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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Random_Matt

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"Career mode is surprisingly demanding"

LOL, stick to simple, easy games.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Random_Matt: Like Shenmue?

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Random_Matt

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@Gelugon_baat: Loving the redirection, common response for a subject people find uncomfortable.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Random_Matt: Well, it is off-topic, but if it is a redirection, it would mean that I am defending the reviewer - I am not.

In fact, this is not the first time that racing games required the player to place in the top three. It has been around for a while, and it is generally one of the most challenging criteria for progression.

It's lazy design though.

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deactivated-5ebc942967df5

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@Gelugon_baat: By that logic Dark Souls also has lazy design due to its requirement of having to beat bosses.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Prats1993: Some of them can be bypassed, you know. They don't have to be beaten with specific performance requirements either, which is unlike having to place top three in a race.

You might be confusing "logic" with "over-generalization" there.

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Dark_Mits

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@Gelugon_baat Difficulty isn't only how much milliseconds you have in your disposal to press a button. And yes, Shenmue isn't very demanding, but that doesn't mean it's easy. As you said, the player needs to take notes. That means that the game requires either great memorization, or extra effort from the player.

Chess isn't also a hard game; that doesn't mean it's easy to "beat" an AI opponent.

A lot of turn-based RPGs too aren't exactly difficult; they may just require that the player does a little bit of extra grinding to defeat enemies.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Dark_Mits: I don't consider memorization or note-taking to be convincing expressions of skill. Anyone that is not lazy can do that.

Also, I wouldn't compare Shenmue to chess, or even turn-based RPGs. For one, Shenmue isn't even turn-based.

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Dark_Mits

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@Gelugon_baat: Memorization and note-taking is skill; it's just different type of skill compared to quick-reactions. Just like there are other types of skills, like decision making, micro/macro-management, resource management, precision, pattern memorization and others I can't think of now.

The examples I provided weren't good indeed, but my point still stands. Shenmue isn't hard on its combat, but it will require player effort to complete. It's not a game that you just watch like a movie.

Which brings us back to Project Cars 2. Career mode is demanding because, as the reviewer says, you get thrown back to the start if you do not finish in the first 3. How do you achieve that? You need to make good decisions regarding setting up the car, and have good driving skills (knowing when to brake and for how long mainly). As a player who has completed numerous driving games on the hardest setting, I would consider that comment (from the reviewer) as absurd, exactly because it only wants the player to know what they do, and not approach the game as if it's the next NFS.

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Gelugon_baat

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@Dark_Mits: I consider decision-making to be the prominent expression of skill, because this is difficult to gain through practice as it involves other factors such as intuition and intellect (neither of which can be nurtured easily). Most other elements of the player's performance can be achieved with practice, and anyone who is determined enough can practice. I don't consider determination to be part of skill.

That said, I would agree with you on your statement on Project Cars 2, but do keep in mind that the reviewer has mentioned that the CPU-controlled competitors drive like unskilled assholes who pile up and cause problems for others, including the player.

(I have watched them in action. They really drive like assholes.)

In better designed game, the challenge posed by CPU-controlled competitors would be more convincing.

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Dark_Mits

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@Gelugon_baat: Shenmue is considered easy?

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@Dark_Mits: It's not a very complex game. The timed events can be beaten by taking down notes (in addition to Ryo's shitty notes) and schedule planning - and that is assuming that the player doesn't just refer to a walkthrough. The fights are merely a matter of practicing - and dealing with the shitty camera.

It's not a tough game - if you are willing to put up with the shitty movement controls.

Only people with short attention spans would find it difficult.

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Lembu90

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Better buy Gran Turismo instead.

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deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

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@lembu90: Better buy a PC and play Forza.

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SADASDASD

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@netiger: why bc gran turismo is bad or you are a biased dude

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deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

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@sadasdasd: I'm biased towards good games. Not too fancy on driving a vacuum cleaner on wheels with dated graphics and gameplay.

