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Bandai Namco
Slightly Mad Studios
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Release Date:
May 12, 2015

Project CARS is all about the driving. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “well, of course it’s all about driving; it’s a racing game.” But let me reiterate: It’s all about the driving. There are no cars, car parts, or events to unlock. In fact, there are no unlockables whatsoever. You don’t have to start your Career driving vehicles you’re convinced would lose to the car you’ve got parked in your real garage. You don’t have to fulfill certain obligations to unlock any one element of the game. It’s all available right out of the gate and how you progress is entirely up to you. To me, this wondrous freedom and complete focus on driving is a double-edged sword.

Firstly, as you probably guessed from all the footage developer Slightly Mad Studios has delivered over the past year, the game looks fantastic. The car models are absolutely stellar, as both the exterior and interior detail is highly authentic. The weather effects are especially impressive and the beautifully designed tracks are both realistic and captivatingly presented. The team really honed the visuals to a razor sharp point; everything is carefully crafted and even the pit crew animations are pretty solid. There’s very little to complain about (besides a few wonky effects during crazy crashes) and driving aficionados should be pleased.

The sound is another highlight. The pit crew voices are great and the narrator, while sometimes a tad intrusive when you’re first learning the ropes, is also quite good. Of course, in any driving simulator, it’s the track noise that has to be spot-on, and Project CARS delivers. When inside the cockpit, I think the shift sound is a little too robust, and some of the higher-end cars don’t sound quite right to me. Aside from that, everything from bumping and grinding to going full-throttle down a straightaway is top-notch. However, I don’t like the idea of the pit crew voice coming through the controller; it’s just gimmicky. Put it into my headphones, please. Oh, and the soundtrack features an interesting – and only slightly overly dramatic – selection of gorgeous music.

Anyway, as I stated in the introduction, this isn’t about satisfaction via direct reward. You’re not entering a particular event to earn a new car or unlock a new race. You’re not restricted in any way, which is par for the course in an industry that has fully embraced the “open” concept. Project CARS is really the sandbox version of a simulated racer and I do believe it’ll appeal to all the gearheads out there. They don’t really care about the video game side of it; they don’t have much interest in the fantasy. They just want to race. They want to pick a car they like, do whatever they wish to it (in terms of mechanical upgrades and alterations), and hit the track. Any track, anytime, anywhere. For the most part, you have free reign in this game.