It's been a long time since we've seen a dedicated racing simulator with a large budget. You may be wondering what I mean by that when it's been less than two years since Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport pushed out a release. To put it simply, these series might be labeled as racing simulators, but they've been missing key ingredients that would earn them the respect of racing sim fans.
When you're looking for a realistic lap around your favorite track, there's no better option than Project CARS on consoles. Below I'll explain why.
10. Dynamic Weather
Project CARS gets it right when it comes to racing conditions. A full dynamic weather system means that you have to adapt to ever-changing conditions on the track. One moment there might be rain forcefully striking the pavement, and the next a blinding sun erupts from the sky drying the pavement underneath you. It's more than just about rain, though. The environment can have any one of a number of properties at any given time, whether it be medium clouds or deep fog. Experience is important when conditions aren't perfect, just like in the real world. Forza Motorsport is yet to implement weather, and while Gran Turismo 6 was the first in the series to introduce weather it was static in nature. Project CARS wins out in this regard.
9. Team Paint Jobs
Unless you're driving one of only a few road cars in Project CARS, you're likely in a team vehicle. Unlike Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, Project CARS has many team racing paint jobs that you can toss on your car. This means a few things, one of which is that you'll find yourself and other cars on the track look professional and replicate the look of a real racing environment. Look at the image above for an example.
8. Virtual Reality Support
Racing games make for some of the best virtual reality experiences, and Project CARS is launching out of the gate with Oculus Rift support, making it the only game of the three to feature developer-implemented virtual reality. It'll even support Project Morpheus in the future. If you want to simulate the real world, this is the best way to do it. A video of a racing simulator fan playing Project CARS can be seen above.
7. Wheel Support
At launch Project CARS supports more than 30 racing wheels. Made better, a lot of time has be invested in how they are implemented into the game, with fluid controls and an array of customization options. This is the kind of game that makes you want to run out and buy a racing wheel. A full list of supported wheels can be seen here.
6. Cockpit View
The cockpit view is an important element of simulation, especially for those using a virtual reality headset and/or a racing wheel. Put simply, no game has a better cockpit view than Project CARS. The interior modeling is outstanding for all 65 vehicles, in addition to there being many subtleties that mimic real life such as wheel wobble and car vibration. The tilt into turn feature of Project CARS is particularly impressive, foregoing the static camera angle of its competitors for something that emulates real life in a spectacular fashion. It's worth noting that the cockpit view can be customized in a number of ways in the Settings menu.
5. Day/Night Cycle
As with weather, Forza Motorsport is yet to implement a full day/night cycle. Meanwhile, Gran Turismo 6 only integrated it on certain tracks. Project CARS sets the new standard with a full blown 24-hour day/night cycle that can be downright incredible at times. You'll see the clouds overhead move across the sky, and the sun fall over the viewing plane summoning darkness lit by headlights. It's a sight to behold whether or not you're a racing fan, but for simulation purposes it's a godsend.
4. Career Mode Format
Truth be told, Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport don't try very hard to replicate real world racing beyond having you drive around real tracks. In contrast, Project CARS emulates the event format and seasons of real-world racing with teams battling for a podium finish. It might not be as fun as the more arcade style approach of its competition, but it's definitely more simulative. You'll even hear artificial feedback from people as you compete in races, making you feel even better when you win, and kicking you down when you struggle. You know, just like real life.
3. Visual Design
If you buy Project CARS on console, this point won't necessarily be true. However, the power of modern PC allows its PC version to portray a true-to-life visual image that is currently unparalleled in gaming. Car models have been meticulously crafted, and you can see the amount of work that went into designing a realistic environment. 4K support and a ton of options for pushing the graphical fidelity of the game results in not only the best-looking racing game in history, but one of the prettiest video games on the market.
While Project CARS might be missing racing music, it makes up for it with superb audio design. Car engines reflect their displacement and aspiration, as well as the exhaust note of each car. Forza Motorsport comes close to matching Project CARS when it comes to engine noises, while Gran Turismo doesn't even come close with its vacuum cleaner sounding engines.
It goes beyond just engine sounds, though. Project CARS has an attention to detail that the other two simply don't. You can hear the shriek of your brake disks being put under pressure during hard braking, as well as body panels creaking during turns. Even the weather effects are atmospheric. It's the only game of the three that can immerse you through its audio alone.
More important than any other factor is the physics model powering the handling of each car in a racing simulator. Slightly Mad Studios invested an enormous amount of time into developing its physics model for Project CARS, and it shows. The instrumental feedback from professional drivers Ben Collins, Nicolas Hamilton, and Oli Webb was well worth it.
Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo have a history of duplicating chassis across similar cars, meaning that while one car might feel close to real-life, another doesn't even come close since it simply mimics another car. Project CARS has an individual model for each car, and one that has been designed with care.