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Review

Project Cars 2 Review

First on the grid.

Going first is always difficult, but as the first of three major console sim racers coming out in the next month Project Cars 2 had a fantastic opportunity to grab a lot of people’s attention early, and hope that its ambitiously broad and authentic take on the world of motorsport would be enough to hold onto them. It’s a game that sounds fantastic on paper, catering to racing game fans across the spectrum, but it just doesn’t live up to its potential at launch.

Everything about the list of cars that the game features will please racing fans, as it goes beyond the first game. It now lets you indulge in IndyCar as the top tier open wheel racing format and Rallycross, alongside the returning endurance racing, tin tops and more. Similarly, there’s a great selection of tracks that will, for example, let you recreate a BTCC season better than ever before, as well as looking to the past to resurrect the classic layouts of Silverstone, Hockenheim and Monza that have been abandoned and redeveloped in real life.

All of this is made use of through the redesigned career mode, which once again lets you work your way up through the different disciplines, letting you aim for various goals of your choosing. Ditching the calendar layout of the first game, you pick your starting point from the lower tiers of the racing spectrum, working through things like Formula Rookie or GT4 as you progress through to the top, each of which can potentially include multiple mini-championships to compete in. There’s a great authenticity to this and the way that all of the rules have been recreated in the game, and this extends beyond career mode, letting you pick from presets for single player and online races. Just as importantly for those starved of time, you can pick a long or a short championship, decide if you want to take part in practice sessions and qualifying, or if you’d rather just jump into a race that’s as long or short as you’d like.

Depending on how you do, the next tier of championships will unlock, but so too will special invitational events that can be tackled whenever you like. You can carefully pick and choose your way through these and the cars you drive in the various championships to unlock Factory Drives, where you then race for one of eight specific manufacturers in their racing programmes.

One of the marquee features of the original game was its LiveTrack weather and track condition simulation, and that’s taken even further with the sequel. Simply put, LiveTrack 3 is fantastic, and while races would surely be called off in some of the conditions that you can create here, with deep, thick fog and huge puddles forming on track, the way it now affects the grass and run off areas as well as each small patch of track both visually and in terms of handling adds a further layer of realism to the game.

Whatever you choose to drive, there’s an often very steep learning curve for you to overcome. First it’s the returning curse of starting on cold tyres in practice and qualifying sessions, and then it’s the unique peculiarities of that particular car. To Project Cars 2’s credit, every car feels and handles differently, and it is rewarding to learn a particular track and work with a car to tweak its set-up to your liking, or simply live with its peculiarities. However, perhaps the most distinctive facet of Project Cars 2’s handling model is that I feel like I’m held back from being able to really push the cars.

I’m left scratching my head when I first start driving them, as to whether I can learn to drive it or tweak the set up to make it work for me. Of course, there’s the full gamut of vehicle set up tweaks, and the game does a good job of describing what each thing will do when you change it. Also there to help you is the Race Engineer option, where you can search for a symptom that it can diagnose and let it suggest a solution. Used sparingly, it can make a bit of difference, but just as when you’re fiddling with the full set-up tools, you can very easily make your car even worse.

Some will defend some of Slightly Mad’s design choices to the death, but simply put, this is a game that could have a wide reaching appeal but feels too inaccessible and narrowed in on sim racers, and even many of them will struggle. The lack of an option for warm tyres in practice and qualifying combines badly with the often torturous process of warming them up, and it’s not like the game even tries to teach you how to do so. That’s before we start talking about the gamepad settings that, while better than the first game, are still far from great by default. There’s overly sensitive braking that leads to locked brakes and an incessant tyre squeal, while steering could conversely be a little bit more sensitive and direct.

One thing I personally struggled with was the force feedback settings with a racing wheel. By default, it was far too weak for my tastes and provided little meaningful feedback through the Fanatec CSL Elite, which I know is capable of some fearsome, arm rattling force. Switching to the Immersive setting and boosting the various sliders helped with the strength of those forces, but there’s a lack of rumble from running over kerbs and crashes that was there in the first game, and I’ve simply had to get used to listening for the limit between braking and locking up on PS4 while tentatively wrestling with the cars. PC players, however, can be rescued by the community, with various config files and recommendations that go beyond the settings that are available to you in the game.

