There has always been a divide in the racing community. Fans have had to choose between Gran Turismo or Forza for several years; unless they play on PC that is, in which case they have a variety of more sim-focused racers to choose from. After multiple delays, Project CARS has arrived with intentions to unite and cater for racing enthusiasts.
That’s not to say that those who haven’t raced professionally or simulators in the past are unwelcome. While Project CARS punishes you for leaning too heavily on the throttle out of corners or going wide, there are a variety of assists to help you keep your car on the straight and narrow while you refine your skills.
In a novel approach, everything is open from the get go. You can start your career in Formula A, the unlicensed Formula 1, or you can start at the very bottom, plying your trade as an up-and-coming karter. Over the course of your career, you’ll be challenged to learn to compete in a variety of racing classes across a broad range of tracks.
Don’t expect to just jump in and win all around you. Winning, and even being competitive, in Project CARS takes work. Even with a full array of assists, you’ll still need to learn racing lines, pick braking points, and spot overtaking opportunities. Unlike many racing games in recent years, there is no rewind function; if you make a mistake, you’ll have to make the best of a bad situation or do it all again from scratch.
Those who enjoy pushing themselves in time trials and practice sessions, and tinkering with car tuning will really enjoy Project CARS. And they will reap the rewards of putting in the groundwork. Pole positions, race wins, and titles await.
If you’ve never tinkered with the setup of a car before, you may be a little overwhelmed. There are very basic guidelines given, but you’ll need to consult tuning guides created by the community to really learn why the changes you make have the effect that they do.
The racing itself is challenging. Not only do you have to respect the sim nature of the game, but the AI is competitive and, at times, aggressive. They are AI drivers though, so don’t expect to see too many battles or mistakes. When they do run onto the grass it seems to be effortless, as though they’re driving John Deere tractors.
The career mode isn’t as flashy as what you’ll find in some games. The only sample of a narrative comes in the form of e-mails from team bosses and social media messages from fans who may or may not have actually watched the race. Instead, you’ll find yourself simply jumping into the next event as quick as possible.
If the career mode isn’t challenging enough, or you need a change of pace, there are plenty of ways to face off against fellow players. You can attempt time trials with any combination of car class and track. If you need a push, or you want to see how the best do it, ghosts can be downloaded. Or you can race your own ghost if you just want to constantly improve.
There are also community events, which open regularly. These set out the car and track, and then leave it up to you to set the best time possible.
And finally, there is a traditional multiplayer mode. You can start a public or private lobby, set parameters for the race weekend, and then wait for players to arrive. Or you could join a weekend that’s in progress if you don’t want to sit around a lobby.
As it’s a sim racer, Project CARS tries to find ways to discourage racers who try to race unfairly. Penalties are handed out, slowing down players who think they can do what they like. As these penalties are automated, you may quibble with some of them.
For example, we were heading for the first turn and tried to avoid an incident on the inside. This meant running wide onto a tarmac surface and when we rejoined, we were slapped with a penalty for cutting the track. It seemed harsh, but at least there’s a system in place.
Project CARS is very much a game for racing fans and enthusiasts. You won’t get away with carrying too much speed into corners, or trying to go full throttle straight out of a corner. But it tries to make itself as accessible as possible, so that you can learn as you go and remove assists as you feel more comfortable.
There’s plenty on offer here, which should keep you occupied. And the regular community events mean that there’s always something new to experience. It's an enjoyable game and if you’re willing to put in some time and effort, you will get the most out of Project CARS. It's just a pity there's no way to channel your inner Kimi Raikkonen to tell the team to stop talking to you.