Hands-On Preview: Project CARS – The First True Next-Gen Racer
Project CARS is one of those games that came out of nowhere. I remember when I first saw the incredibly realistic screenshots of the title and wondered how I hadn’t heard about it previously. This game looked to have the same level of detail as Gran Turismo or Forza. When I saw it being demoed at the Bandai Namco event that I attended I had to see if the actual game looked as good as the screens I’ve been seeing.
The short answer is no, this game doesn’t look as impressive as the promotional materials we’ve all seen. While I waited for my turn to play the game and saw the person in front of me playing, I was a bit disappointed by what I saw. It didn’t look horrible by means since it was running on the PlayStation4 but it didn’t really look like those amazing screenshots I saw. There was definitely a bit of a disconnect between the in-game graphics and the cinemas and screenshots.
Graphics aren’t what a game is all about, of course, and after my initial disappointment with the visuals, I started concentrating on what matters: the gameplay. The graphics aren’t the only realistic thing in the game, as this is a pure simulator. Holding down the gas pedal and occasionally pressing brake will only leave you crashing into the barriers found well outside the track. If you want to succeed then you’ll have to be very precise with your acceleration and deceleration.
I’m more a fan of arcade style racers and I haven’t played a sim racer since Gran Turismo 4, so it took me a while to get used to the feel of the game. Initially, I slid right off the track every single time that I tried to make a turn of any kind but I gradually got better and better. The handling on the car was good but I did feel a bit of oversteer. I was only able to use one type of car so I’m not sure if this oversteering issue is something that’s consistent with every car in the game or just the one I was driving. That minor quibble aside, the car responded well to my commands.
One issue that a lot of racing sim games have is that they don’t have a good sense of speed. The speedometer may say that you’re going at 130mph but it feels like 15mph at most. This is a problem that Project CARS swiftly swerves around (pun intended). The sense of speed I felt was fantastic. I wasn’t prepared for this initially and crashed outright.
Once I got used to it though I loved the rush I got from feeling that I was flying across the track. If this is even 1/10th what actual race drivers feel when they’re zipping around then I understand why they do this. It was great. The fact that the car handled amazingly even while going at break neck speeds was even more impressive.
I harped on the graphics before but that isn’t to say that this is a bad looking game. After I overcame my initial disappointment, I saw that it was still a beautiful title. I think what really works is the lighting, which gives everything an authentic feel. The cars all looked gorgeous and I liked how the sun bounced off their exteriors. The environment itself was meticulously rendered as well and looked very much alive. Yes, this game doesn’t match the promotional shots released but it’s no slouch in the visual department by any stretch of the imagination.
The final game will feature a wide variety of cars, ranging from GT, classics, road cars and even karts. There will be over 60 different tracks and each will have different times of day and weather patterns. Gamers can go up against each other online in 16-20 player races as well as compare each others stats with friends and with those from around the world. Finally, the game will have Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus support.
While not the visual marvel that I had expected, Project CARS is still a solid racing game. This is the type of game that needs to be played a lot in order to really get good at it. Although my initial playthrough of it was admittedly sluggish, I can tell that this is a game that’s made to be mastered over time. This will be a current-gen only game so we’ll see if it can match the popularity of the other big simulation games that are out there. From what I’ve played of it, it certainly has that potential.