Then there are the numerous outright bugs that litter the game, which isn’t good enough regardless of who the game is aimed at. Decide you’ve had enough qualifying and want to skip to the end of the session? Most of time you’ll find that all the AI magically managed to pull around six seconds on you, sending you to the back of the grid. The collisions between vehicles feel much better, but there’s the hilarity of sending Formula Rookie cars flying up into the sky with wheel contact.

There’s also smaller bits of fit and finish where you’re emailed in career about how disappointed your engineer is in your qualifying when you’ve just won the race, have no option to move the race engineer’s voice from the DualShock 4 speaker to TV speakers, an almost amusingly broken racing line for those that turn it on, an inconsistent race director and penalties system, frame rate hitches when players join or leave a lobby online, certain visual glitches, and so many more points that I’m forgetting.

It does perform well though, with much of my time spent playing on PlayStation 4 Pro and some time spent with the PC version of the game. It hews towards a cleaner and more clinical visual style than some games, but that also looks great when the many and varied weather effects roll in. With a full grid and the most intensive weather effects, the PS4 Pro almost takes it in its stride with no real noticeable tearing and a dynamic resolution helping to keep the game close to that 60fps goal. Reportedly, the base PS4 suffers a little on that front, though improved over the original, while Xbox One ends up as the runt of the litter as you might expect.

Online is a key factor in Project Cars 2, and SMS feature esports heavily in the game. It works really well, whether you drop  into a simple online lobby or join a  group of friends, with the tools available to you to set up races in every kind of category, just as if you were playing offline.

What’s Good:

  • Great selection of cars and tracks
  • LiveTrack 3.0 weather and track conditions are fantastic
  • Refined career mode with even more disciplines
  • Reward of learning to be fast a car and track

What’s Bad:

  • Difficult to warm up tyres
  • Many cars handle poorly without tuning
  • Lacking force feedback on wheel
  • Gamepad controls still aren’t great by default
  • A litany of small bugs and design quirks

Project Cars 2 is a game that doesn’t manage to capitalise on a lot of the enthusiasm that was generated for the original. Too buggy and not as accessible for newcomers as it should be, a lot of the genuine improvements are lost behind a veil of annoyance and frustration. Hopefully Slightly Mad Studios stick with it, because the wider range of racing disciplines, the refined career, and the improvements to LiveTrack and weather are all fantastic and deserve a better, more polished product to bring them to as many people as possible.

Score: 6/10

Versions tested: PlayStation 4 Pro, PC

13 Comments
  1. Tomhlord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    So much potential, both before release and after. But it’s not realised, yet. Nice review!

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 13:43.
    • Tomhlord
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Apr 2009

      The more I play this game, the more I realise that it’s simply not finished.

      Comment posted on 28/09/2017 at 09:14.
  2. stigdu
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I have to say, I strongly disagree with the 6/10 score. I’m certainly no petrolhead, although I do like the occasional driving game. The first Project Cars was OK I thought, but I found it too technical and ‘sim’ heavy, and couldn’t really get on with it.

    What I really love about PC2 is just how customisable it is, from the control settings, to the AI behaviour, HUD levels, length of racing sessions, weather, the list goes on.

    What was initially a bit of a struggle for me, I now find a real joy to play after tinkering with the steering deadzone and computer AI behaviour and aggressiveness.

    The graphics are better than the first, with some lovely touches like reflections on the glass dashboard panels(!) as you’re driving. The layout is easier, the career progression is improved, and there are a TON of tracks and cars.

    Whilst I’d have given the first game a 6/10, I think this easily deserves an 8/10, and probably a 9/10 after a patch or two (to address what you quite rightly listed as bugs).

