Creating a game to compete against the likes of Sony's Gran Turismo series and Microsoft's Forza franchise is a daunting task to say the least. It’s tough to satisfy casual and hardcore fans. With that in mind, Bandai Namco will attempt to dethrone the competition with the forthcoming Project CARS, a game that should turn a few heads when it arrives for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in a matter of weeks, and Wii U later this year.
The publisher didn't put its trust in any developer. Rather, it partnered with Slightly Mad Studios, a team who previously bought the Need For Speed Shift series to life before moving over to PC with the driving MMO, World of Speed. Now Project CARS has become its primary focus, and you can tell how serious this developer is when it comes to making a racing game feel like the real thing.
Project CARS aims for realism, but doesn't go so over the top that rookies can't hop on board. You'll find a variety of vehicles in the game to choose from, with plenty of input from professional racers, including former driver Ben Collins.
Unlike other racing games, you have access to a full garage and slate of tracks from around the world, and you can practice to your heart's content. Since it's a simulation, however, you shouldn’t rely so much on drifting as opposed to maintaining sufficient speed so you don't fly off the track. We learned that the hard way with a recent demo, when we crashed into a wall.
Despite our driving issues this title is quite approachable, and with a game like Project CARS, practice makes perfect. You'll be able to tackle the game's Career Mode like a champ, selecting from a number of difficulty settings and then hitting the road against impressive AI, or if you prefer, online against other players. With 40 different cars on the track at the same time, you're in for plenty of competition – and that means you have to work for a first place victory.
In addition to gameplay that captures the essence of racing, Project CARS also comes with a healthy dose of customization options. You can fine tune your vehicle across a number of areas, and change its appearance to look more intimidating on the track, if you prefer. Obviously, some of the better models will require time to master, but that makes the game so much easier to come back to.
In addition to setting up laps and competition, Project CARS also lets you adjust both weather conditions and time of day. Want to coast around on a pretty afternoon in an enclosed race track? You got it. Prefer a race that takes place at night in the pouring rain? The option is yours. Just remember that with particular conditions, you'll need to make adjustments with your driving style.
Speaking of tracks, Project CARS has plenty, including the Circuit des 24 Heures (24 Hours) from the LeMans events, as well as Silverstone, the Azura Coast (in France) and the Hockenheim. These are highly respected tracks in the real racing circuits, and Slightly Mad went to great lengths to make sure they were recreated to near perfection in the game, right down to the lighting conditions at night and the roar of the crowds from the stands.
In addition to regular races, you'll also be able to drive karts. Although they don't pack nearly as much horsepower as a sports car, they're fun to test drive, particularly if you prefer to mess around with friends rather than get into heated competition.
With beautiful visuals across each of the tracks (particularly when a storm sets in), gameplay that takes time to master and plenty of opportunities to embarrass friends for a first place finish, Project CARS may have what it takes to keep up with the competition. We'll see how it fares when the game pulls out of the garage on March 17th.