STAFF REVIEW of Project CARS Game of the Year Edition (Xbox One)

Sunday, May 22, 2016.
by Kirby Yablonski

Project CARS Game of the Year Edition Box art Project CARS started its life as a kickstarter campaign, which was relatively successful given the fact that the game was released. After a bit of research on the interwebz, one will discover that the game was made for $5,000,000, and the money was contributed by the gaming community as well as the developers themselves. It was released in May 2015 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It was received fairly well and got some pretty good reviews, but there were some critics out there who indicated that the game was full of bugs, felt not finished, and wasn’t even playable on some occasions. It seems that the Xbox One version had the most noted issues, from control input not registering, audio bugs, to framerate issues. It was a rough road (pun intended) for the Xbox One version given that some didn’t even recommend it at the time.

During the past year, developer Slightly Mad Studios has maintained their support for Project CARS fixing bugs, addressing issues identified by the community, and releasing DLC in the form of more cars and tracks. Many say that over the last year the game has become what they had hoped it would be and not the version that was released in 2015. With that in mind, Bandai Namco Games has released Project CARS: Game of the Year Edition (GOTY Edition).

Along with the core game that was released a year ago, you now get 50 more cars, 4 new tracks, and 60+ community created liveries. On top of that, you also get about 500 fixes that have occurred since the game launched. That is a lot of fixes I tell you. We here at Xbox Addict have been playing the game over the past week and a half or so, and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised given how good it really is. But mark my words, it’s not a game for everyone, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Let’s get this out of the way right now, Project CARS: GOTY Edition is a simulation racing game, and its PC roots show in such that it’s not really a game that you can just ‘pick up and play’. It has a lot of depth, a lot of sim features, and the control of your cars really shows its’ sim pedigree. The amount of menu options is pretty staggering too. You have control of everything from your visuals, weather, car options, car set up, pit strategy, control options, and the list goes on. It’s pretty daunting to see so many settings at your fingertips. I know that it took me awhile to get through them all and figure out what I should or shouldn’t change in order to make my racing experience more tailored to my needs. I think that those obsessed with having total control of what and how to do things will really enjoy the options offered.

As I have spent most of my racing time in Forza 6 since that game’s release, Project CARS: GOTY Edition was somewhat of a change for me in terms of the actual racing. From the simulation feel, the control, to the way you progress through the game’s single player mode. The career mode is a simulated 10 years. You just don’t get into a car and race through different classes though, as you have sign with a team and start your career racing go-karts. The career mode does a good job of making it like you’re actually doing something meaningful, and not just racing. There are messages to be reviewed after every race, you can view your yearly calendar to see upcoming races, and there is even a “FanCHAT” section that simulates what it would be like for fans to tweet you during your season. It’s not just a ‘pick your car and go’ type feel.

As you progress through the ranks during each year of your career, you are given invitations to race in special events, sign with other teams, and get chosen for specific races. For each race you participate in there is a practice, qualifying, and race day. There is a lot of racing during each simulated calendar year, and you do have the option to skip/simulate races at certain points. As I look at my notes that I took during my gameplay/review time, one thing was in caps and underlined: THIS IS A DEEP GAME.

One of the game’s biggest challenges is the control, especially if you are using a controller. Now, remember, I have been playing Forza 6, and while that game has a sim aspect to it, they are two very different games, and control is one of those big differences. At first you might think that the control in Project CARS: GOTY Edition is off, or just too twitchy at times, but as you play you’ll learn that the control has nuances that have to be mastered. In some ways I truly believe that the game may even be better played with a force feedback steering wheel, but it is not needed.

As I went through the beginning of the career I was I was all over the track, but with time I was able to get the feel of each vehicle I was playing at the time, which in itself is part of the sim aspect as each car feels and handles differently, and seeing my times get better was rewarding. So although the control is indeed tough to master, it is manageable, and even fulfilling once you get the feel of it. Oh, and did I mention your track weather also affects your control, including dry, wet, to slightly damp roads? Of course it does, it’s a sim game.

Given the sim nature of Project CARS: GOTY Edition, you can tweak your car to your hearts content, but you’ll find that the tweaks are to the equipment that is already on your vehicle. You don’t add new parts, but you change such things as gearing, camber, breaking, etc. It’s amazing how much tweaking you can do. You can also save settings, so if you have a set up for a various track or two, then feel free to do so. For me personally, this was somewhat overwhelming. In Forza 6 I tend to rely on auto-tuning, as I am not a true gear-head, so having to try to tune my car on my own was quite daunting. Once again it leads me to point out the sim level of this game, and not in a negative manner either.

