Founded as an independent British developer in early 2009, Slightly Mad Studios quickly gained critical acclaim as one of the top 100 most successful developers in 2010. Taking over the Need for Speed series with their Shift entry, Slightly Mad Studios flawlessly combined the franchise’s legendary arcade gameplay with a healthy dose of simulation. Many gamers compared Shift to survival horror due to its realistic first person cam and dynamic driving physics. To this day, Shift remains one of my favorite racing series, so when I found out that Shift 3 wasn’t being considered for development, I was more than disappointed. That is until I played Project Cars. Project Cars may be called a new IP (mainly for marketing purposes), but in reality, it’s the unofficial sequel to the brilliant and underappreciated Shift 2.
So, what makes Project Cars so special? What makes it better than the Forzas and Gran Turismos? What makes it the new racing king? It really comes down to one thing, and one thing only: the driving. Project Cars’ physics are unparalleled. As someone who's played every imaginable racer out there, Project Cars is the first title in years that truly “feels” different from the competition.
Last week, I turned on Forza 5, Gran Turismo 6 and Project Cars simultaneously. I was jumping back and forth on the same course between the three games, comparing how different vehicles handle cornering, acceleration and overall handling. While both Forza 5 and Gran Turismo 6 control beautifully, there are very few vehicles that require drastically different driving strategies. I’m not just talking about the difference in handling, but the overall sensation of weight and traction between tires and various settings. Sure, both GT6 and Forza 5 manage to make the transition between a Mclaren and a BMW i3 feel substantial enough, but only Project Cars makes me appreciate the minute details. Slightly Mad Studios has done wonders in making each vehicle a completely unique experience.
This attention to detail comes with a caveat. Project Cars isn’t for casual gamers. Heck, it may not even be for every racing fan. I’ve talked to fellow genre fans, and some of them are struggling to keep the cars on the track. Depending on your skill level, the learning curve can be brutal. Project Cars requires concentration and skill. It requires patience and a real passion for cars. If you’re not willing to re-learn driving each time you step into a new vehicle, you will most likely walk away from Project Cars disappointed. But for hardcore fans like myself, this is precisely what makes Project Cars so special. It reflects the developers’ respect for their audience. There’s no dumbing down of features, no rewind functions and pointless assists.
Sure, you can toggle the racing line on or off, but it doesn’t take away from the experience. There are plenty of casual racers out there, but the hardcore audience has been left in the dust. Asseto Corsa and Codemasters’ latest DiRT Rally are finally taking the genre more seriously, but Project Cars is the first multi platform AAA release in years that’s finally shifting away from the “mainstream” approach to game making. Have you guys played Project Cars yet? What are your thoughts? Are you as excited about Slightly Mad Studios’ latest racer as I am, or do you still prefer titles like Forza or Gran Turismo. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Note: A retail copy of Project Cars was provided by the kind folks at Green Man Gaming.
Article by: Tin Salamunic