Review

Project Cars 2 Review

  • First Released Sep 21, 2017
    released
  • PS4

A bumpy ride.

My first race in Project Cars 2 was a learning experience, to say the least. After a couple of years away from the wheel of Slightly Mad Studios' simulation racing series, getting reacquainted with its uncompromising style was no easy feat. The blind turns and fluctuating elevations of Scotland's Knockhill Racing Circuit played havoc with my rusty skills, as I spun out myriad times throughout my first practice session, making the trackside gravel my undesirable home. It was not the start I had envisioned, and I could have let it get to me--thwarted, as I was, by a quick sprint around the Scottish countryside. But this is where the tinkering began.

I started tuning my Formula Rookie car to adjust to the particularities of this charming British track, softening the anti-roll bar to limit oversteering, and adjusting gear ratios to get a tad more speed down the straights. With each passing lap I gradually became more accustomed to Knockhill's tricky corners, learning how to approach each one with guile and gusto. Before long I wasn't just completing laps without incident, but setting competitive times to rival the competition, and fondly recalling similar moments throughout my time with Slightly Mad's first game in the series. It's a singular, almost assuredly niche thrill; yet it was this focus on learning and adapting to the various intricacies of both car and track that made Project Cars so appealing--and which still rings true in its sequel.

Click image to view in full screen
Click image to view in full screen

For all its strengths, however, the first Project Cars was hindered by some notable flaws. Inconsistent handling, inadequate gamepad support, dim-witted AI, and numerous, disruptive bugs regularly plagued the experience. Thankfully, these issues have been mostly addressed in Project Cars 2. For one, the physics and driving model have been much improved, with less disconnect between your actions and those of your car. There's an increased weightiness to these fuel-guzzling beasts that firmly plants them on the road, and a pliability that makes pushing them up to and over the limit a viable strategy, resulting in some incredibly tense and exciting moments.

Gamepad support is also marginally better. Where playing with a pad was once perplexingly unapproachable, it's now manageable at least--albeit significantly lagging behind the fidelity and one-to-one feedback of a dedicated racing wheel. Out of the box, the handling is quite understeer heavy, too, so you'll probably want to fiddle with the settings until it feels more comfortable. And there are some difficulties communicating exactly what the car is doing without the advantages of force feedback, particularly when the back end starts to spin out from underneath you. There's a distant, almost loose feel to the handling, and this makes playing without stability control more difficult than it would otherwise be. Racing with a gamepad is still nowhere near perfect or even close to the likes of Forza, but these adjustments do enough to make it more playable than the first game. With this in mind, I would still hesitate to recommend Project Cars 2 to anyone without a racing wheel.

Despite the improvements made behind the wheel, Project Cars 2's most eye-catching aspect might just be the sheer breadth of cars, tracks, and motorsports on offer. With 180 cars to choose from, 60 tracks, and 29 motorsports, you can easily go from kicking up dirt and gravel in a Rallycross event in Hell, to careening around Imola in Enzo Ferrari's magnificent namesake. Maybe you'll race wheel-to-wheel in white-knuckle stock cars for the full 500 miles of the Indianapolis 500, usher a Formula X car around the twisting turns of Monaco's opulent street course, or precariously rip through the historic 8.75 miles of the original Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in an Aston Martin DBR1/300. The extensive variety on-hand is sumptuous, and almost every track and car is intricately detailed, with phenomenal audio design bringing each bottled-up rocket of horsepower to life with a delectable symphony of shifting gears, screeching tires, and roaring engines.

The weather effects in Project Cars 2 are best-in-class, and the palpable effect they have on each and every race proves they're not just for show either

Meanwhile, a dynamic weather system that encompasses everything from emphatic thunderstorms and blizzards, to a hazy summer's day--plus an impressive day/night cycle--complements the action, and turns an endurance race at Le Mans into a keen test of attrition and strategy. As the sky cracks open and unleashes a torrent of rain, puddles will gradually form on the track and must be avoided lest you aquaplane into the nearest wall. Survive this brush with death and the hot asphalt will dissipate any pools of water, yet your relief won't last for long as the sun begins to disappear behind the trees. Suddenly corners aren't quite as recognisable as they once were as shadows cast blind spots over the track; and before long you're driving in nothing but pitch black darkness, with only your headlights to guide you. The weather effects in Project Cars 2 are best-in-class, and the palpable effect they have on each and every race proves they're not just for show either.

