Racing simulators can sometimes be overwhelming for beginners, and can drive people from them. Project cars simplifies a lot of the content to reach a broader audience.
Project Cars is the best goddamn go kart simulator I’ve ever seen a great racing sim for people looking to get into the genre. What it lacks in an extensive car list or modifying capabilities it makes up for in ease of use and accessibility. Project Cars also aims to put you in the world of an up-and-coming racing driver. Coupled with its in depth tuning and telemetry capabilities, Project Cars provides a wide range of tools for people to learn about the world of racing, while also being a great simulator for the more serious player.
The most in depth experience in Project Cars comes from one of the three career options. “Zero to Hero” puts you in the world of karting to begin, much like most professional racers. Other options include “Defending Champ” which has you defending a certain title for three years in a row and “Triple Crown” which is a broader span of motorsport disciplines. I chose the first, so let’s start with the karting.
Holy shit this feels like a real kart. From the sound to the insanity, you immediately see that this game is good. It is responsive, and feels great even on a controller. You begin to think to yourself, “Well, maybe I really could be a race car driver,” and in that blissful memory of a childhood dream once forgotten, you take your focus off the track for one brief second, and that’s when it all comes crashing down.
However, this is a good thing. It’s good that your dreams come crashing to a halt and you’re brought back to reality. Why you ask? Because that feeling of dread that consumes you in that moment is what this game uses to keep your attention, or rather, what makes it more real. Most simulators like Gran Turismo or Forza or even something more comparable, like the Need for Speed: Shift series, are missing the one key point of being a simulator.
To remind you of that dream.
You progress through the game based on a yearly race calendar that shows upcoming races based on contractual obligations. Damn that’s cool. What’s even cooler, although sometimes corny, is the in game social media and news screen. This screen is the default screen for career, and adds even more to its ability to draw you in.
So, this game has a good career mode. But, how is the rest of it?
Graphically, the game is pretty good. This particular copy is on a PS4, but doesn’t scream “Next-gen” graphics. The cars themselves are really good, but is the little things that bug me. The surroundings? Meh, they’re not bad. The crowds? Typical copy and paste of like, five dudes with a three second repeating animation.
Also, and this really bugs me, there’s no pit crew. Why? Why have a game that has a really nice telemetry screen and tuning capabilities, but nobody to work on the car when you’re in the pits?
So it just plays the sounds of pit stops. Fine. I get that it’s a pit stop. It just takes away from that whole experience of being immersed in that world.
So how about content?
While the list of cars in game is… lacking, there is no shortage of activities. Time trials pit your skills against the world for a bid at the top spot on the global leaderboards, and online multiplayer puts you on the grid with other, real racers. This alone can lead to hours of obsessed gameplay where you feel like just one more lap and you’ll beat that son-of-a-bitch at the top and then you make one mistake and then you keep doing it over and over, longer and longer much like this run-on sentence. You’ll find yourself spending hours trying to understand what you did wrong and how you can improve.
Just like a real race car driver.
The biggest problem is the AI, or the lack thereof. Yes, there are other cars on the track in races but man are they annoying and terrible at driving. While you can adjust the AI difficulty, it doesn't change their behavior which is always wrong. They don’t avoid crashes, they don’t seem to respond to your presence on the track, and for some reason, the aren't affected as bad when they go off. The silver lining of this AI is the fact that is does teach you patience. Patience becomes paramount in this game, and you learn early on to be patient with the AI, which once again translates to the real thing. Real drivers know when to pass and act accordingly.
That feeling of being the race car driver is ultimately what this game is about, and why you should buy it. This game brings simulators to the masses, while still catering to those with what looks like the inside of a race car in their living room for their wheel setup. Project Cars is less of a generic simulator and more of a person simulator. You become the driver, you see the fans react to your performance, and you decide which contracts to sign to further your career. Minus the weird crowd animations, lack of a pit crew, and robotic AI, this game is still good and worth the purchase.
Cameron Hansen played so many hours of Project CARS on PS4 that he's basically a race car driver.