Thanks to the generous team at Bandai Namco, I was invited to their studios for the afternoon to get a taste of some of their big upcoming titles, the main course if you will being an exclusive look at the most impressive and hotly anticipated racing sim yet, Project Cars! Starting life a little different to most triple A titles, Project Cars was actually a community driven and funded project, and with this it aims to overtake the competition by creating the game fans and true racing enthusiasts want. So where does it rank on the podium against the big 3 racing sims also releasing this year, does it have what it takes to take pole position? Let’s start our engines and find out!
Jumping straight into the demo I find myself on the starting grid at Silverstone and it’s just as picture perfect to the real track itself. Already with the game having fully licensed tracks and indeed cars (an Aston Martin was my choice of vehicle), its astonishing to remember that this was a crowd funded project and in reality how much money was raised to not only make the game, but also pay for the likenesses of tracks and cars. At the time of playing, I was told there were to be around 65 drivable cars and over 50 race tracks, as well as an additional amount of karting circuits to play with. In regards to races, players will have the option to compete in simple arcade races against a clan of competitors, a number of grand prix and tournaments will be available, and you can also expect special online events which could keep you occupied for days at a time! From the off the level of detail in my car was phenomenal, I had to move the camera around several times in awe before I began racing. Every part of it’s exterior was incredibly sharp and so much so that you could make out every scratch of paint on the metal, as well as the top and bottom of every sponsorship decal in amazing focus. You’ll be pleased to know this level of detail follows into the interior, with every kind of dial or clock easily readable and working perfectly in sync with the game; the in car clock in particular matched the time of the track alongside the sun setting. For fans of racing sims that actually like a body behind the wheel, then revel in the fully animated driver that once again follows your actions on the control pad with absolute precision.
Right, enough gawping at the car, lets see how it handles on the track. The controls follow the basic layout of almost every racing game that has gone before, but with it brings a lot more subtlety than most sims. Every movement, whether it is applied delicately or harshly, is expertly executed in the game, but it’s no surprise really seeing Project Cars has been designed and guided by some of the best racing drivers in the world to make it’s handling as realistic as possible. Players who want to adjust the default difficulty can find plenty of options in the main menu, in doing so will give you full control of every aspect of your car’s handling and sensitivity; this game is really tailored to fit you. The developers ‘Slightly Mad Studios’ have adopted an improved version of their already successful Madness engine which was the basis for their acclaimed ‘Need For Speed: Shift’ series, giving more freedom and power to the player. To accommodate players of all abilities, Slightly Mad Studios have worked extensively to allow anybody to fully customise their playing experience with various driver aids and track assistances. In the aptly named “Vehicle Authenticity” tab in the options, you are given free reign on every aspect of your car’s …well authenticity. As well as turning off and on any handling, steering or braking assistance, you can set how ‘real-like’ your car reacts to the track, like fuel usage, tire wear, mechanical failure and how much exterior & interior damage will be taken into account. It’s not just your vehicle you can alter, but you can also fully personalise how aggressive your opponents are and how realistic your driving challenge will be. Based around slider bars from 1- 100, you can decide how successful you’re challengers are and how much of a fight they put up. Scrolling through the ‘Opponent Challenge’ option gives you control over pretty much everything, from starting grid reaction time to how much risk each driver will take.
As well as having full control of your opponents and your own vehicle, you have full control of your environment too, including the time of day, time of year and a wide range of different weather conditions like a super awesome thunder storm which made me crap myself in sheer awe! I was told by the guys at Bandai Namco that, like most games these days, Project Cars will remain globally connected. This doesn’t mean you have to be online to play the game, but if you are connected and you’re playing a particular overseas licensed track, the game will find out the exact weather reports over the real life track and transpose it to the in-game track! Not only that but it opens up the possibility of having a race, setting it to a specific date in the past and the game will find out what the weather was like back then!
My favourite feature of Project Cars is a tiny detail which makes this game pull away from the pack, and unfortunately only PS4 players will fully experience it. Most racing games will incorporate a voice of wisdom coming through the speakers telling you when it’s time to make a pit stop or how many positions they want you to gain, but none of them sound as genuine and authentic as the garage big wigs in Project Cars. Pouring out of the tiny and often forgotten about speaker of the Dualshock 4, I was praised for my performance but told I could do better … and I could hear the rest of the garage agreeing with the bloke talking to me. It didn’t sound like a recording voice with a raspy sound effect telling me my current position, it sounded like a mechanic and his team on a noisy race track telling me how to do my job, the level of detail, accuracy and thought gone into just one encouraging sentence was a spectacle in itself. PS4 players will get the most of this feature having the speaker so close to your face but anyone can fully immerse themselves into the game’s audio with the right equipment. The cars, crowds and the environment surrounding the race were just as impressive as the visuals.
Once again, Project Cars is built for you, for anyone and for everybody, you make the game however you feel most comfortable or you can think big an make it into the most challenging realistic racing simulator you’ve ever experienced. With Forza Horizon 2 out very soon, The Crew currently going through it’s closed Beta and Driveclub coming out October 10th, once the dust settles Project Cars could genuinely pull away from the pack and come out on top in time for Christmas. With it’s impressive, visuals, sounds and level of customisation, Project Cars is going to pave the way for the future of this genre. It’s a pity the PS3 and 360 versions were cancelled and the Wii U port has an indefinite release as this only opens up an advantage for other titles to snatch the lead, however with it’s huge community drive there’s already a wide audience ready to play. In truth it’s a game which has been a little under the rad until recently, compared to it’s competitors, and sometimes little hype makes for a successful release, but I’ll go ahead and jinx it, Car blimey it’s gonna be huge!