Project CARS is not Forza, it’s not Need for Speed, it’s not even Gran Turismo. Project CARS is much more of an actual race simulator than pretty much any racing game I have played to date (I’m sure I haven’t played them all, though) and that’s a great thing. In a genre filled with arcade style racers like the fantastic Forza Horizon series and your not-so-fantastic annual Need for Speed games it’s a nice change of pace to get into a full simulation racing title. This is not to say that Forza or Gran Turismo are not more sim-style racers, they are, but Project CARS just gave me a much more authentic feel as I was playing, than Forza or GT. From your coach’s voice blaring tips from the PS4 controller speaker to the lack of a thumping electro soundtrack, the game feels more authentic, down to Earth, and real that most other racers on the market today.
CARS is a very standard racing game, but this ins’t a bad thing. You launch the game and from there can create a racer for a career mode, set up a single race, play multiplayer, or check a variety of statistics and match up against friends. It pretty much has the default slate of “must haves” in a racing game package. Developer Slightly Mad has done a great job at overall presentation, though, as everything is snappy and looks nice and clean, and more importantly everything looks professional. Coming from a Kickstarter campaign is a monumental feat to be able to actually deliver a finished product with as much polish as CARS, so I can’t knock them for not having any “special” modes or games, especially with the theme of the game being professional racing at its core.
The career mode is a typical racing game career. You create a racer, choose a name, sign a contract and pick you class. From there your are immediately thrust into the world of racing. For newcomers and those rusty at sim-style racers there are a few difficulties to choose from, and once choosing a difficulty you can customize the finer aspects of it. Even on easy the game poses a challenge, though, as your hands have to re-lean car control and braking (especially if you’re coming off of an arcade-style game like Forza Horizon 2 as I was). I found the end result of the more difficult simulation style is more stress, but also more excitement when you win. Instead of blowing past everyone you have to choose your passes wisely, out-think opponents, and out-drive them to win. The game seems to have plenty of cars and tracks throughout career, so you really do get to feel what each car handles like, and they do feel different. All of them. If car tuning is your forte, you’ll also be right at home with the game. Plenty of customization and tuning options before each race means you can get the car tweaked just the way you want it before showtime. The career mode should easily satisfy most racing fans, as it is long and in depth, and takes you to some of the world’s most recognizable tracks. So if you come into Project CARS just looking for single player career racing, you’re going to get your money’s worth.
Multiplayer is also fairly standard. Online races are just as (or more) challenging than the career mode, and as long as you don’t run into too many jerks who wreck you intentionally, you should have a great time if you’re really into online racing.
Overall Project CARS excels at selling even the least interested its brand of simulation racing experience. The overall atmosphere screams professional racing unlike many seemingly “sim” games today. No blaring music, no yawn-inducing storyline, just a calendar full of qualifying races, practice laps, and full on events that lead towards winning the racing season. If you’ve been waiting for a game that gives you the actual feel of being a professional driver, I haven’t found another game that does it as well as Project CARS, and is able to so easily sell it to everyone (including arcade racing fans) with controllable difficulty levels and excellent presentation. Slightly Mad deserves all the credit for not becoming just another Kickstarter failure, and actually delivering a full quality console and PC video game that shipped to stores. If you are hesitant, maybe give it a rent before going all in, but I’d like to guess that most racing game enthusiasts will be more than impressed by Project CARS.