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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analgrin

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Edited By analgrin

Great game, many improvements over the original. But why is traction control back to front? Something felt off while racing around. I used the d-pad on my T300 wheel to adjust car settings on the fly. Noticed TC was set at 0.15 so I switched it down to 0.00 thinking that would be off. Wrong. That turned TC up to the max, basically killing the power as soon as I start turning into a bend. So I stuck TC all the way to max 1.00 and hey presto I can now power-slide and throw the cars around properly and I can actually compete against the A.I. instead of being left behind.

Same in the car settings menu. 0.00 maxes TC. 1.00 switches it off. The description along side it does acknowledge that (who reads those descriptions anyway lol) so it's by design?!?! Weird.

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topgun182

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Edited By topgun182

@analgrin: Maybe the number represents the amount of wheelspin you get. I have never changed it.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@analgrin: Seems like a matter of bad coding if the developers are using variables with effects that are inversely proportional to their magnitudes for performance-affecting conditions.

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@Gelugon_baat: Sounds like I should hire you into my team because you know what's wrong with every game

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@PrpleTrtleBuBum: You can know what's wrong with every game too if you can keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfectly flawless game.

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itchyflop

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Huh that was not expected.

Boasting about how it'll be the best looking game in 4k, maybe a patch will fix the rest

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topgun182

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Edited By topgun182

@itchyflop: I thought it looked good besides shadows. The main thing is that it RAN good at 4K.

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GirlUSoCrazy

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

Too bad about the AI. Seems like it would ruin the fun.

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topgun182

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@computernoises: That's your comparison?

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GirlUSoCrazy

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

@computernoises: Perhaps but transformations and too much kart customization def does

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Gelugon_baat

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@computernoises: Mario Kart doesn't try to have believable physics though.

There's more than just the scripting for CPU-controlled opponents to consider. For one, the impact of other factors, such as vehicle physics, on the effectiveness of the scripting is important.

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: And a dollar isn't worth what it was then. The score is dynamic. Grand Prix II got a 9.5 and F1 2017 got a 9. Do you really think there is any comparison between technology in those games?

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: What difference does how much time has gone by make? Technology advances quickly in a few years. I have a old sim called Race On that has better AI. The expectations are higher when you have more to work with. The game is better in a lot of ways, but it is also worse considering what they have available to them. What good is a pretty game with a lot of cars and tracks if you can't race the ridiculous AI? Just wait for all of the crashing to be done and cruise to victory. In a time of GTX1080 video cards, you still have shadows flickering like they were displayed with a GTS8800? PC2 is full of innovation but delivers it poorly. I buy sims to race, and racing in PC2 is a joke right now, but at least I can make it rain...

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topgun182

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Edited By topgun182

@lonesamurai1: Your quote:

"lonesamurai1 - 1 day ago

@Gelugon_baat: I don't care if who reviewed the game"

Be consistent. NOW it matters that different people did the reviews? Seems you DO get my point after all...

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Gelugon_baat

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@topgun182: Thanks for notifying me.

I expected this inconsistency. Fanboys have a tendency to shift goal posts.

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fraga500

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@lonesamurai1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG2dXobAXLI This video explains the problem with reviewers quite well

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Gelugon_baat

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@fraga500: The only thing that I agree with in this video is the fucking stupid score system that website-based game critics tend to use.

Other than that though, this YouTuber actually agrees with many of the critics' criticisms about the games that he highlighted.

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aross2004

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@lonesamurai1: All the other websites apparently decided to ignore the serious bugginess in this game.

Kudos to Gamespot for calling it out, and having the score reflect this.

While I feel like this could be a seriously great racer, it really needs some patches pronto, there's a lot of busted shit here.

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: All the more reason THIS sim should not have the problems it does. The AI is horrendous. No excuse for that in 2017.

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analgrin

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@lonesamurai1: Nothing wrong with it. Games today are 10x better than those 10 or 20 years ago but do they all score 10? No.

It's compared to its piers so I guess other racing games have upped their game. PCars hasn't moved on much in comparison. Simple.

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: How about handling, tire models, AI. Those things...

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: "The handling is the same that it's always been, and tire model has to do with handling." Statements like that is why no one takes you seriously. So for every OTHER game besides PC2, they haven't done anything to improve? Go drive Assetto Corsa and get back to me...

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: You just said that graphics was what the others focus on instead of driving. I was just on Forza 6 Apex. PC2 could only dream of having something like the Drivatar system. I own every major(and not so major) sim ever made. Most of these newer games have good graphics. I can run them all at 4k smoothly. I don't care. I care about physics and AI. I don't race online, so I need competition that acts like real racers. Forza does that pretty well. Physics, not so much. When it comes to graphics, having that but bad racing is lipstick on a pig.

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Edited By topgun182

@lonesamurai1: During this conversation I spent a lot of time driving both games. No sim is like real drivers. But the drivatar system is based on the habits of real drivers. In any case it's better than PC2. I actually prefer the driving in PC1 over PC2 right now. A lot of people complained about it but I always liked it. Trying to do too much often leaves things undone. PC2 is ambitious, maybe patches will iron out the wrinkles. It beats Forza 7 demo, so Turn 10 better get out their iron as well.

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: So like real sim drivers...There is a reason I don't race online...

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topgun182

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Edited By topgun182

@lonesamurai1: You were doing so well, but you can't help being an Ahole can you? Try growing up a little before having conversations with adults... Everything is negative with you. What are you overcompensating for?

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: lol. Knockout? All you are doing is swinging and missing. The breeze feels good but you need a shower... Trying to insult me is a waste of finger muscles. Did someone at your school convince you that you could knock people out online? With the words YOU use? You are just embarrassing yourself fanboy. You probably don't even have a real driver's license yet, lol. he thinks he got a knockout...lmao ya killin me...

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topgun182

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@lonesamurai1: You have me confused with someone else kid. I'm on Assetto...

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analgrin

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@lonesamurai1: I've not played the other racers (Forza & GT Sport) so I wouldn't know. I'm simply giving an explanation as to why improvements don't necessarily mean a higher score if the rest of the games in that genre have improved even more.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: You find it "strange" mainly because you don't seem to realize - or would not accept - the fact that the reviewers for the previous game and this one are different people.

(The reviewer for the previous one is Austin Walker. I know for one that he can be quite forgiving.)

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@lonesamurai1: Well, it would be ideal if the same reviewer could do the review for the next game - but then there will be the issue of series bias, i.e. it's a series follower that's doing the review, and the issue of selective assignment of reviewers.

Besides, if the review is done with consideration for the previous games in the series, there would be the matter of writing the review in a vacuum, i.e. not considering other racing titles.

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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