatically.
As someone who has spent several years running in private leagues on a number of different isiMotor platforms, the biggest hurdle for any new sim racer to overcome is simply learning how the process of joining an online league works; from registering for obscure message boards and ensuring you’re on the entry list, to downloading several tracks, making sure you have the most recent livery pack, and tracking race-by-race statistics in an external spreadsheet that doesn’t always get updated until a league administrator sets aside the free time to do so, it’s all a bit overwhelming unless you’re absolutely dedicated to the hobby of sim racing.
Slightly Mad Studios have set out to exponentially speed up this process, and it’s very important to give credit where credit is due – this looks phenomenal. Now the only thing required to start a series will be to merely advertise your league on places like Reddit and 4Chan, instead of sitting down and basically building a private community from the ground up, full of individuals dedicated to tracking stats, paying for servers, organizing a livery pack, and all of the external bullshit modern simulators are traditionally known for.
However, none of this matters if the on-track experience isn’t up to par with the rest of the game built around it, and Sector 3 Studios forum member sbtm has answered several questions regarding the actual driving portion of Project CARS 2 for his RaceRoom Racing Experience comrades. His feedback on the simulator is brutally honest, but what may come as a surprise to those who are vehemently against the work of Slightly Mad Studios, is that not everything sbtm has to say about Project CARS 2 is negative. The user notes the Force Feedback menu has been greatly simplified from it’s disastrous first rendition, and on cars deemed to be nearly complete by the team at Slightly Mad Studios in private WMD contributor builds, it’s an entirely different game compared to the original Project CARS – which was blasted by the hardcore community upon its release in 2015 for a very confusing and unpredictable set of physics.
However, there are still some obvious warts given the game is still far from release, as the artificial intelligence are deemed to be “very reckless”, and the vehicles seemingly gluing themselves together upon contact – a problem dating back to the team’s 2009 release with Need for Speed: Shift – is still present. While some of these problems can easily be written off as understandable niggles that will undoubtedly arise during development, the length of their existence draws into question if they’ll ever be fixed in time for the release of Project CARS 2.
After further inquiry, sbtm then goes on to describe how he was genuinely surprised (in a good way) by both the driving model and force feedback effects, instructing readers to “forget Project CARS 1”, as the second iteration of the series drives like an entirely new simulator, believing it to be on par with Assetto Corsa and RaceRoom Racing Experience in what the on-track experience offers the end user. Yet while he’s quick to praise the title for its strengths, he believes the team at Slightly Mad Studios still have a monumental amount of polishing to do before release, as certain elements of the title feel vastly unfinished compared to others. Upon release of the first game in the franchise, many sim racers noted that Project CARS as a retail product felt like it could have used a bit more time in development, so it appears Slightly Mad Studios – at least to our eyes – have once again built a game with so much content, there’s just too much of it to keep to a uniform standard.
For the oval racing fans among us – a big topic of discussion considering oval racing was intentionally left out of the first game due to the inability for Slightly Mad Studios to make the AI drivers perform in an acceptable manner – there is indeed oval racing within Project CARS 2, though sbtm describes it as “a minimal amount to satisfy the needs of North American buyers”, so by this I assume we’re looking at just two or three oval circuits on the roster. Ice racing, which has been heavily advertised in initial previews filmed at the Mercedes-Benz press event, is said to be a gimmick, with sbtm saying the game is so incomprehensibly big and tries to include so many different cars, he doesn’t believe it’ll feel like a cohesive product in the end.
I won’t analyze all of his comments, you’re obviously free to develop your own conclusions from the posts I’ve taken screenshots of, but it appears there are genuine reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Project CARS 2. Boasting an objectively superior driving model, dynamic weather & track surface elements seen in other simulators, a significantly larger roster of content, and built-in league support, it seems as if Slightly Mad Studios have simply tried to build the rFactor 2 that everybody wanted, but Image Space Incorporated and Studio 397 failed to deliver. However, at this point in time, subtle bugs and grievances that have been a stable of products released by Slightly Mad Studios dating back to their days spent working with Electronic Arts on a pair of Need for Speed games also seem to be prevalent, so as a sim racer, it’ll probably boil down to how much you’re willing to put up with.