E3 2017: Project CARS 2 is Ready To Go Bumper-To-Bumper with Forza (Preview)

June 21, 2017

Project CARS  was a confident and impressive franchise debut into the simulation racing genre, from developers Slightly Mad Games (previously responsible for the Need for Speed SHIFT series). And I do mean confident – the developers are proud of the work not only on the first title, but on the upcoming Project CARS 2. In a presentation given by Andy Tudor, Creative Director on Project CARS 2, he made a lot of big claims about the game, not the least of which calling the entire talk the “Forza 7 Truth Session”. If there’s one thing I took away from the session, it was that the developers are so proud of their game, they believe that Project CARS 2′s realism is the standard by which other racing games should be judged, and not the other way around.

First of all, Tudor was keen to clear up that Project CARS 2 has the largest track roster of any game – not Forza 7, and while it’s cute they’re just getting dynamic weather, Project CARS 2 has dynamic everything on every track. That means dynamic weather, dynamic lighting and dynamic seasons, giving you winter, summer, autumn and spring variations on tracks. Here the talk went a little bit off the rails, as they made some huge claims about the accuracy and scale of their simulation. Slightly Mad say they actually model movement of celestial bodies, which could affect the shadows on a racetrack during Autumn as opposed to Summer, for instance, which affects the track’s temperature and in turn affects traction and the way you race. That sounds like a lot of effort to go to, for a difference many might not ever notice, but its all in the name of providing a realistic simulation. They call it LiveTrack 3.0, and they think it forces the player to think strategically about how they approach races.

Realism is also a key focus, as they have not only laser scanned all the real-world tracks in the game, but also gone a step further. Much like Forza 7’s claim of using photogrammetry, so too are the Project CARS 2 developers. Their method involves flying drones over each of the tracks, not only collecting mathematical data to corroborate their laser scans, but also to take high resolution photos which they then use to model and texture the 3D environments. Iconic brands like Ferrari and Porsche are now in Project CARS 2, where they couldn’t be before because of now-expired exclusivity agreements. Indy car and rally cross have been added to expand different play options. There are even multi-class races, so you can have much slower cars race against faster ones – if only for the excitement and antics that can happen when watching the game on eSports.

In fact, Slightly Mad are very big on the eSports aspect of Project CARS 2, with their new Online Championships mode. This streamlines the entire process of setting up a championship or tournament – you can create a calendar in-game and set a schedule of events, invite friends and create team rosters – set everything up and then save it and send invitations to everyone to participate. Roles like Director, Broadcaster and Commentator can be assigned to online friends for streaming, making a virtual crew in charge of camera angles, delivery of the footage and commentary.

There’s also a new Career mode, modelled on the career modes of sports titles in the past. It’s been streamlined as well, and is much faster for players to get into. Fans of the first game will be pleased to know they’ve removed the calendar for invitationals, which you would have to constantly wait for in the original – now you can take them on any time. You can also become a factory driver, or a brand advocate for a major company like Ford and complete races for them, which kind of becomes a sidequest to the main career. The number of lifetime goals you can achieve to complete the game has also doubled.

The physics engine is the big centrepiece of Project CARS 2, and the developers are proud of the fact that while other games treat tyres as a solid object (which is what computers are more comfortable with modelling), they treat tyres as deformable, squishy surfaces. They call it the “Colonel’s Secret Recipe” for racing games. It’s so accurate that flecks of rubber can fall off tyres, that can then be flicked up onto windscreens of passing cars or smushed into the tarmac like gum, and then affect the surface tension from then onward. Another big claim – impressive, but how much it affects the end gameplay experience could be debated. Finally, Slightly Mad want to provide out-of-the-box gamepad handling, so there’s not as much configuration required from your end to get the control scheme you want when playing on console.

Project CARS 2 is certainly promising a lot of realism for players, although whether it can really become the ultimate simulation for players remains to be seen for when it’s released on 22 September, 2017 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.