Project Cars: XBox One Review
Platform: XBox One
Released by Slightly Mad Studios / Bandai Namco
"Control, control, you must learn control"
An exhortation from my youth as spoken by a Muppet in a space film, but one which is terribly relevant to Project Cars, the massive racer just unleashed by Bandai Namco and Slightly Mad Studios.
It's been an interesting year for the genre, with Driveclub now hitting its straps after a shaky start off the starting grid and with Forza Horizon 2 dominating my XBox racing time - but Project Cars is an entirely different beast and one which rewards with plenty of time investment and with dedication.
Much like a racer starting their career.
The simulator lets you work from the ground level up and build your career if you want; but if you don't care for that, the added bonus is that you can jump into the championships, grab your favourite cars and race from wherever and whenever you want.
It's this sandbox approach that the developers and community have gone for which gives Project CARS its USP. But it's punishing if you expect to simply pick up and enter the sim, because the game's centred around a realistic driving experience rather than an arcade feel a la Forza Horizon. But it's great that it has a reason to exist and to stand out, because quite simply, the reward is there for those who are willing to suffer too.
Starting off with karts is a lot harder than it seems; the slightest overtouch of acceleration or a gentle nudge the wrong way sees you spinning out of control, breaking the races rules and heading off track - it's a frustration initially that the calibration isn't suited to your driving skills and you will need time to adjust the controls to your preferred methods (just one of the modding elements that's required for you to get the utmost out of the game). Occasionally, another driver whacking into your sides causes all manner of problems and gives you the disappointment of having to go all over again.
But patience is required to get the best from the game - and it's a game that really does look stunning too. Particularly on the XBox One, the backgrounds are incredible with the sun falling over tracks like Imola and Silverstone, the grunt of the platform pays dividends, rivalling Driveclub's finer moments.
In some ways, this look at Project CARS is a work in progress, which will no doubt be re-reviewed later on - predominantly because the community will inform a part of it. If there are any concerns about the game, the simulation's so good that the hands off / don't need to invest in anything other than a few championships may hold a few back from playing nightly; and occasionally, I've had the game graphics drop down a notch, but it's still in the early days of it. Driveclub had way more issues on launch and Project CARS has to be applauded for not falling into the Day One problems other contemporaries have had.
As a simulator, Project CARS has set the bar high; granted, it's a little too workmanlike at times but the rewards you reap when it all comes together are dizzying. Just make sure you stick with it after the first few spin-outs - you won't regret taking these cars for a ride.