The best way to cycle through this plethora of motorsports is in the career mode, which takes you globetrotting from one racing discipline to another. You're still free to choose where you begin your driving adventure--whether it's in the lowly rungs of kart racing or maybe in the more potent brutes of GT4--but there's added structure this time around. The high-end championships are locked away until you've made at least some progress, and single-race invitationals mix up the pacing so it's less of a slog. The career mode is, however, surprisingly restrictive when it comes to competing in these various championships. If you finish outside of the top three, it's deemed a failure and you're asked to retry the entire championship again. This can be utterly demoralising when you've just completed ten races or so, and I'm not sure why leading the midfield pack comes with such a harsh punishment. It actively discouraged me from raising the AI difficulty until I knew I could consistently place in the top three, and it feels like a completely misguided decision. If you've started a championship and don't quite fancy it, it's also needlessly difficult to quit. The only way to do so is by starting each race and retiring to the pits, which is very time-consuming.

While these issues are disappointing, Project Cars 2's most glaring faults lie with the AI and the vast number of bugs that constantly crop up. The AI is slightly improved over the first game; it's less rigid, has more spatial awareness when racing wheel-to-wheel, and will make human-esque mistakes, particularly in adverse weather conditions. But for every moment of fair and balanced racing, there's another example where they'll nudge you off the road, shunt you in the backside, or cause an 18-car pileup on the first corner. I can't count the amount of times the AI has spoiled a race by mindlessly crashing into each other at the very first hint of a bend in the road. It's absurd.

The AI is also a constant nuisance in qualifying. It will set consistent lap times when you're out on the track, but as soon as you skip to the end of a session after a seemingly good job, it will inexplicably gain a good five seconds on your best lap time, even if there's not enough time left to do so. I've also encountered a few notable instances where I've qualified in first, only to get bumped into last place as soon as the race begins. The race director is inconsistent, too, dishing out penalties for no discernible reason. If you play in the rain at Monaco, the tunnel will flood with water and is almost impossible to drive on. And any cosmetic damage you sustain will remain after restarting a session, even if that includes missing wheels.

All of these issues, whether they're disruptive or comical, paint a picture of a game that wasn't quite ready to come out of the oven. Multiplayer races mitigate some of these flaws, and are arguably the best way to play, but the online servers are sparsely populated, resulting in a lot of waiting around to race maybe four or five other people, if you're lucky. I also suffered multiple crashes that only occurred during, or when trying to join, multiplayer sessions.

When it all works as intended, Project Cars 2 is a brilliant simulation racer--provided you're playing with a wheel. It's ambitious in scope and depth, and the sheer breadth of available motorsports almost guarantees there's something for everyone to sink their teeth into. It's a shame, then, that there's always this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that a bug or moment of AI madness will disrupt the whole thing--and more often than not, it will. These issues may be ironed out in the coming weeks and months, but with potentially stiff competition on the very-near horizon, Slightly Mad Studios might not have enough time to capture the hearts and minds of video game racing fans before they move on to pastures new.

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The Good

  • Comprehensive handling model and physics
  • Dynamic weather system is best-in-class
  • Mouth-watering collection of tracks and cars
  • An impressive variety of motorsports

The Bad

  • AI is a constant and disruptive nuisance
  • Numerous bugs
  • Career mode is surprisingly demanding
  • Gamepad support is still not quite up to snuff

About the Author

Richard spent over 15 hours on the hot asphalt of Project Cars 2's various motorsports. Stick him on an icy track and his Bambi impression is second to none. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary PS4 copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
249 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1Adding Gran Turismo was a bit of a low blow, considering their last game was on PS3. But, yeah, definitely the best racer, particularly for consoles. Even through a controller, I can feel the cars. People are hating on the game because of bugs even when they haven't played the game. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I'm at least 25 hours in on PS4 and have not had one issue. Maybe I will, but I'm just here to point out not everyone has issues

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: uh - what? I was just pointing out that comparing Project Cars 2, Forza 7 and Gran Turismo 6 is not really fair seeing as how FM7 is released tomorrow or somewhere close, PCars 2 was released last Friday and GT6 was released in 2013. If you're talking GT Sport - maybe wait until it comes out before criticizing

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: a lot of hate towards a 4 year old game. Most realistic driving game on console last gen, and I think even harsh critics could probably agree on that. GT Sport comes out shortly. I'll be interested to see how that compares.

