Review: Project CARS

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Out now on PS4, Xbox One and Steam, is the brave and somewhat overachieving racing simulator Project CARS. Now that’s not just a functional name that lets you know it’s about cars, it’s an acronym for Community Assisted Racing Simulator, which is developed by a British video game developer by the name of Slightly Mad Studios.

Imagine for a second that you were at a show. The show is about people who can count grains of sand the fastest. You’ve been talking to a fan outside he is very fascinated and excited about what this means for the sand counting community. To put things in perspective he tells you that it took him over a day to count the grains in an average sized castle, whereas the two performers this evening did all of Necker Island in under an hour. Sure you’d understand that it was impressive and you’d look around at all these excited fans, some of which are selling T-shirts with the performers names and faces on them and you even think you may have walked past a man who is discussing the rights to make a movie out of tonight’s event. As you place yourself in your front row seat for the event, which you got because you are doing a review for a local newspaper, you will ask yourself : “What am I doing here? I don’t understand this. Not at all. I can see that people enjoy it, but it really is just people counting sand? Sometimes in the shape of castles and even a bit in the shape of Richard Branson using sand from Necker Island itself, I understand what it is but I don’t understand it. How am I supposed to differentiate the intricacies of one sand counter to another?”

You have probably have realised that my very glib point here is that I do not understand the appeal of racing simulators. I kind of enjoy them on some level, unlocking and earning your way up through the ranks and unlocking faster and better cars sounds good, kind of. Though this game has totally removed the opportunity to unlock things, and generously gave me them all at the start. It’s strong point and its weakness is the realism of it, you can tune your cars to an obscenely specific preference. At the bottom of the screen at one point it told to contact your engineer for help on tuning the vitals of my chosen vehicle, this is not a cute point about hitting the select button (yes I know there isn’t one anymore) to find out more info, this means “Go outside and contact an actual engineer”

I’m fairly sure while playing online that I ran out of petrol at one point. The Kart racing at the start of the career mode really shows you the difference between Mario Kart and racing, and not just the lack of apes throwing shells at you but if you hit another racer you are gonna get stuck together by some frustrating design that means the karts like to grab onto each other like Jack and Rose before the ice water takes Jack away. I was driving, fast, full of confidence, in first place it started to rain, I noticed how lovely the rain looks in the first person mode on the window, but the ground became slippery and I hadn’t accounted for that and lost traction and crashed into the wall watching the rest of the cars parade past me like a parade celebrating my own ineptitude.

If this hyper realism appeals, and you really love cars and you know as much about them as Paul Walker did in Fast and the Furious you’ll probably love the game more than anything. If, like me, you only ever played Mario Kart and you know about as much as Paul Walker does now then you will probably struggle to get the most out of the game without actually taking an Open University course on car mechanics. I am biased and confused but judging by everyone else’s reaction to the game I can say that

A) The game is really great and if you like racing simulators you should buy it

and

B) I am never reviewing a sports game ever again.