It’s obviously going to be a tricky endeavor to address anything related to Slightly Mad Studios here on PRC without endless cries of viral marketing, but given that the launch of Project CARS 2 is only a few short months away, other publications are starting to ramp up their own respective coverage of the title, and our personal involvement with the development of the game, it’s only fair we talk about the multi-platform racing simulator at some point, and there’s no better time to do so than today.
With a scheduled release date September 22nd for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Project CARS 2 is once again aiming to be that next step up from Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, offering auto racing fans a hardcore simulation experience with current generation visuals, and most importantly, without the absurd configuration, file management, and tweaking traditionally required from a niche PC simulator. Bundled with over 180 cars at launch, and a rather stout selection of circuits from around the world, Project CARS 2 is more or less an alternate reality version of rFactor 2, in which Image Space Incorporated had been supplied with near-unlimited funds to acquire as many prominent licenses as possible, and a comparatively massive staff to actually get the game out on store shelves within a reasonable time frame.
PRC’s involvement in the game, as stated in the past, has seen myself placed in a paid position, in which I was basically told to boot up the application each afternoon to poke around and see what kind of weird shit I could find. As a result, my experience with Project CARS 2 does not really put me in the best spot to publish a positive piece on the simulator, as I’m not exactly playing the game to enjoy myself as one normally would when busting out the toy steering wheel for the evening; I’m instead turning laps to troubleshoot and make sure that slip-ups and inaccuracies don’t make their way into the final game you’ll have the option to purchase in late September.
I definitely don’t want to claim I’m Superman and imply that myself and Sev have played an integral role in helping to polish Project CARS 2 prior to release, but I can confirm that in the months since we’ve last posted about Project CARS 2, we’ve found some important things that were promptly rectified by the development team. Personally, I was really proud of an 18-page thread relating to vehicle inertia and initial turn-in grip, and how within a week of first starting the topic, the team had identified a solution to our findings, one which drastically transformed the game for the better. It was really exciting when the solutions were gradually implemented, the lap times slowed to be within a very realistic window, and the driving techniques required to go fast were much more reasonable. It was definitely a moment that negated all of the uproar of the initial announcement of us partnering with our sworn enemy, and in the end, sim racers will reap the benefits.
Driving-wise, I still have to reiterate that it feels like a polished, complete version of rFactor 2, albeit with significantly better force feedback. SMS are at a point in development where they are still fine-tuning some cars for more authentic lap times, so I’m not exactly jumping at the bit to record a few videos of myself hotlapping because there are cars on the roster highly subject to change in terms of performance, but the most exciting part is that a lot of the most popular vehicles, right now we can jump in for an online practice session, throw down a few laps, check basically any IMSA qualifications sheet over the past two or three years, and we’re bang on in terms of lap times. Comparing on-board footage is also extremely gratifying as well; there have been a few times where out of my own curiosity I’ve synced up a Le Mans or Daytona Road Course lap of mine with the real life track record, and it’s not just the lap time that’s accurate; it’s the line, the pitch & attitude of the vehicle.. It’s something that’s really exciting to see, especially when other simulators aren’t at that level just yet.
Personally, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised because it just doesn’t drive like the original game in the slightest; those who say otherwise are flat-out lying or just being wankers under the guise of anonymity. On the other hand, I think a lot of criticism will instead come from sim racers who are unwilling to upgrade their PC’s to run such a graphically intensive game, though in our own testing at Dustin’s house, who’s not on a PC gifted to him by SMS, the game ran absolutely fine and did not suffer from any of the performance issues or graphical artifacts seen in the first title. Optimization for Project CARS 2 is really important and I’m glad the team are working hard to get it nailed for launch, considering many sim racers fall on extreme sides of the hardware spectrum; they’re either busting their balls to run the original rFactor, or have some kind of super-computer.
But of course, all of this is subjective, so instead I’d like to showcase a few elements that Slightly Mad Studios are implementing into Project CARS 2 that are objectively beneficial for sim racers who choose to pick up the title at launch.
There’s a built-in race engineer similar to Evolution Studios’ Formula One game on the PlayStation 3. While you don’t necessarily need a killer setup to turn laps and enjoy your time within a racing simulator, it certainly helps, especially if you’re participating in an online league of some sort. Though it’s obviously not a substitute for proper setup knowledge, and I definitely encourage people to bite the bullet and learn some rudimentary setup techniques sooner rather than later, Project CARS 2 allows you to consult a virtual crew chief within the garage menu that will make tweaks via what’s more or less a text adventure format.
You first pick the category you feel is worth exploring, and are then asked a series of multiple choice questions regarding car handling, before the crew chief offers a selection of changes that can be implemented with the click of a button. Again, it’s not a total replacement for manually making custom adjustments in the garage area, but given how daunting car setups can be for people really wanting to get involved in sim racing, it’s an excellent way to hold their hands and ease them into an element of these games that some spend years trying to figure out. Given how so many people on iRacing struggled to build setups, half of the service became fixed setup racing, it’s nice to see a developer take a hard stance in favor of the engineering side of auto racing, while still offering a reasonable solution for newcomers.
The bizarre force feedback setup seen in the original Project CARS has been eradicated, with something significantly more simple taking it’s place. With just four sliders and an overall effects setting – much like a guitar amp – gone are the days of an entire third party website with multiple configuration downloads being necessary just to get Project CARS to feel somewhat reasonable out on the racing surface. A couple of years ago, a force feedback menu wouldn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but given how expensive and complex toy steering wheels are becoming – with even more ridiculous setups arriving in the future – the fact that the entire game’s settings can be tweaked with just a few easy-to-understand sliders is a highly efficient design choice, and it really goes with the mantra SMS are trying to achieve with Project CARS 2; it’s a hardcore simulator, without the insane amount of time dedicated to configuration.
This screen is of course subject to change, but at the moment it’s certainly hard to knock or find fault with.
Lastly, the game will make use of what the team are calling “motorsport presets”, allowing people to jump in and immediately have the game configured to their preferred or even favorite style of racing. One element that pisses me off about game such as Automobilista or Race 07 is how the event configuration screen becomes an endless list of adjustable options, taking time away from the on-track action just to erect a race weekend to mimic my racing series of choice. The motorsport preset functionality will basically allow IndyCar fans to boot up the game and immediately have the single player portion tailored to an authentic IndyCar experience, while WEC or Blancpain GT3 enthusiasts can treat Project CARS 2 as primarily an endurance racing simulator. It’s not a complete solution for those wanting the days of single series titles to make a return, but it’s a nice way of accommodating those who know full well they will be ignoring a large amount of the game’s content, and making a beeline straight for the heavy hitters.
There’s certainly more I could talk about, but I do not wish to over-saturate the internet with Project CARS 2 preview information, especially with so many other websites covering the game in a much more traditional & extensive format. Straight and to the point, however, the game is shaping up to be exponentially more refined than the first offering; it drives well, and there a few neat little features to ensure you’ll spend more time turning laps than configuring the software – as opposed to many other modern racing simulators. Personally, I am hoping Slightly Mad Studios push out a free demo prior to launch, as after the first game failed to impress those it was built for, it would be a very nice gesture to demonstrate the improvements that have been made over the past few years, considering the justified amount of skepticism surrounding Project CARS 2.
Until then, preview articles will suffice.