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: Yeah I can respect that. For me, the original GT got me hooked on realistic racing. So I'm always a little defensive of them :-p

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: That's a bit elitist, don't you think? There's a lot of advantages of consoles. Easier to pick up and play and you don't have to worry about specs. Really, I don't think there's much difference in the games. By your own admission, you said how wonderful PCars 2 is, and the physics are the same on console and PC according to the Project Cars people. And according to people who have played both.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying console is better. I realize PC is capable of higher end games, but saying racing sims aren't I. The same league isn't always true. I've said this before - unless we've driven these high end cars, we don't know how they actually handle ourselves. A very select people do

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: True, I agree that it's better. But - if the physics are the same, then we're talking graphically. For me, at least, the maybe 10% better looks are not worth the maybe $500-$1000 more. I'm not sure, I'm guessing a high end PC would be at least $1000 plus monitor? If I could afford it, I would too. Plus, for me, a big thing is multiplayer-like couch multiplayer.

I guess it really comes down to budget and situation. Different strokes for different folks as they say :-D

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: Ok, well you're talking WAY out of my league. And quite snobbishly. I'm not getting a 4K TV for years. I've seen them in action at electronics stores and they're simply not worth the money for me. Standard def to HD is quite a difference. But 720 to 1080 that everyone was fixated on for a while meant such a small difference to me I really didn't care. Truth be told, most people couldn't tell the difference between them until you hit like a 60" tv. 4K, to me, is probably somewhere in between the differences. Plus, how much money am I going to have to spend every year to get that? I bought a used PS4 for $200 (I'm in Canada and got it with a warranty), and I bought a 43" plasma 4 years ago for $100. Add in $80 for Project Cars 2, and thats a total of $380, everything in. Plus, a system that's good for 4 years. How much did you spend to get all that? Probably significantly more. For a game that only looks a little better

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: I think the problem with conversing online is how things come across. I shouldn't have used the word snobbish. I think, as a console owner, I hear so much of how I have an inferior product that I can get defensive. And I really shouldn't.

Anyway, I like to sit back, probably with a beer, jump online and have a race night with friends. Not usually serious, just casual clean racing. And probably just once a week. The other times I'm just hotlapping or doing my career races. So console suits me better. I also have a wife who is inable to work due to health. So I'm supporting us both. I can't afford much, so I'm pretty careful about what I buy.

All that being said, I understand PC gaming. It's all good really. I think we can agree that PCars 2 is pretty amazing. Sure it has bugs, but they'll get worked out I'm sure. I think I said this before, but it's the first time I've been able to feel a car through a controller. It really feels like I can regulate the throttle and brake so I can make it anywhere from 1/8 to full and just about anywhere in between. Most games with controller are VERY difficult to do this. Someday I'll get a wheel, but until then a controller will have to do

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benandmax

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@lonesamurai1: Cool, I'm waiting for one to drop soon for PS4. Ian Bell said it was coming this week for everyone. If you're on GTplanet, he's on there a lot (CEO of SMS I believe) and he actually talks to guys on the forums, as long as they're not idiots. I've had a few questions answered by him, which is pretty cool. Anyway, I always recommend that site, as it's probably the best all round sim racing site, or even racing video games in general. Maybe I'll see you there. And thanks about my wife. Nothing that will get completely better, but not life threatening either. Not on here to complain though-a lot of people have it a lot worse. I guess that's obvious when we're on here discussing games :-)

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: "The cars feel like they're actually driving in the track"? I don't think so.

"Actual realistic car handling"? Oh, no. no.

For anyone else reading this, never believe the words of the fanboy.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Yeah, yeah, sure - make assumptions when you run out of good arguments. I have seen that dozens of time before.

For anyone else reading this, I would never believe a fanboy. A fanboy is already inherently biased.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Yeah, whatever and however relevant that kind of statement is.

For anyone else reading this, fanboys narrow their perception where convenient. Anyone who is well-versed in PC gaming would know that no game is perfect, or worth the effort defending for that matter.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Even the PC version has problems such as frequent freezing, according to PC Gamer.

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Sickie

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Edited By Sickie

@lonesamurai1: You are arguing with someone who hasn't played the game.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Well, it is certainly the best version.

Yet, one question comes up from this: if it is the best version, they should have sent out review copies of the PC version to all game sites.

Instead they sent out the PS4 one to GameSpot.

Oh wait, Bandai Namco is the publisher. Little wonder.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Yup. They should have let the developer make the decision.

