Project Cars is at the starting line, ready to inject some new vitality into auto-oriented games.
Driving games have earned a bit of a bad rap in recent years, labelled as an increasingly niche and outmoded genre that is rarely a hotbed for innovation. It can be easy to forget that this broad banner of nitrous-fuelled fun has given us everything from Crazy Taxi's anarchic arcade carnage to Gran Turismo's more anodyne ode to motor sport. 2017 will welcome new entries for two of the biggest names in racing games, as well as one relative newcomer looking to prove that this diverse genre is anything but stale.
Choosing between the idiosyncratic sensibilities of Gran Turismo Sport and the performance-focused Forza Motorsport 7 – positioned as the graphical showcase for Microsoft's Xbox One X – may prove difficult this holiday season. Sony's flagship racer has often lacked a robust multiplayer component while Forza's mainline series has struggled to come up with a compelling single-player mode in recent years. Freed from the shackles of console exclusivity, Slightly Mad Studios' Project Cars 2 looks to offer all things to all players, boasting a rich feature set to match its two rivals... plus a little extra.
Whether you're looking for the most authentic simulation available or just want to burn rubber with a few friends in toe, Project Cars 2 has you covered.
The Tech-Obsessed Car Fanatic
Project Cars 2 didn't win Gamescom's award for 'Best Simulation Game' by accident. With gaming's most advanced VR racing technology and full wheel support, it's sure to gratify hardcore sim enthusiasts looking for a realistic, full-body experience. Stunning 12k resolution, triple screen support, improved force feedback and a revamped physics system will ensure you’ll see and feel every bump in the road.
The developers have also committed to delivering the most dynamic weather system seen in the genre. The updated engine, dubbed LiveTrack 3.0, will replicate a race weekend's unpredictable weather conditions. Puddles of rain water will collect where'd you'd expect them to, thanks to enhanced fluid dynamics, and localized weather means only some sections of the track may be affected at one time. Whereas Gran Turismo has largely ditched dynamic weather, Project Cars is doubling down on it.
The Competitive Social Racer
With new custom multiplayer features, enhanced lobby options and a concentrated focus on the esports crowd, those looking to race with others will have plenty of options to do so.
To keep it clean on race day a new safety ranking has been designed to filter out shunt-happy online opponents. But the professionalism doesn't end there, as new broadcasting functionality brings live streams directly to your screen so you can learn from the best.
Already know exactly how you want to race? The Favourites option will keep track of your last four custom events so you can launch straight back in with friends without effort. These ease-of-life additions brings a renewed accessibility to the competitive scene.
The Ambitious, Career-Focused Champion
A revamped career mode stretching across multiple driving disciplines will gratify gamers looking to rise the ranks in single-player.
One feature I'm particularly pleased with is the option to take part in a shorter career, fast tracking your access to more powerful engines and even larger events. Which is good because Project Cars 2 offers 182 cars and the biggest roster of tracks ever seen on a console.
For the engine tinkerers out there a second career path will also be available, allowing you to become a factory driver representing some of the 38 branded manufacturers in the game. Even without an internet connection, there's still plenty of ways to race.
And All Those New To The Racing Circuit
Project Cars 2 might seem like it's designed for the most dedicated driving fans, but a wide array of assist features will make the experience less daunting for those new to the genre. Two difficulty modifiers allow players to individually tweak the skill and aggressiveness of AI opponents, and of course custom racing lines let you change exactly how much help you want on the road.
Casual players will also welcome the ability to eschew traditional track rules in multi-class races, so you can put a Formula C car and a Mini Cooper on the same track. It's great to see rigid race rules thrown out in service of hot, rubber-smelling fun.
Forza and Gran Turismo may have history on their sides, but these smart new additions aimed to please all types of players suggests the future belongs to Project Cars.
Project Cars 2 is out for PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 22.