Next-gen motorheads have been lonely without much rubber to burn, but “PROJECT Cars,” the first racing simulator for PS4 (and the second for Xbox One), is here to satisfy the gear-shifters who want a simpler, more approachable title. Short for "Community Assisted Racing Simulator," the indie game was picked up by Namco Bandai after an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign (it ranks as the 28th most funded project) and, unlike most other sims, presents a simplistic approach to circuit racing that gets players into the driver's seat faster.
For starters: all cars are available immediately. For fans of “Gran Turismo” and “Forza”, in which earning new cars is a major element of the experience, this sounds like heresy. But having every vehicle in “Project CARS” available at the outset doesn’t detract from the experience, but rather rids the annoyance of having to putter around in a Honda FIT for four hours before getting the chance to grab the wheel of anything worthwhile. Experience wise, the game requires the same hardcore attention to track-memorization, engine tuning, and well driving; it just reduces the clutter (paint shops, unending menu options, etc). Load in the disc and you’re ready to take a socket wrench to the engine of a McLaren P1 so it hugs Le Mans’ curves more tightly.
Simplicity reigns throughout: menus are straightforward and much simpler to navigate, and the mechanical and suspension tuning options are a welcome change. Motorheads will appreciate this direct approach and the ease with which they can make meaningful changes without keeping them off the track for too long.
And by stripping out certain elements, driving takes precedence. There’s a career and solo mode as well as a few online events. The physics of the “Project CARS” are tight throughout, with dead-on track-feel and realism that requires intense focus. And the graphics and modeling are exquisite, with every crease and wind-sculpted fin rendered in smooth, sensuous detail. The game does, however, suffer some of the shortcomings that expose its indie origins: it has a far less expansive vehicle list than Gran Turismo, as well as some generic, dated crowd graphics that make for poor video quality during replays of your breakneck antics.
Project CARS has all the makings of a car lover’s game and the addictive qualities of a racing sim. The mechanics are rock solid and you really feel that the car you choose is your car—more than enough to make us forgive the minor drawbacks. Given the fact that the competition in the space is extremely light doesn’t hurt the game’s appeal either. While we continue waiting for Sony to finally drop a new Gran Turismo on the PS4, we’ll gladly do laps in Project CARS.