If I took anything away from Bandai Namco’s Project Cars 2 demo at E3 2017, it’s that the folks at Slightly Mad Studios know a thing or two about motorsports and weather. These dudes love them some super-intense weather effects. In fact, there’s an entire system in Project Cars 2 based around physics and emulating real-life conditions based on feedback from real-life motorsports professionals. Even before I saw the vehicle cockpit-style play stations on the show floor, it was apparent that this is about as hardcore as car games get.
The system I’m talking about it called Live Track 3.0. It’s an amalgamation of several different approaches to designing everything around the cars and achieving as close an experience to racing cars in real life as possible. A big part of this is weather effects. Project Cars 2 boasts not just things like rain and snow, but actual seasons and how those seasons can alter a track. Rain can result in things like puddles, which can and will be something players will need to take into consideration, for example.
The developers spoke to going as far to use laser-scanning drones to scan the entire area around each track in person and capturing details down to the tiniest detail. An example was provided about something as ostensibly insignificant as a portable bathroom or trash can being integral parts of the race. If a driver knows the track well enough, they use landmarks to help them know what moves to make where and having those details was important, especially when it comes to the VR component Project Cars 2 also includes.
VR, inevitably, is currently seen as the next big step for racing games. Project Cars 2 appears to be spearheading this advancement and purports different kinds of control and camera options for playing the game in VR mode. When asked about VR mode for a driving game and things like motion sickness, the developers swore up and down that they’ve had successful play tests, including an anecdote about a guy reeling from a previous VR demo finding comfort and even recovery sitting down with Project Cars 2 . It was also stressed the certain modes were more ideal or accessible, including changing what’s controlled by the headset versus the controller.
Aside from emulating real-life competition, another big component of Project Cars 2 is virtual competition as well. The suite of online features for this game is impressively robust, going as far as to have in-game functions designed entirely around players building their own esports season structures. It includes everything an aspiring tournament organizer could possibly think of, from scheduling to overlays and more stream-friendly components. It’s wild, and seeing how both hardcore and casual players use it alongside actual esports organizations will likely be a big deal for the Project Cars 2 community.
The single player career options are also quite detailed and based on real-life experiences. Players are able to navigate through a rags to riches style setup, their progress based on what model of car they use and how frequently. Things like sponsorships come into play and progressing through the career mode based on your specific car preferences will have an effect on other parts of the game.
Speaking of game, the Project Cars 2 team also spent a fair bit of time speaking to the controls. This was actually an issue with the first game. Hardcore racing games are all about the hardcore racing game peripherals; Project Cars was originally built assuming players were equipped with racing wheels. Configuring a controller was an option, an option filled with all kinds of intimidating minutia, but by default many players were dissatisfied. With Project Cars 2 , the team insists it put a lot more effort into controllers feeling good from a plug and play perspective.
Here’s the bottom line: there are lots of big-name motorsports games coming out soon, especially on the advent of Microsoft’s new Xbox One X. But if you’re really into the nitty-gritty of motorsports as real-life sport, Project Cars 2 seems to be the place you want to be. With its obsessive attention to real-world detail, its esports template-style online functionality, and brand-based career mode, Project Cars 2 has set itself apart from the competition by being as nerdy as car people can possibly be.