When a racing simulator comes along, you can tell pretty quick what it’s trying to achieve. With the likes of Gran Turismo, you know straight-off the bat that it’s aiming for first place in realism and absolute accuracy, with an obsessively detailed car roster and track selection. Whereas titles such as The Crew have gone for a more ‘arcadey’ approach, aiming for an online-centric experience; coupled with a dash of Ubisoft’s mainstream magic. Then you have the WorldMassDevelopment-funded Project Cars from Slightly Mad Studios, who through pure ‘mad’ passion, are finding their on tread within the racing sim market.
I spent a couple of hours playing across different tracks, by both controller and racing seat, warming up my tires enough to figure out where I think it’s headed. Whereas most racing games will task you with unlocking content as you progress, Project Cars gives you all of it from the beginning. Straight away, no holds barred. Similar to having all the flavours of ice cream I could possibly want, I was a bit perplexed on how to proceed. Career mode wasn’t open for me to try, so instead I stuck to quick-races and practice mode.
I must admit, I made a rookie mistake going in. The game aims to provide a fairly realistic approach to racing, without bogging down new players with an overly complicated learning curve. If you want to go into minuet detail on how cars control – even going as far as tire pressure and brake balance – you can, fulfilling your OCD nature to its full extent. I, on the other hand, started with the basic presets, choosing a fast and stylish car and having the weather set to thunderstorm – boy did I make the wrong choice there. I guess it was my lack of knowledge, or perhaps ignorance, when I thought I could control a super car in the rain, on a track with lots of bends. I couldn’t. Immediately I started to slide into walls and look like a complete ass. Luckily, though, community exec Colm came in to give me a proper racing start.
It’s a no-brainer that I was going about Project Cars the wrong way. I have, after all, become more accustomed to arcade racers. I’m used to easily swinging the backend of a car round a bend, looking pretty slick in the process. I realised that I can still accomplish that here, just with a little more practice, and I was eager to plod on. Thankfully a much more ‘friendlier’ track was selected, and I went with a Formula B car; which provided a superb amount of grip, as you’d expect. With the choice of manual or automatic – I chose the former – after a few laps I hand’t quite hit my sweet spot, but I was on the right path.
It wasn’t until I got strapped into a nearby racing seat that I truly felt the need for speed. I hit the gas and then, nothing. I wasn’t moving. The problem? I was in manual, so I clicked the flappy paddle for a gear change and set off. I’ve never experienced a more fun driving experience then I did in that seat, and though I understand not everyone will have the pleasure of a similar set-up, I feel confident enough to get comfortable on a controller. I continued the rest of the afternoon switching control systems, and experiencing the different car classes and tracks available, steering clear of thunderstorms and opting for a much dryer weather setting.
As previously stated, I’m not an in-depth car nut. I won’t be able to tell you that everything is presented spot-on versus real life, but it sure seems to be. Though some licenses are absent, such a Porsche, many of the big names are fully represented: including Aston Martin and Mercedes. If that wasn’t enough, ex-Stig Ben Collins has also lent his voice to help guide you through races, aiming to spur you on if you’re lagging behind and give you tips to get through a track. I may not be a car nut, but I am a Top Gear fan, so knowing an ex-Stig was onboard was pretty neat. The build I played was only a week old and I didn’t come across any major bugs, just a few post-race, as my car fell in-line with the other racers and caused a dramatic crash.
With release a little over a month away, I’m hopeful that Slightly Mad Studios will make an impact with its racing sim. For those who want to race off or online with accurately detailed cars and tracks, everything will be there, waiting for you to pick up the keys and start the engine. If you’re a newcomer looking to learn the ropes, heading from zero to hero, then put your helmet on and take a leap of faith, you never know where it might lead you. Just rest assured that the Stig will be in your ear, no pressure.
Project Cars will release April 2nd 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
*As mentioned in a comment below, the cars in the game that take their looks from Porsche are RUF, a German car manufacturer that uses unmarked Porsche bodies and chassis.