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SADASDASD

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@netiger: lol vaccum cleaner on wheels i got nothing to say but you are right

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mpl911

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I haven't played PC2 but for my money Project Cars was the best (sim) racer on the One along with DIRT Rally. I'm hoping this will be as good. I must say I didn't experience any of the bugs the reviewer reported on the first game. The main things everyone complained about from the first game were 1) the number of cars (60 or whatever it was being deemed subjectively "too low") and 2) problems controlling your car using a gamepad. It looks to me, from the above review that both of those problems have been corrected, or at least reduced. Personally I have an FF wheel so never struggled with a gamepad, and I always thought 60 cars was plenty.

Also, just on a consistency basis, Destiny2 came out on 6/9 and the review was delayed until 15/9, presumably in order to fully test the game, and ensure the MP servers were well stocked with opponents, So how come PC2, which only came out on Friday, is mentioned as having "sparsely populated" MP servers just 3 days after release?

Anyhoo - thanks for the review; I will probably still get this.

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analgrin

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@mpl911: Played PC2 all weekend (PC + Rift cv1 + gtx 1070 system) and only found 1 bug.

Often I'll set an amazing time in qualifying a good 2 or 3 seconds ahead of the competition. Once satisfied that no one will beat it I skipped to the end of session and find I'm placed 6th or lower, even if there were only a few seconds of time left. One time on one of the short circuits I got a time of 57 seconds. I skipped to the end of session and one of the a.i. drivers got a lap time of 33 seconds beating me and everybody else by 24 seconds! impossible.

I've not had any trouble with dodgy a.i. apart from the odd traffic jam on the first bend but that happens online with other players too.

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mpl911

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@analgrin: Oh right. Blimey - yeh I'd imagine that would be pretty annoying! I used to use the qualifying sessions, but was seeing a similar thing. Just thought I was shit! After a while I used to set the race up with without qualifying - just a random staring position...but if you're going for the full-on immersion I can see why you would want that to work properly!

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@mpl911: You are also lucky to not have bugs hitting you.

There are people on Steam now saying that they are hitting bugs. One of them is even a user who had been in the beta testing phase.

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deactivated-59cbc02f7b9dc

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@Gelugon_baat: tell me about it, i lost my save game 3 times with the first one and slightly mad can keep there unfinshed games since then.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@rexpowerc0lt: It's not "unfinished". In game development parlance, as taught by game development academies and programmes, a state of being "finished" means that the game is playable (albeit with whatever testing conditions that the developer uses) and feature-complete.

It's just that the developer has not done very extensive testing with different machines and software/OS conditions - something that I know that most game developers just won't do unless there is pay-off.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@mpl911: Comparing Destiny 2 with this game is like comparing apples with oranges.

I know, I know, you are questioning the circumstances around the review. Yet, you might want to know that the core appeal of this racing game - namely its racing physics and other technical-heavy gameplay elements - can be experienced in single-player without an Internet connection.

Not so for Destiny 2, which requires an Internet connection to be played (in case you don't know). There is also end-game content that might take a while to reach. Plus, there is content which requires the player to log on weekly. It should not take much to imagine that a reviewer who wants to evaluate all this is going to take some time.

In other words, the different circumstances around the review are due to the different content and gameplay pacing of the different games.

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mpl911

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@Gelugon_baat: I agree. I wasn't comparing the games - I was comparing the method of reviewing them. I mean, giving 1 game (Destiny2) 2 weeks' grace to allow plenty of people to buy it to fill the servers so the MP (as you correctly said, which is 90% of the game) is viable and fully competitive, but only giving the other one (PC2) 3 days then saying that the servers are less than full just seems a little unfair.

I know PC2 is miles more SP than MP, but still a lot of people will want to use it more for MP racers, and they might be put off if they read there's not much chance of getting an online race going.

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Gelugon_baat

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@mpl911: Now, you could say that Destiny 2 seems to have been given more time, but you might want to know that both games have had beta testing periods.

In the case of Destiny 2, its beta period - typically enough - attracted a lot of players. There were already considerable numbers of players for Destiny 2, right from the onset.

For example, I recall that Eric Tay played the Australian version of the game, which launched a day earlier than other versions. He had no trouble getting into Crucible matches quickly on Day 1 of the Australian version.

Project Cars 2 also has a beta testing phase - but apparently it has not garnered enough existing players to have match-making go faster when the game is officially released.

Again, there are different circumstances. You might like to think that more time had been given just for "servers to get full", but you might not have taken the beta periods into consideration.

