Personally, I’m a huge racing games fan. And while I often dabble in arcade races such as Need for Speed or Blur, then racing simulators are definitely my forte. And through the years, I have completed every single race and challenge, unlocked every single vehicle, part, and paint, in every single major Gran Turismo release (Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, and Gran Turismo Sport, not included). And when Project Cars was first announced I was over the moon, as at the time it was the very first, true to life racing simulator. But unfortunately, when Project Cars finally saw the light of day, my disappointment was immense, as the title in question was nowhere near Polyphony’s colossi in neither scope, scale or complexity.
The original Project Cars might have been an immense disappointment, but as Bob Ross once said, you ”gotta have a little sadness once in a while, so you know when the good times come”. And Project Cars could be seen as the ”bad times” of the series, whereas its direct sequel, aptly named Project Cars 2, without a shadow of a doubt represents the good times, as it improves upon the original in every single way imaginable, and presents you, the player with an incredibly rewarding experience, which unlike the original, features a satisfying and worthwhile progression system, which gives the title an immense sense of value.
Just like the original, Project Cars 2 features a career mode, which allows you to put on a helmet, racing suit, and climb the ranks of the ladder of international motor-sports. However, in this iteration of the franchise the mode in question is much more concise, as it presents you with a clear and comprehensible career, which you can undertake in any way in which you desire. Meaning that Project Cars 2, unlike the original, won’t force you to complete 20 go-kart races, just so you can unlock 30 races centered around slightly more powerful go-karts. In fact, the early stages of the career, which concentrate on weaker vehicles, are the shortest and can be completed within four-to-six competitions. And those can be as long, or as short as you desire, as they are fully customisable.
The genre of racing simulators is known for its love of options, settings, and other obtuse customization menus. And while Project Cars does allow you to alter everything from tire pressure, all the way down to your vehicle’s mechanical parts, then it ultimately goes beyond that, as it also gives you an option to customize career mode’s events on the fly. And this allows you to select a length of the race, and the sessions which it includes. So, if you are strapped for time you can jump from one race to another, by leaving all the preliminary sessions behind. But if you happen to have an abundance of free time, you can indulge yourself in a complete race weekend, which is composed of a training session, a qualifier, a flying/formation lap, and last but certainly not least, the super-lengthy, bordering on endurance, race itself.
The amount of options with which Project Cars 2 serves you, is nothing short of impressive. But their true beauty is only exposed when they are applied to the career mode, as they elevate the otherwise rigid and strict game mode to the next level, and transform it into a personal, and free-flowing experience which allows you to take it on at your own pace, and leisure. And for this reason alone, Slightly Mad Studios needs to be commended a great deal, as unlike other developers, such as the aforementioned Polyphony, it respects the fact that you may not have the time to endure a complete, true-to-life simulation, and allows you to make the best use of your free time, and transform Project Cars 2 into a game which you want it to be, and not the game that the lead designer has forced upon you.
While staying on the subject of respectability, and great additions, it is important to mention the returning, but redesigned invitational events, which used to be a nuisance within the original, but are now an integral, and crucial part of the Project Cars 2 experience. And for one, they are not forced upon you like they were within the original, and two, they allow you to participate in different kinds of events, using different kinds of vehicles, which gives you an indication on what a complete event may play like. So if you are unsure whether you want to participate in a rally cross event or a super car series, then all you have to do is simply enter the tab under ‘Invitational Events’, give both a go, and make up your mind on the back of the experience which you’ve just had.
Project Cars 2, as a title is not just a level above its predecessor, but it is also a whole level above the rest of its core competition. And sure, Gran Turismo Sport, may be knocking this particular title out the park in term of visuals and competitive online infrastructure, but Project Cars 2 is simply a much better game. It is much more entertaining due to its free-flowing structure, it features a wider variety of single player focused content, and most importantly it puts you, the player, ahead of itself. And it ensures that you are served with the best experience possible, instead of the best simulation. But this being said, Project Cars 2 is not without its flaws, flaws which many may have a problem with, especially in this day and age.
As it was mentioned above, Project Cars 2 is not the most impressive title when it comes to its visual facade. However, there are parts of this particular title, which are simply below par. For example, certain vehicles which feature additional spoilers, and air-drag fins, can be an eyesore as they all are a blur – literally. And in general, Project Cars 2 struggles immensely with thin edges of any length, as those are always presented on-screen in a distorted and jagged manner. And I personally advise you not to select the cockpit camera when driving any Zonda in-game, as the entirety of the car’s interior is made out of carbon fiber, which one screen looks simply horrendous, as there is not a single sharp edge in-sight.
Graphical performance is not everything, we all know that, but at this stage in this generation of console, most have nailed the issue of the so-called ‘jaggies’ down. And it is just a little disappointing to have to stare at them constantly, when playing such a superb title. What perhaps may be even more disappointing, at least to some, is the fact that Project Cars 2 is devoid of any complex vehicle-based customization suite, meaning that you are forced to drive all the in-game cars using pre-sets created by the developer. And sure, having true-to-life liveries may be a bonus to some, but most racing games thrive on the back of visual customization suites, and not being able to drive a car with a custom livery, or even a custom number within the career, can make some feel a little dispirited.
With all the positives and negatives put together, all that really has to be said about Project Cars 2 is that it is an incredible game, and even better sequel. As unlike most games with number two in their title, it doesn’t just add more miscellaneous content to the old and tired framework, but instead takes the tried-and-tested formula, and reshapes it according to the criticism which has been made against it. And sure, Project Cars 2 still features a couple of flaws, and while the visual quality of the game could have been improved, then it has to be said that the criticism poised against a lack of visual customization, it purely subjective. And in the long run, won’t be a problem for many users who will surely fall in love with this gem of a racing game, which at the time of writing, can be bought for just under £20 on PSN – which is an absolute steal.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.