Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
The last few years I have taken racing to a whole new level. I decided to kit myself out with a proper set of wheels and pedals, and dove straight into the world of simulation racing. It’s a genre that has a lot of serious gamers, and also a lot of varying opinions on what exactly the best simulation game should look like. Project Cars started as a crowdfunding game, backed by and made specifically for gamers, and thus mainly targets simulation racers as its key audience. The first Project Cars never really got it right in its first try. Is Project Cars 2 its redemption? Is this another game that is soon to be forgotten and seen as another flunk in the genre? Let’s find out.
I have bounced around from one simulation game to the other in recent years. Each one of these simulators has its own style, its own idea of how cars are supposed to behave, and what kind of feedback should be felt back in your steer, or controller if you haven’t raided a bank and found the money to dive into this very expensive hobby. While most of others have found their target audience and fanbase, Project Cars felt the most like a whole packaged game, but did everything not quite right in terms of all the rest.
Project Cars 2 is no less: the game itself feels like a complete package. A racing game as we know it should have a proper single player mode, where you can just slowly rise up to the top, going from one car to the other and slowly being prepared for the faster cars. In Project Cars 2, this is exactly what you can do. Unfortunately the game as it stands now isn’t completely bug free. Small little bugs are found anywhere in the game, and even though they aren’t necessarily game breaking, they still terrorize your game in one way or anothe. This isn’t what I personally expected from a game that has had a private beta for all of its backers the past half year.
Jumping into a kart, to racing LMP’s, to even Rallycross can be done through the story progression of the career mode. The game truly feels like you are set on a path, and you can slowly advance forward to better series and even pledge yourself to a manufacturer drive so that you will represent a brand on its own. While this is extremely fun to do so, some of the bugs make it very difficult to enjoy. Besides the bugs that plague the game, the AI in the current version of the game isn’t the best, to say the least. In snow the current AI doesn’t really work, in rain they seem to have trouble as well, and even in the dry every race feels like the AI doesn’t quite know what to do. Since the AI is also specifically made for each track, there are some tracks where it is better not to race the AI, or have too big of a field, otherwise the AI will crash into each-other and there is some first lap carnage.
As a ‘simracer’ I’ve seen this all too much in the past. In general most simulation games have a very lackluster AI, that are just disappointing in one way or another. And that alone is fine, usually you can’t really expect the AI to race like real people. But in Project Cars 2 the AI feels different in speed on any track. What about the actual physics of the game, or the feedback that is sent into our wheels? The physics in the game have definitely been improved since the first Project Cars, and it feels a step into the right direction. The cars do have a little bit too much of a grippy feel, like when flying over kerbs there seems to be some traction kicking in to keep the car on the track. It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re trying to steer a boat around the track with a ton of understeer, hoping you actually make that turn like it felt in the previous game. In general the cars drive very well and it is a ton of fun racing them around the 130+ tracks with the wide variety of cars available.
Simulation games in general are never forgiving, if you take a kerb a little too fast, the car will usually bounce out of control or unsettle in such a way that makes it difficult to recover. But Project Cars 2 is very forgiving. In general, the cars feel more planted on the road, and there is always some traction control kicking in when the car is unsettled. Even with all assists turned off, it sometimes feels like the game is a little too easy. While the argument can be made that cars in real life are exactly as grippy as this, it usually starts a hefty debate between people because everyone has a different vision on how it should be. While I do not really like to say what I think is the best way to translate racing in a game, I do like to admit that in its current state the cars are very forgiving and in general easy to drive, while in other simulations they are definitely harder to keep on the road.
Online racing is usually where the simulation games shine. This is where most of the fans buy these games for, and this is where we simracers find our fun. While most racing games just provide simple lobbys with no actual set of rules besides keeping it on the track, Project Cars 2 comes with the addition of a license system, as can be expected of the more serious simulators that cater to online racers. While the idea and concept of Project Cars 2 definitely improved the online experience and made everyone a lot more serious than before, it is still somewhat of a vague concept that lacks a few major details. So far, I have had some great online races where everyone actually used their mirrors, and people tried to race as clean as possible.
So where do we stand with Project Cars 2? Is this game their redemption from the previous Project Cars? I’d say yes, it definitely is. Project Cars 2 is a lot of fun to play, and the cars are a blast to drive. Despite its grippy feeling the game does a fine job of giving you this satisfying feeling like you actually drove a car around the Nordschleife. While the game is plagued with bugs, and in its current form terrible AI, the career is still fun to have a go, but the experience may vary by track and car. Project Cars 2 once again did a fine job of being a full packaged game that actually gives you this feeling like you are working your way up, instead of just a simulation game that feels dead from the inside, where you just load up a car and track and try to be the fastest around there. If you are a gamer that loves a fun racing game, Project Cars 2 is definitely worth the buy. Are you the more serious racer? Thoughts about the game are honestly a hit or miss to whoever I talk to. I personally thoroughly enjoy this game, but I also understand the frustrations for people that race on a serious level and see the shortcomings of Project Cars 2. Whether or not you should buy it, give it a try, and if you don’t like it, at least you can refund through Steam if you have played less than two hours.
Overall Score: 3/5. Extremely fun and beautiful racing game. Unfortunately the many bugs that plague the game does hinder your fun, and the terrible AI is also a major element that makes the game worse than I had hoped for.