|System: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U|
|Dev: Slightly Mad Studios|
|Pub: Bandai Namco|
|Release: May 7, 2015|
|Players: 1-24 Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
The racing genre has splintered in the last several years. Outside of wacky kart racers like Mario Kart, racing now come in two varieties. By far the most common is the “racing game,” which is essentially a cracked out fantasy about cars. Here you race across country, evade police, crash into other cars that obviously have robot drivers or something, earn XP for ramping over rivers, so on so forth. Then, there is the “racing sim,” an entirely different type of beast which holds you to real cars on real tracks with real physics and asks you to master the subtle art of the turn.
Project CARS, the new game from Slightly Mad Studios and Bandai Namco, is the latter, and unapologetically so. It’s meant for serious gear heads that primarily like one thing and one thing only, cars. It eschews the trappings and innovations of modern day racing games for cars, tracks, and options. It’s built specifically for the race and preparing for the race. It knows its audience, and if you are part of that audience you will love it, but if you aren’t, it could seem rather daunting.
When the game first starts up, you are immediately given a taste of the complexity it has to offer. You are asked to choose between Novice, Amateur, and Pro racing modes to quick set most of your racing settings. Novice sets all driving assists and on screen U.I. elements to on, turns off vehicle degradation and, get this, motorsports rules. It also sets the difficulty to easy. Amateur has you automatic shifting and provides you with some assists and U.I. elements, but you’ll experience tire wear and fuel depletion and you have to abide by the rules. By the time you are racing at pro level you’ll have no onscreen guides, no assists, no help of any kind, your car will get damaged by impact and through normal wear and tear, your fuel will deplete (and that will affect your car's performance and weight), and you have to abide by all professional motorsport rules.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When you get into the game and check out the settings and your garage, you’ll notice more options than I could possibly list here while still keeping the article readable. Aside from yet more assists, effects, guides, rules, and more that you can turn on and off, you can do things like increase or decrease tire pressure on each individual tire, tweak the tension in your cars suspension, tweak your car’s aerodynamics, increase the size and weight of your fuel tank, adjust your alignment, change your break pressure, and a whole host of other options that reference mechanical terms I had to look up!
Nothing is universal here. Everything is small, detailed, and individual. If you want to tweak your car so it turns left more easily than it turns right specifically for courses with a bunch of left hand turns, you can do that. As I said before, however, this is easily intimidating for someone who isn’t a total gear head. Heck, it intimidated me. Unfortunately, this is also the biggest draw the game has to offer, so if details customization isn’t your bag, you aren’t going to find much here. On the flip side, if customization is your thing, you can spend hours making setup after setup without ever actually playing the game and still have fun.
You won’t find a single player story mode, tons of visual customization options, a leveling system, a persistent online world, stunt challenges, or even level-ups and unlocks. Everything the game has to offer you is offered from the moment you boot it up. You’ll have access to every car, every option, every track, every possible avenue of gameplay with no hoops to jump through.
Progression in the game Is, instead, rather organic. You can jump into your favorite racing model as soon as you boot up the game, but you’ll probably be running off the course simply due to the difficulty in controlling the beast. Meanwhile, if you want to start with simple kart racing, you’ll get the hang of the game’s controls more naturally.