Project CARS: Certified Dog's Testis Award


As I've said quattuordecillion times already (thanks for the number, AdVenture Capitalist), I'm quite fond of my cars - I have been from a very early age. I'm also quite fond of gaming on my PC. Don't get me wrong; I'm not some hardcore gamer with a triple-monitor setup, and a dedicated man cave for my dank rig. No, I'm just a 'casual gamer'. Or a peasant, if you're a scummy elitist.

More to the point, I like nothing more than combining these two interests of mine. So out comes the racing simulation genre of gaming. It's quite a niche sector of games as far as relative terms will go, because far more people prefer a proper action game rather than a dull driving game. I mean, come on, why don't you just go outside and drive for real? Huh?

I don't care how pretty you are, you have atrocious physics
To that, I have no answer. But because there are only a select few weirdos like me who are entertained by driving virtual cars, good driving games are few and far between. People will point out the Need for Speed franchise, which seems to have those developers who conceive a new baby as soon as they've released one. As a result, NFS games aren't the most polished in the world, and the physics suck big time. Where's the risk adrenaline when you can take corners at 200mph?

Then on the consoles you have the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo. Before I built my PC in the summer of 2013, I had a PS3, and I enjoyed Gran Turismo 5 very much indeed. But all the textures are a bit pants, all the cars sound like vacuum cleaners, and there's only so much fun to be had with a Dualshock 3 controller. Forza 5 improves the graphics and sound, but again, the controller is your bottleneck.

GT5 was my benchmark for years

Recently, a few good games have leaked onto the PC. We have Assetto Corsa; a fantastic simulation game in terms of physics and visuals. I got it summer 2014, and I've been entertained with it ever since. Its online mode is crap, the clutch is completely wrong, and the career mode is shallow, but the sheer beauty of it keeps hot laps entertaining. There is a reason why car gamers are niche - we are plain weird. Entertained by cars going in mindless circles with no competition? Pfft.
Pretty sexy, I think you'll agree

However, despite being satisfied with Assetto Corsa, I have been keeping my eye on another game which seemed to be in Alpha mode for ages. It's publically funded, and it's called Project CARS (Community Assisted Racing Simulator). Many 60fps YouTube videos have been leaked, and it looked mouth-wateringly good. It was beautiful. I wanted it badly.

Finally, the day came. I was hesitant to spend £40 on a game which I subconsciously knew would be in the Steam summer sale just weeks later, but I couldn't resist. I took the plunge, splashed my cash, and downloaded it as quickly as possible. And when I mean as quickly as possible, I mean going to the extent of carrying my 20kg rig downstairs and plugging it into an ethernet port. 15GB downloaded in forty minutes - now was my time to play what seemed to be the greatest driving game in the world.

Dirty, dirty virtual porn
I quickly configured my gaming wheel (a Logitech G27, if you're bothered to know), and went straight to the free hot lapping section to get to a car and a track as quickly as possible. I randomly picked the McLaren F1 and the Abu Dhabi F1 track. Initial impressions? "Well, this is crap." Oh dear, this wasn't great. I was hearing no tyre squeal, and I was getting no force feedback through my wheel. Is this going to be a disaster?

I quit the game in a small huff shortly after, muttering that my £40 would be better spent by eating it. But I decided to give it another chance, spurred on by the cost of the bloody game. I tried career mode. Oh, this is actually pretty good. You start with karts. I've driven karts before, and this game matched their habits so well, I was almost grinning by the end of the first race. This was exactly karting, minus the g-forces.

Yep, pretty hot
But what's the point of a game which can do karts, but not cars? Well, I put aside my prejudice, and took a Lotus 49 to the Nurburgring. The engine sound was perfection. The force feedback was magically better. The physics were on-par with Assetto Corsa. And the clutch was behaving like a normal bloody clutch. Yep, this is pretty special.

So, a quick summary, before I bore you too much. The online mode is great. The flexibility there is good, and it's easy to join a lobby and play instantly. Career mode is amazing. You don't have to do the 'start from the bottom, now we here' kind of thing. You can start right from the top classes of cars, if you so wish to. The visuals are amazing. Beauty was the key selling point of this game, and it really hasn't let itself down.

However, you do need a beast of a PC to run it. While I do have a rather outdated AMD Phenom II 965 processor, my graphics card is a not-at-all-shabby AMD R9 280X - a card that makes Assetto Corsa run at a stable 120fps. There are reports that Project CARS is NVidia biased, so even the top AMD rigs may struggle with this game.

With that being said though, this game is a must if you enjoy any kind of racing simulation. You can make this game as arcade or as serious as you want it to be. It'll stroke the beginners' back, and it'll reward the enthusiasts' dedication with utter, utter realism. Congrats, Slightly Mad Studios. You've created a game that will stop me revising for my exams.