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 13:54.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      For a long time I was leaning toward a 7/10 – it’s simply too buggy for its own good to be any higher – but the more I played it, the more I found things that I disliked about it. So yes, in a lot of ways it’s an improvement over the original on paper, but the problem is that there’s no good default for so many of the cars that I hopped into to try out.

      I know I’m not alone in these criticisms, and every single problem I encountered was confirmed by a quick online search, often finding that the community had found a workaround of some sort… but if the community can so quickly find better FFB and gamepad settings, better base level set ups for all of the cars in the game, then why haven’t SMS been able to put them in there?

      As I said, there’s a lot of good ideas in there, but they’re just obscured by a lack of refinement on a number of levels. I really hope that SMS can push on and really stick with this game until it’s as good as it deserves to be.

      Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 15:15.
      • stigdu
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        All fair comments, and let’s hope SMS can squash the bugs and deliver the ultimate racer on PS4. :)

        Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 15:37.
      • planejoker
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        It is certainly a better game than the original and while it can’t compete with the mega budgets of Forza and Gran Turismo, Sms is only going to stick with there game or make another one if sales are great. I think for such a small team they have done so so much with the game. I think there down fall is that they have released it with Forza 7 snapping at its heals and GT Sport not far behind, they should of brought it out a few months earlier or 2018 but it was only Sms who made that decision. It’s just a shame that like another reviewer you are the only ones who have given it a 6/10.

        Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 15:38.
  3. planejoker
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    I agree 6/10 is a bit harsh when some reviews have given the game 8/10, 9.2/10. I got the game on release and think it’s better than the first game yes there are some bugs but tell me a game that don’t. If I have one complaint is that the ps4 pad needs some settings sorting out, but I remember Dirt being like that and a few others to name but they got good scores. We will see how great the reviews will be for Forza 6 and GT Sport when they come out. …… 9/10 but then there gonna be ain’t they.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 14:16.
  4. planejoker
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Forza 7 that should of been.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 14:18.
  5. rSp8
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Very surprising score! Other reviews I’ve seen have been much more positive, and nearly tempted me to abandon my plan to wait for reviews of GT Sport and see which looks the best before buying one. Given that I usually pretty much agree with TSA’s reviews that original plan is back on.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 19:40.
  6. Colinbarr66
    Any tag other than 'Member'
    Since: Mar 2009

    I’ll caveat everything I say with the fact I’m not very good! I’m using a Theustmaster wheel as my primary control.

    The game plays reasonably well in the right car but locking brakes at the slightest touch, leathal oversteer and the sheer volume of bugs and poor design choices are doing my head in.

    I’m sure with practice the handling and braking issues can be overcome with skill but I feel there’s something not quite right with them, even with assists enabled. I changed the traction control, stability control and ABS continuously throughout a few sessions to notice differences and there was little change as I was driving round. The game could have used another few months of polish, some parts feel rushed and unrefined.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 22:31.
  7. camdaz
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    The game is a lot better than the first but there are quite a lot of bugs. I have no engineer radio voice and have to rely on the subtitles and there’s a few people who have qualified in the Ginetta factory race only to be at the back of the grid when the race starts, I’ve tried it twice but still end up at the back.

    And the UNP telemetry is missing from the PS4 version, but it will be added in the first patch.

    Comment posted on 26/09/2017 at 22:31.
    • Tomhlord
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Apr 2009

      You got any force feedback/vibration when you drive over curbs? Or when there’s contact with another car? Swear that was in the first.

      Comment posted on 28/09/2017 at 09:16.
  8. Paranoimia
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    It’s a solid 8 for me. There are issues which perhaps shouldn’t be issues, but they can be fixed quite easily… but I’m doing okay using just a controller and a bit of tweaking in the various settings.

    My main issue is that you can’t accelerate time in the qualifying sessions once you’ve set a decent time… you can only skip to the end; odd, as it was possible in the original.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2017 at 21:02.
Project Cars 2
  • Developer:Slightly Mad Studios
  • Publisher:Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Platforms:PS4, XBO, PC
  • Release Date:Late 2017

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