Our time at Bandai Namco’s Dublin press event last Monday wasn’t just reserved for a celebratory cheer to Pac-Man’s seemingly endless array of video game releases, nor was it simply an exposé on why The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s shaping up to be an astonishingly impressive role-playing adventure. Instead, special time – and indeed a designated area – was delegated to ‘Project CARS,’ Slightly Mad Studios’ fastidious new racing simulator which has been setting gaming pulses racing for the best part of three years.
Strapping into the driving seat of a souped-up Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 is certainly a daunting prospect initially, especially with murmurs of the game’s laboriously realistic and unforgiving gameplay ringing loudly as the engine purrs in anticipation of the green light. It’s a singular three-lap track – Brands Hatch Circuit to be exact – with enough twists and turns to prove troublesome for even the most ardent of racing fans. Truth be told, exercising a little caution goes a long way in Project CARS; putting the pedal to the metal and pulling handbrake turns at every interval is tandem to giving up before the race even begins. Instead, the gameplay rewards a player that is more thoughtful in their approach, one who won’t balk at the trial-and-error nature of proceedings.
Practice begets success and it’s never been a truer statement than with Slightly Mad Studios’ racing simulator as you slow down and shimmy through a hinged corner, accelerating at the exact moment necessary to overtake that one reckless rival. It takes a lot of repetition, mind, with more than a fair share of restarts needed before the game’s delicate intricacies reveal themselves, but once they do there’s little doubt that Project CARS ascends to another level entirely. Underneath the game’s intimidating metallic hood lies some of the most accomplished driving mechanics we’ve ever had the pleasure of handling. It manages to firmly nestle itself a step above the likes of Gran Turismo, acting as a sort of spiritual successor to the likes of GTR – FIA GT Racing Game. It’s bloody hard, too, with a half-decent lap still leaving you at the tail end of the rankings.