Project Cars 2 Hands-On Preview

Project Cars 2 Hands-On Preview

I have been presented with the privilege to preview Project Cars 2, and with still over a month until its September 22 release date, I was more excited than a child on Christmas morning. Project Cars 2 promises to deliver the ‘Ultimate Driver Journey’ experience and adrenaline rush, while serving up goodies like 170 licenced vehicles covering the full spectrum of racing classes, including Rallycross and Indy cars and the biggest selection of laser-scanned race tracks using LiveTrack 3.0

170 licenced vehicles covering the full spectrum of racing classes, including Rallycross and Indy cars

Project Cars 2 focuses on the intricacies and nuances which make the world of motorsport unique. It’s worth mentioning that it is not a car collecting game, it is a proper simulation of the real world of motorsport. You will get the most out of the title by embracing everything motor racing offers. That means spending time getting to know the track and the car in practice sessions, using the detailed tuning options to tweak setup and shave vital seconds off your lap timings and finding those limits on track before taking on the race proper. If you’re not used to these concepts, it won’t be uncommon to find yourself locking up and spinning out of control on almost every corner you attempt. But if you take it slow and gradually build up the pace, your lap times will plummet, apexes will be nailed and you will find yourself enthralled with what Project Cars does best and this is how PC2 is designed to be enjoyed.

Fans of the series will be familiar with the games look and feel. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that races can be now run with multiclass race categories during the same race. This means that while you might not be first in position on track, you can be placing first within your class, which is similar in style to how the World Endurance Championship operates, and is synonymous with Le Mahn’s 24Hr. Returning players will be thrilled to know the create a driver and career mode have stuck around. Career mode is the main and noticeably meatiest feature of Project Cars 2, allowing you to start a motorsport career from the bottom Tier 6 (with the likes of karting, Formula Ford and Ginetta race categories), to the top class of Tier 1 which includes the endurance class LMP1 and Indy. Career mode will see you negotiate race contracts and invite-only drives for things like exhibition weekend races. You can also take part in manufacturer drives, with the aim to impress and ultimately become a brand ambassador and represent the best of the best. PC2 has also added the ability to configure a short or long race calendar. Long calendar will provide you with the full season of rounds, while for those looking for a quicker experience, the short option will present a cut-down roster of events. The option to configure race distance, session type and length remains, giving the player complete freedom on how they play.

Race tracks are a dynamic beast; things like temperature, rain and debris (just to name a few) have an enormous effect on how the racing develops. LiveTrack 3.0 is the technology included that brings these ever-changing details to life in game. Couple that with the detail of laser-scanned tracks and you get an in-game racing experience like no other game has been able to deliver before. LiveTrack manages road surface transitions, which affect performance, grip and handling, while also managing tyre physics and surface deformities. One of the biggest things I noticed was how the track transformed in the wet. Early on surface water would drain quite fast but after the precipitation grew heavier, water would collect in the lower sections of the track forming puddles and becoming a huge hazard to avoid. This is something I have never experienced in a racing title ever, and it’s bloody excellent.

Project Cars 2 promises to deliver the ‘Ultimate Driver Journey’ experience and adrenaline rush

This brings us onto the weather and day/night cycles which were obviously worked on for a very long time. PC2 allows full customisation, and race conditions are a huge variable the player is given complete control over. For instance, head over to the single race mode and you will find it’s possible to race around Monaco in a Blizzard if you so wish. These aren’t just filters which add an effect either, as there is a noticeable difference in road handling between an overcast cold day and a thunderstorm. Some racing titles avoid complex weather systems, but having your qualification lap ruined because it started dumping down during the fast lap as you gambled on the rain coming later on is all part of the racing life. The team have clearly worked hard on these systems and I won’t be surprised if it redefines what to expect in motorsport titles in the future and even an award or two among the game industry.

The pit lane and garage is a destination you will become familiar with, especially because every aspect of your car is tinkered and changed here. If you are new to the game of race setups the new race engineer will be your best friend. Simply answer questions based on how your car is performing on track and the engineer will propose tweaks for you to choose from. It’s a great way to get the novice involved with the more technical aspects. Manual pit stops have also been added for authenticity along with some shiny new pit lane animations and pit crew errors.

There are still further improvements featured in PC2, with one of the biggest being how the game handles with a controller. The original Project Cars was almost an afterthought on consoles, and it was evident those using a controller were not thought about during the initial development of the game. Seeking to change this, in PC2 the team have done a commendable job of translating what a steering wheel and a set of pedals should do onto a handheld controller. It’s a much better experience and is one update fans will applaud. Additionally, another fan request would no doubt be improved AI control. In PC2 players can maintain the fine tuning control of the AI’s ability using the slider on a scale from 0 – 100, and there is now an additional slider for aggression which utilises the same scale. Those who find the AI either too hardcore or subscribe to the rubbin’ is racing mantra can now fine tune AI behaviour to their heart’s content. The AI is also something which has obviously been worked on for a while, and it’s that good that you will have a hard time picking out AI players from real ones. It’s pretty much perfect, and again could come to completely redefined standards.

Final Thoughts

Having now played Project Cars 2 for the better part of a week, I’ve clocked at minimum a day’s worth of playtime. The game didn’t meet any of the standards or improvements I thought would have been on show, it positively blew past them and exceeded anything I could have hoped for. Project Cars 2 won’t be a racing title everyone will enjoy due to its hardcore racer nature, but those of you who enjoy getting as close to the real thing of motorsports as possible will without a doubt not want to put it down once you get your hands on it.

Project Cars 2 is due for release on XboxOne, PS4 and PC on September 22.