Project CARS Review (Xbox One)
Project CARS is an unabashed simulation game, and racing fans who are used to painting their vehicles, scoring a plethora of unlockables, or easily touching and tapping their way to the finish line are in for a harsh surprise. The word "easy" should be stricken off any sentence to describe Project CARS, as the learning curve, especially if you're not an aficionado of the genre, is intentionally steep. Project CARS doesn't suffer fools, and although the average race requires the need for speed, slowing things down to smell the roses, as well as develop your skills, is the only way you to stay on this all too difficult, yet ultimately satisfying, track.
Though the obvious goal of each race is to win, my hours on Project CARS were mainly spent ensuring my lap times wouldn't be invalidated. The slightest bump from another car that's breathing down your rear-view or an over eager miscalculation while navigating a hairpin turn could send your car off the road and ruin your entire race altogether. I did manage to win several competitions during the Solo Race mode, but much of my personal accomplishments came from finishing races came seamlessly driving my selected vehicle and not crashing into a wall.
A huge selling point for Project CARS rests in plethora of customization options. If you're a gearhead with a nuanced understanding of how a car works, you can customize vehicles to the Nth degree. Gamers who are focused on the visual aesthetics of their experience can change the weather conditions of their selected races, thus enjoying the title's eye-catching play with light and shadow. Whether you're into formula racing, stock cars, or simply love the power of muscle cars, Project CARS has an array of choices that should fit your skill set. Since I’m still learning to master the tracks, my current vehicle of choice is the diminutive Ford Focus RS, and once I gain more confidence I'll take on the Ford Mustang Cobra Trans Am.
Project CARS is also filled with a variety of diverse race tracks that should keep gamers glued to their consoles for hours. Since I'm still honing my turning skills, I would often chose Circuit de Barcelona - Catalunya Club, a track which had only several turns and runs just a little over a mile. Still, winning isn't everything, and even though I knew the 107 turn, 12.83 miles of the California Highway Reserve would get the best of me, seeing the visual splendor of the coast made up for all those inevitable bumps on the road.
Although I've sizable amount of time on Project CARS, the game's maneuverability, though intentionally difficult, often tested my patience. Steering the vehicles requires a subtle finesse that should frustrate more instant gratification-type players (including myself). A harmless flick of the thumbstick, when rifling through curves at a high speed will more than often lead to a spinout and place you far behind the pack. Considering part of Project CARS' bread and butter centers on seamlessly navigating through these serpentine tracks, consistently smashing into barricades due to a split-second mistake eventually gets wearying.
One way to mitigate my accidents was to pick a vehicle which best suited my own reflexes. If you’re not so quick at negotiating turns, a smaller car such as the Ford Focus RS made gameplay a much more enjoyable experience. Though I crave the iconic allure of the Ford Mustang, its heavy feel around the turns just didn’t mesh with my own skills. I also love the lightning-quick acceleration of the open wheel cars, but I still experienced my share of miscalculated turns on these speedsters.
The good news is that each of these three vehicles feel absolutely different from each other, and while you may frustratingly fail many times before you succeed, at least you know that each ride will have its own unique stamp. I may not win a ton of competitions with the diminutive Ford Focus RS, but for now it’s been a great starting point for my Project CARS journey.
Steering problems aside, the key to enjoying Project CARS is appreciating its ever expansive world. With sixty tracks to choose from plus the ability to pick how many drivers you'll compete against, the action never gets redundant. Whether you're into the single player experience and want to build your racing career competing against AI drivers, or if you love connecting with people around the world through multiplayer online mode, Project CARS, is filled with an abundance of options. Finding competition during online mode was also a pretty immediate experience no matter which time of day I played the game.
Along with the abundance of options, Project CARS is a total visual and auditory feast. Whether you're a beast on the road or a simple novice, it may be hard to keep your eyes on the prize thanks to the game's seductive imagery. The sound design is equally immersive yet thankfully not too overwhelming. It's a perfect marriage between the two practices, and credit goes to Simply Mad Studios for creating a top-flight simulation experience.
Project CARS infuses its universe with hours of addictive gameplay that simply never lets up. Impatient players may be turned off by its high difficulty level (even setting the game to "novice" doesn't make your life any easier), but to paraphrase a Rolling Stone song, time is definitely on their side. As the weeks roll on I'll finally learn to zip through all the ample turns and curves that populate Project CARS, and with a little luck, hopefully this race won't have a finish line.
This review was based on a purchased copy of Project CARS for Xbox One.