Project CARS 2: A high-octane masterpiece.
tl;dr version: If you love racing, do not pass up this release.
There comes a time in the life of every of every motorhead (erm… car enthusiast) when the desire to get behind the wheel of a high-powered racecar pulls them in one of two directions: making their dreams a reality, or pursuing the virtual high of racing gameplay. For me, the latter came to fruition with Pole Position (Namco, 1983). It was two years after its release, when I was 5, that I first came across what would be my first racing experience, and it was awesome.
See, racing games have always been a boring run from checkpoint to checkpoint, and on occasion something cool happens, or you shave .001 off your split time. Who cares, right? For someone who had just experienced it for the first time, though, it was fantastic. The cheesy engine revs and absurdly clunky gameplay were just want 5-year-old me thought real driving was all about… I’m a real boy! (shouted in a Pinocchio voice).
Sure, in hindsight both the graphics and the gameplay were atrocious, and I couldn’t possibly stomach it now. But once you’ve played a racing game, you’ve played them all, right? Wrong. For the first time since my formative years, I installed a racing title that stunned me with that same childhood giddiness, that same sense of awe that I had when I was just a wee lad. Project CARS 2 (PR2) is not just a racing game; it’s an experience with more wow factor than I could bargain for.
For starters, PC2 is just visually stunning.
The graphics are exquisite, and the camera work in the cinematics is stunning. Never have I been happier that I sprung for the 4k display on my gaming box. The best part was that after the cinematics, the graphics quality and gameplay didn’t disappoint at all. Everything is crisp and polished. Frankly, the experience of my meager 15” Alienware screen just left me wanting more. Out came the HDMI cable, and next thing I knew, the 65” 4k TV in the living room, along with the 600 watt sound system, was transporting me to the land of burning rubber and checkered flags. [EN: Bruh, can i habs mooney?]
Still, possessing a little of that five-year-old in me, the first thing I decided to do was to run a quick race to get a feel for things. This is where I was rudely awakened by the fact that this would be no coin-op racer. I wasn’t going to peg the gas from start to finish and ride the guard rails around the corners. This became quickly evident when I was penalized for crossing a white line on my way out of the pit. Seriously? I guess that’s a thing. I completely lost control of my car just afterward, as control was handed off to me, and made best friends with a wall. Little did I know it would be my best friend for the next few minutes until I got up to speed (pun intended).
The amount of control you have over your vehicle, crew, and pit strategy is awe-inspiring
I was amazed at how much I yearned for a force-feedback steering wheel and shifter setup, like I used for my review of WRC 6. The gamepad I had quickly grabbed was not giving this title justice. After a little tweaking of my settings, I was able to settle in and do an entire lap without slamming into the wall. Of course, I celebrated by doing donuts on the finish line… for four minutes straight. Why, you might ask? Well, on my screen were readouts of my tire temp and tread life (amongst many other things) and wouldn’t you know the physics are so dialed in that it accurately represented what each tire would have experienced. My only regret was that after my passenger-side rear tire was spent, it didn’t blow up and sparks didn’t fly. SO MUCH FOR REALISM…. Jk (kinda).
After I was done screwing around (am I ever, though?) I jumped into the career, and realized fully why this release was a race-lovers dream come true. The amount of control you have over your vehicle, crew, and pit strategy is awe-inspiring. It’s almost a shame to call this merely a racing title — it’s a full-on sim. Not since I had my beloved 1974 Dodge Charger was I as excited to be behind the wheel again, virtual or otherwise, and it felt good.
The Verdict: Genre Revolution
Project CARS 2 sets the benchmark for what a true racing sim release should be. With exquisite graphics, exceptional realism, and palpable thrill, the gauntlets have been thrown down, and it’s up to every other dev to try and get close to this masterpiece of its genre. Now for a fresh dose of caffeine… it’s time to shave some time off my split!