Project CARS 2 is to racing games what the Rubik’s cube is to physical puzzle toys: nice to look at, tough to master and utterly addictive.
Due late in 2017, the second coming of this vast racing simulator has already served up plenty to whet the appetite – from VR racing to 12K, triple-monitor support.
There’s also the promise of rallycross – and we’ve had a go.
As the on-and-off-road mayhem slides its way onto Project CARS 2, then, here are 5 reasons to be excited about it.
1) IT LOOKS AMAZING
Project CARS 2, though, is ready to serve up some stiff competition: rallycross looks amazing. Haring around Daytona and struggling up the hills of Lånkebanen, everything from the dust hanging in the air to the cockpit rendering to the detail on the red and white kerbs left me desperate to keep playing.
The game’s still in development, too, so things should only get better, but the realism even at this early stage is a tantalising glimpse into just how astounding the discipline (and others) should look in the finished game. Textures are excellent, rendering rich and details astounding.
2) IT’S PROPERLY HARD
From grasping the surface changes to handling how downshifts and braking need to be managed on loose dirt, Project CARS 2 throws its (in)famous realism at rallycross in hardcore fashion.
There’s a hint of Dirt Rally about just how hard it is to grasp, but the learning curve feels more satisfying, as we gradually grasped certain corners and came to learn the ins and outs of the Honda Civic GRC we were flinging around – and, when we finally half-nailed a lap, it was genuinely exhilarating.
3) IT FEELS REAL (ESPECIALLY IN VR)
Both of the above combine to deliver a realism that’s as good as (or better than) anything we’ve played in 2017. The development team followed real rallycross team OSME around, using their data – together with drone-scanning – to hone car performance and circuits to almost perfectly match their real-world counterparts.
Playing in VR, rallycross in Project CARS 2 had me concentrating harder than almost any game we can remember, as we aimed for apexes, wrestled with the steering and balanced the throttle – to the extent that, when it was time to pull the Rift headset off, it was like being jolted awake.
Such is the sense of immersion in VR – and, to an extent, in normal flat-screen gameplay – that rallycross could well absorb days of your life. Yes, all the racing we tried in PC2 was immersive, but it’s rallycross that we left still wanting to master.
4) IT’S FAST
It’s not the floaty sort of speed that’s dogged other rally titles, either: this is rattling, rushing, off-road speed that feels dangerous as you crest 20 metres jumps and skim barriers.
It’s also the sort of speed that ties into technical prowess. We missed a gear shift in the Honda Civic GRC and it put us behind for the best part of a lap, as we tried desperately to get back up to speed – and promptly overcooked it in the next corner. Speed like this has to be mastered and managed, from throttle feathering to early upshifts, and it’s what should set PC2 apart.
5) IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING
We were able to play a pair of rallycross routes at our hands-on demo, but there’s plenty more on the horizon – enough, in fact, that Project CARS 2 might just be a worthwhile purchase for its rallycross element alone.
Both the circuits and the cars are officially licensed, with Lydden Hill, DirtFish, Daytona and Lånkebanen tracks all already announced – and more hinted at. Similarly, there should be a stellar cast of 600bhp rallycross vehicles to sling sidewise, all based on the ones you can watch going at it in real life.
All of which makes the prospect of rallycross in Project Cars 2 seriously exciting. The quality of the original Project Cars leaves little doubt that the standard circuit rancing will make the sequel a great game, and the addition of rallycross could well make it the best racing game there’s ever been.