Project CARS Preview
Driving simulators are for the hardcore racing fanatics. They're for the meticulous and even downright anal; i.e., those who spend hours tweaking the mechanical and cosmetic aspects of their rides. Developer Slightly Mad Studios is trying to produce a simulator for this crowd, who should appreciate the massive attention to detail in the upcoming Project CARS. A blend of Gran Turismo and iRacing, this ambitious title should provide die-hard fans with a gigantic amount of depth and authenticity.
Don't expect the same ol' structure, either. You're used to the standard Career path in franchises like GT and Forza, where you start with a piece of junk and work your way up the vehicle ladder. In Project CARS, there's no cash and therefore, no grinding away to save up enough for a better car. Rather, you simply choose the discipline in which you wish to compete, and then select a specific car. Your progression depends on your performance as opposed to your bank roll, which is the proper approach for a true simulator. From little Go Karts on tiny circuits to the famed Le Mans 24-Hour race, you can test and expand upon your driving skill set.
And you don't have to complete a bunch of smaller events to unlock the heftier challenges. It seems that just about everything, from races to cars, will be available right out of the gate. There's still a set structure, though; you choose which of the three Career goals you wish to pursue. There's one where you have to bolster the legacy of an already successful driver, and another that starts you off as a rookie and asks you to rise through the ranks. The last option is a "jack of all trades" choice that forces you to learn and master different disciplines. Chances are, it'll be difficult to become successful in both Rally and Formula One events.
If the game proves too tough, you can enable various driving assists to create a more lenient experience. However, if you want the full, realistic experience, you can turn off all assists and give it a go. This may come as a shock if you've never driven virtually with zero assists; just getting around the track without crashing can be tricky. Tapping other cars can be disastrous, just like in real life, and understanding how the vehicle operates is critical. The basics include rear-wheel drive versus all-wheel drive, for example, and how a car reacts to rain-slicked roads. You need to take a precise, delicate approach to every task.
The developers have tapped the help of several pros, including Ben Collins (Top Gear's The Stig), European Le Mans Series championship leader Oliver Webb, and former Renault Clio Cup and European Touring Car Cup driver Nicolas Hamilton. With their feedback and direction, Slightly Mad should have all the requisite tools to create a challenging yet wonderfully rewarding game. We have to learn a bit more about the multiplayer features but for now, we're satisfied with what we've learned concerning the single-player mode. Personally, I don't care if multiplayer is included at all but these days, it's basically a requirement for any racer, simulator or no.
Obviously, this is the kind of game that demands a wheel peripheral. You just can't recreate the adrenaline-filled racing experience in a video game with a gamepad, as most racing fanatics will say. If you plan on racing with the assists on, though, and you're a gamepad veteran, you can probably get away with it. As for the technical side of things, the game looks absolutely incredible, as most of the screens we've seen thus far are visually striking. In fact, given the far-reaching scope and ambition of the game, this new IP could end up becoming the new measuring stick for driving simulators. Will it force Gran Turismo and Forza to step up their games...?
12/2/2014 Ben Dutka