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Project Cars 2 review: cars and tracks galore

Racing sim sequel arrives with improved physics and heaving with features

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The tag line for the first Project Cars game was ‘made by racers, for racers’. If you played it on release day and were feeling uncharitable, you might suggest you’d rather it had been made by game developers. It was buggier than a bag of spiders on launch and it took months of patches and updates to remedy the various problems.

Having paid its penance, Slightly Mad Studios has returned with Project Cars 2, an altogether more complete game and one that boasts features that bigger-budget racers like Forza and Gran Turismo still can’t match.

The blend of day-night cycles and dynamic weather is now joined by seasonal changes and even snow, meaning if you want to subject yourself to the slow, slithery masochism of a midnight scramble around a frozen Nordschleife, you absolutely can. Just remember to take 14 days of supplies with you.

There’s also a huge, intelligently curated car list that features road car technology, such as the Mclaren 720S and Ford GT, race cars that include LMP1 hybrids and open-wheeled F1-alikes and, in a brand new addition, rallycross machinery for tackling the new off-road circuits.

Combined with a track list as long as your arm, for gamers with long enough memories it’s pleasingly reminiscent of Codemasters’ bulging TOCA Race Driver games, but angled slightly more towards simulation.

Talking of simulation, the handling is a revelation after the previous game. Strange behaviour at the limit was the thing that prevented us from truly falling in love with the original Project Cars but we’re pleased to report that the physics are much more convincing and intuitive this time around. And we’re reporting it from a controlled slide on the exit of a fast right-hand sweeper.

The cars can now be rotated with firm application of the throttle as well as the steering, something that would have summarily killed you in the first game. Clip a puddle that wasn’t there on the previous lap in a dry-to-sopping-wet race and you’ll feel a gentle but manageable tug on the steering. Squeeze the throttle in a hybrid LMP1 car and you’ll be catapulted out of the corner like you’ve been launched from an aircraft carrier. Project Cars 2 is exceptionally engaging to drive.

In a smart addition, exaggerated tyre squeal audio when you lock a brake or exceed the capabilities of the tyre fills in some of the missing information you’d be receiving through the seat of your pants in a real car, making accurate threshold braking easier than in any game we’ve played.

Of course, Project Cars 2 is still a game groaning under the weight of its own ambition and occasionally hairline fractures appear. This sequel is nowhere near as bug-ridden as it predecessor was on release, but it still suffers from the occasional glitch. AI competitors will set impossible-to-beat times if you skip even the last few minutes of qualifying, the racing line aid only works to a schedule seemingly determined by phases of the moon and in single-player mode we’ve seen more hairpin pile-ups than at a seaside kart track.

None of these issues are an absolute deal breaker, and no doubt some will be patched up in the coming months, but when this vast automotive playset is so eager to say ‘yes’ to you, when it says ‘no’ it’s particularly jarring.

That shouldn’t stop you getting involved in this fantastically generous racing game, though. Whether your poison is clubman battling on classic British circuits, thrashing a rallycross supercar around an ice track or sending a GT3 missile up Eau Rouge at sunset, like a faithful butler Project Cars 2 will bend over backwards to accommodate your every racing whim. Wonder if we can convince it to press our trousers and draw us a bath, too…

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