Realistic mechanism, but difficult driving in Project Cars

Graphics in the PS4 version tested by the writer feature realistic lighting, gorgeous textures and faithful reproduction of the cars' exteriors and interiors, right down to the dashboards, panels and gears.
Graphics in the PS4 version tested by the writer feature realistic lighting, gorgeous textures and faithful reproduction of the cars' exteriors and interiors, right down to the dashboards, panels and gears.PHOTO: BANDAI NAMCO

Project Cars is a no-frills driving simulator that does away with car- show tie-ups, gaining driver experience points, earning credits and growing your garage collection.

It has only four modes: Career, solo, online and driver network. Career mode lets you create a driver to go on three paths to racing success. The first path, called Zero to Hero, sees you working your way up from karting to Formula One. The second path is Defending Champ, where you defend a championship for three consecutive years. Lastly, there is Triple Crown, where you need to win three championships in three different motorsport disciplines.

Solo mode allows you to enjoy a "racing weekend" whereby you choose a car and track, and go from practice to qualifying before the actual race. Online mode pits you against real players instead of the computer AI, by joining multiplayer racing sessions. Driver network mode allows players to share videos, photos and tune-up details of their cars, as well as compete in time trials and take part in community events.

  • 8/10

    RATING

    PRICE: $59.90 (PC), $79.90 (PS4, version tested; Xbox One)

    GENRE: Racing

What this game lacks in modes, it compensates with realistic driving mechanism and car tuning. Switch from a Renault Clio to an Audi R8, and you can immediately feel the difference in handling and power.

You can tune your car according to each track. For example, if you are going to race in Spa-Francorchamps where there are a lot of high-speed corners, you need to make sure your car is set up with high downforce. You probably need to do a bit of research about tuning your car properly.

If there is a sudden change in weather conditions, your engineer will shout "Box! Box!" to remind you to pit for a tyre change. Your engineer will also sometimes tell you to maintain or push the car's engine.

But despite the nice touches in this game, there is one main downside: The driving is difficult, even in default mode. Even if you are a seasoned player who prefers driving without assists like traction control and anti-lock brakes, you do so at your own peril here.

There is also no rewind feature. Lose concentration for a split second and you might miss the apex and careen off the track. Yes, I am not afraid to say it: I really miss Forza Motorsport 6's rewind feature here. I also find the computer opponents' AI to be inconsistent. At times, some opponents will barge you off the track, but at times, you can hold your racing line through the apex while they back off.

The cars sound differently, from the roar of the engine to the turbo lag during gear shifts. These sound effects give a lot of feedback, as you can rely on the sound of the engine to shift gears manually instead of eyeing the RPM meter.

Graphics are quite beautiful in this PS4 version I tested, with realistic lighting, gorgeous textures and faithful reproduction of the cars' exterior and interior, right down to the dashboards, panels and gears.

• Verdict: Project Cars is for driving purists who are thrilled by an authentic driving simulation. But thrill seekers looking for a fun drive ought to look somewhere else.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Realistic mechanism, but difficult driving in Project Cars'. Print Edition | Subscribe