Should you want to take a break from the career mode, or want to get some time to practice on other tracks, there are a few more options open to you. There is a ‘Solo’ mode, where you can do a quick single race weekend, as well as an ‘Online’ mode, which is self-explanatory. You do get to view the servers and see what the racers are doing (e.g. tracks, cars, etc.). You can also choose a ‘Driver-Network’ mode, which is a special event mode where there are even prizes awarded at times, and there is the ‘Free Practice’ mode, which is great for practicing on tracks you may not know well. The final two modes are a ‘Quick Random’ mode, which is an online multiplayer mode where you are dropped into to a race with strangers and you don’t know what cars are being used or what track is being raced, and a ‘Time Trial’ mode, which is a chance to get the best laps of any particular race or track.

The online mode allows for up to 16 cars on any one circuit at a time. And like the career mode, there is a qualification session that is used to determine your position on the grid. I personally found that the qualification sessions added a bit of intensity to the experience as you want to get that better grid position than all the other online racers. Like any other racer that is online capable, it really comes down to those who you race against (bashers versus those who want a clean race) and the nature of the online connection. The few races I did were fairly enjoyable, and I did not come across to many of those bashers that I speak about. I have to say that there are some diehards out there who were accustomed to the sim aspect of the game, and boy were they good.

Graphics wise, from outside views (part of or the whole car in view), cockpit views, to all the tracks you race on (35 locations and 100 different track setups), they were well represented visually. You’ll get the usual staple of tracks from Silverstone, Laguna Seca and Nurburgring, to ones that I had no clue about like Rouen les Essarts (France), ZIO (China) and Snetterton (England). The tracks have been recreated in good detail including the sideline detail, crowds, and track specific features. As for those interior car views I mentioned, there are two different cockpit views, one from the driver’s side and one that is further back and centered.

There is an interesting helmet cam where you actually see from the eyes of the driver through their helmet. You can even see the outline of the helmet visor as well. Your view or head position will change as you drive too, such as those times when you enter into a corner, and you’ll also find that your focus will even change (e.g. speedometer and RPM cluster will be blurred when racing down a straightaway but when you slow down and enter a corner they become clear).

There are also different times of day to race in as well as different weather conditions including sun, rain, fog, clouds, dusk, night and others. The rain effects were fairly impressive. I noticed that when I was behind a group of cars on a wet track when it was raining that it became harder to see in front of me from the spray of all of cars then as opposed to being behind just one car. And as an added feature, weather can change as you race too. I had a one such race that included rain, then showers, then a sunny break, and back to showers and then rain.

Technically, Project CARS ran solidly. I can’t recall any slowdown, even when a large group of cars went into a tight corner at the start. The games draw-in is fairly consistent, although you will notice it slightly on some tracks. The Xbox version runs at 900p/30fps, and the experience is smooth all around. You’ll find lots of special effects too from shadows, lens flair, impressive lighting, and great water effects (e.g. rain on windows). The damage model is impressive too, from dents, hanging bumpers to hoods flying off and wheels breaking away. Overall Project CARS manages to hold its own against the visually pleasing Forza 6, or any other racing game on the Xbox One, for sure.

In terms of the game’s audio, Slightly Mad Studios did some good work here. From the high pitch whine of a go-kart to the roar of an Audi R8 V10, all the vehicles sound pretty good and very different from each other. As for environmental sounds, from rain pelting your windshield, knocking fenders with other cars as you enter a turn to the sound of your ‘racing brakes’ as you hit them to slow down when entering into an ‘S’ turn, you’ll notice a lot of sound. You’ll even have your pit crew manager speak up now and then too.

Project CARS: Game of the Year Edition is a simulation racer that deserves a close look. The car models are good, the tracks are well recreated, and the options for racing are quite plentiful. And although the game’s control is tough, and takes work, it’s not by fault as the game leans on its simulation roots. Make no doubt about it, this game is for the diehards as casual fans may find it too unforgiving, and that’s not a bad thing though as the game is good at what it does, providing a fairly deep and engrossing simulation racing experience that the hardcore fans will appreciate.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.9 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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