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mpl911

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@Gelugon_baat: Fair enough - you seem to know more about this than I do so I'll go along with that.

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chiefwiggum16

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Still a great option for ps4 only owners. Gamespot under rated this game, and i think GT Sport will under perform. Wish they could port this to the Switch. For mobility reasons of course. And on the flip side I wonder who even buys racing sims on xbox not named Forza Motorsport. Seems like a waste of time honestly.

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deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

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@chiefwiggum16: By great option you mean another "Will have to make do" racer for the platform I suppose.

Yeah.

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igorphoenix

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@chiefwiggum16: to me, as a casual racing fan, Forza is a much better game. More content, impeccable presentation, great career mode, simulation is not as good as PC2, but that's not the point. GT Sport (and GT in general) is more of a "driving experience", and it's quite unique in its approach to the genre. Pre-ordered both.

On the other side, there are hardcore sims like Asseto Corsa and rFactor for those looking for the most authentic experience.

Project Cars 2 is neither and releasing so close to both Forza and GT. Is there even a point of getting it now when FM7 is releasing in a week.

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Moviespot

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@chiefwiggum16: because the gran turismo track record shows it consistently under performs right? Lol gt games aren't released often and consistently hit 8-9/10

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chiefwiggum16

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@moviespot: this one will

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Moviespot

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@chiefwiggum16: I don't really listen to wild guesses unless they're backed up by information

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chiefwiggum16

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Edited By chiefwiggum16

@moviespot: The changes GT Sport have made were not met with much positivity online. So yeah it is a guess but seeing as the series hasn't been exactly " in fire" the last few releases having bad press doesn't give me much in the way of good graces.

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Gamestar73

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So in other words, still no forza. No thanks.

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GarGx1

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@gamestar73: It never will be Forza either. Forza is an arcade game, Project Cars is a simulator. The complexity and depth is far beyond the reach of Forza.

I prefer Forza as well but it's not the same type of game

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deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

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@GarGx1: You have no clue about Forza Motorsport it seems, still you babble about it.

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deactivated-59cbc02f7b9dc

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@GarGx1: not really i played a good chunk of the first project cars and i can safely say that it doesn't really playes that much diffrent then forza. At the very least forza is better optimized and doesn't crash my save game from time to time.

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Jimzeel

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@GarGx1: Calling PC2 a Sim is overrating it by a mile; calling Forza "arcade" is underrating it by a mile. They are both "Simcade"; a mix between a full blown Simulation and an Arcade racer.

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chiefwiggum16

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Edited By chiefwiggum16

@GarGx1: ........Motorsport is a sim and you are a fool if you think otherwise.

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GarGx1

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@chiefwiggum16:

Forza = pick a car, auto upgrade and go race, no need to consider the track, just play and enjoy like every modern arcade driving game. Some of the sim elements are there but you don't need to worry about them if you don't want to.

Project Cars = you need to adjust the car setup to the track or you'll have a hell of a time getting round it, let alone winning.

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deactivated-5a191f2c70ab1

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I only play arcade racing so i have no idea but....is this score considered a surprise? Is it unexpectedly too low?

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Gamestar73

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@blood-souls: yeah, arcade racing was always best. Ridge racer, blur, split second etc etc. Arcade gaming has been my thing since the 80's. Nothing has ever compared or ever will.

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specks9492

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Edited By specks9492

@blood-souls: It's slightly lower than what other reviewers are giving, 9.2 from IGN. But most are giving 8 or 8.5/10.

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ogremalfeitor

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For PS4 and PS4 and also on PS4? What about PS4? :)

Seems to me something went wrong when specifying the platforms... No?

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deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

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@ogremalfeitor: Who else would want it? This game is irrelevant for Xbox and Windows users who have Forza 7. This is just another "will have to make do" game for PS4.

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GirlUSoCrazy

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@ogremalfeitor: Maybe they didn't review the other versions

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ogremalfeitor

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Edited By ogremalfeitor

@girlusocrazy: when I posted my comment, they were saying the platforms were PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 4, thus my comment :)

Looks like they corrected it meanwhile.

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GirlUSoCrazy

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@ogremalfeitor: Haha oh! Weird

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Gelugon_baat

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@girlusocrazy: @ogremalfeitor: GlitchSpot still be bitching glitching. :\

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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