Three horse race.
Many would consider releasing another track racer within just a few weeks of two of the most popular racing franchises of all time, GT Sport and Forza Motorsport 7, bold to say the least. That, however, is exactly what Slightly Mad Studios has done with Project Cars 2, possibly living up to their name. In such a crowded time for both driving sims and games in general, does Project Cars 2 have what it takes to stand toe to toe with the two console exclusive giants?
Inevitably, the first aspect of each game racing fans will look at is how each one plays. While all three contenders focus on track racing simulation to varying degrees, each one makes driving feel decidedly different. Project Cars 2 is certainly the more unforgiving of the three titles, with careful use of the throttle and precise turning being vital to staying on the track. Putting the pedal to the metal and sending your vehicle screeching round the track will only end in disaster. However, it isn’t simply a case of getting to grips with the slippery nature of the tracks. Each car feels unique due to the controls and handling model that are significantly improved over the original game. There are plenty of options to alter the handling and visual assists to help match your style but Project Cars 2 still remains a racer for the more hardcore gear heads.
Forza 7 would probably be a better choice for newcomers due to how easy it is to control the cars. You can hit top speeds and fling cars around corners without much of a worry. However, cars do still feel unique – not as obviously as they do in Project Cars, but noticeably so. GT Sport, the latest in the long running, series has always boasted true simulation and the new entry will stick to the same formula. When it comes to gameplay, Project Cars 2 is certainly a strong rival to Gran Turismo’s simulation style. It offers something more hardcore than Forza so be sure to consider how focused and precise you are willing to be before choosing which road to take.
The next factor racing fans tend to look at is also the most quantifiable: the number of cars. Project Cars 2 boasts 180 unique vehicles, each of which has been “selected to represent a moment in time, an era of racing, and the sense of motorsport captured in all its heroic beauty.” That is slightly more than GT Sport, which is slated to have more than 150 cars when it releases next month. The car list in both of those games are varied and impressive but they are blown out of the water by what is offered in Forza Motorsport 7. Microsoft’s flagship exclusive will have more than 700 vehicles at launch, covering almost every manufacturer you could think of. While that list will inevitably include many versions of the same car, with altered specs, it is still a staggering number compared to the competition. The parity in numbers is probably due to the fact that Turn 10 could use many, if not all, of the models from last year’s Forza Horizon 3. When you consider that Project Cars is still a developing series and that Gran Turismo is yet to be featured on this generation of consoles, it is understandable that they’d still be assembling a vehicle roster.
Where Project Cars 2 does shine is with its impressive amount of content. The format follows the same structure as many of racers, which sees you take part in different disciplines to become the best driver in the world. However, the ability to take part in five broad disciplines, including rallycross and open-wheels, across a 60 locations ensures that it offers the player more than the other games. In GT Sport, you take part in one of four sub-modes, unlocking cars as you win races and take part in training events. There will only be 17 locations included at launch, meaning Project Cars 2 has over three times the number of unique tracks of the PlayStation exclusive. Forza 7 also lags behind Slightly Mad’s offering, with 32 locations being available. That being said, the 200 track variations do a lot to make up for that. The career mode has also been redesigned, seeing you take part in six major champions, none of which follow a set path. It will likely result in far more variety and you won’t be repeating the same style of race multiple times in succession. Forza 7’s career sounds interesting but Project Cars 2 comfortably surpasses the competition in terms of amount of content.
Where it is overtaken, however, is in its graphical quality and level of polish. Now, it is by no means an ugly game and it looks stunning at times, especially when racing with the incredible weather effects, but there are some small issues with lighting, items clipping into cars as you drive, and performance. Those issues are never frustrating, but when you compare it to the incredible visuals in the competition, it becomes noticeable. From what we’ve seen of GT Sport, it will once again set a new standard for racing visuals, with the lighting effects and car models being meticulously created. Also, Forza 7 once again looks strong across the board with its pitch perfect presentation. This is where Project Cars needs to improve, albeit slightly, to truly match its strong competition.
Considering the pedigree of its competition, it is a testament to Project Cars 2’s quality that it manages to stand out in the pack. It may be geared more towards hardcore racing fans than newcomers when it comes to handling but the sheer amount of content when compared to the two other games means there will probably something to get anyone’s engine going. Forza 7 may boasts a much larger car roster and GT Sport may be far more detailed visually but Project Cars 2 does more than enough to stay in the race.