At least Bandai Namco did not insist on Denuvo DRM for the PC version though - Slightly Mad Studios apparently had input on that.

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Indeed. Yet, I want to point out here that the matter of DRM is for the publisher and distributor to decide.

Japanese publishers have a notorious tendency to be checklist-tickers; Bandai Namco itself has gotten into trouble with CD Projekt before over the disc-copies of Witcher 2 (they have burned-in DRM), and some people in CD Projekt publicly implied that Namco Bandai had a checkbox-ticking mentality to games distribution.

So that there is not going to be Denuvo for the PC version of this game is as much peculiar as it is a relief.

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jagdedge124

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Edited By jagdedge124

Yeah, this is probably much more in line than IGN's review. Given their review, idk if they played this with a controller or not. It's a bit burdensome, and needs much tweaks.

I mean this review is right, in that you can change settings, but you're still going to deal with issues.

Then there's a lot of bugs that need ironing out (pit stops are bugged on some tracks, and the same accidents in the same place every race on some tracks etc)

There does have to be 'effort" though in driving a car 200 mph around corners at an oval circuit. Forza, F1, those are arcade racing as far as i'm concerned in the way the cars drive floating on the track with no effort.

However, this needs a great bit of fixing, and has the potential of a "9" , but at this point, i agree at a 7.

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Geo_The_Great

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Hey GameSpot, why does your review only say PS4 at the top? Isn't this on the Xbox and PC too? At first glance you're making it look like a PS4 exclusive

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mpl911

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Edited By mpl911

@Geo_The_Great: I think that's just the particular version they use for their review. The box on the bottom right, a few inches below the score, shows which platforms it's on...and that's normally correct.

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mohibeyki

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@Geo_The_Great: because you are retarded. This review is was done on PS4 version of the game, if you look at the right sidebar, you can see more information about the game and the 3 platforms it is released on. it has been like this for a long time...

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Geo_The_Great

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@mohibeyki: it's misleading, that's all. Many other reviews list multiple platforms at the top so I was wondering why it was different on this occasion. If it's because that's the specific platform they played it on they should say so. Just a suggestion...

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mohibeyki

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@Geo_The_Great: I'm sorry if I offended you, didn't mean to do that. I just stated the obvious

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aross2004

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Edited By aross2004

@mohibeyki: You call someone retarded and then say you didn't mean to offend them? What a toolbag...

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mohibeyki

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@aross2004: well I didn't mean to be rude, it was just the moment

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PixelAddict

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@mohibeyki: If you said it, you meant it.

Also: there is ZERO mention of the other versions. Not at the top, not in the score box.

So...

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Domiddian

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Where did this come from? I knew they were making this game, but didn't know it would be out this soon... I blame all that garbage Destiny 2 coverage.

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Skrilla_XS

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15 hours isn't enough time imo

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topgun182

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@Skrilla_XS: Yes it is. I couldn't even get to 15 hours before going back to Assetto Corsa. The AI is so bad I started a 20 lap Indycar race at Texas with a mandatory pit stop and started last. They wrecked each other so badly that within 5 laps I was in the lead and by the time the race ended even after pitting, I had lapped most of the field up to about 4th place. And I crashed on my pit in because you can't slow for pit road without getting run into. Oh, and no cautions at all.

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sakaiXx

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@Skrilla_XS: enough to get a general feel of the game. Dunno of enough to review a game but ehh.

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DudeBroPartyYo

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I'll wait for sale or GOTY edition. I kind of guessed about AI and people were claiming it would match RF2. Also what do people expect when buying a game day one, experience spoiling bugs, some unfinished aspects of the game, its a standard across the industry. If i really want a game real soon i wait at least 2 months for bunch of patches so i can start with smooth experience.

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GuacStomper

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Edited By GuacStomper

I don't understand why everyone is losing their minds at how difficult the control of the cars can be? Yes, I admit it did take some tweaking on the PS4 to get the control right but as far as the cars losing traction at high speed, the travel of the trigger on the PS4 is the same as the travel for the accelerator on a car, so if you flatten the trigger on the PS4 then that's the same as flattening your foot down in a high horsepower lightweight car in a corner. Think about it that way. You have to be gentle on the throttle. Also look at the speed you're taking a corner in on the game, and it doesn't seem like you're going that quick but if it were a real car then no way would you be flat foot on a corner lol

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Project CARS 2

First Released Sep 21, 2017
released
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

7
Good

Average Rating

52 Rating(s)

7.1
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
Mild Language