RaceDepartment take the new Project CARS 2 game for a spin and share our experiences. Now I have to say something in advance of writing this review, I want Project CARS 2 to be good. I really, really do. Sim racing is my passion, and to have another big player on the scene vying for my game time is a very exciting prospect, and something which I found myself getting increasingly excited about on the run up to release last month. Frankly I was sceptical after being bitterly disappointed by the original Project CARS game, so it came as something of a surprise when I gradually found myself being reeled in by the relentless marketing push for the new title throughout the build up to a public release, especially all the noise the developers were making about how the game would push the boundaries of realism and "redefine the genre of sim racing". These are all things that grab my attention, massively. On face value many of the boxes one would like to see ticked prior to getting out on track have a resounding big fat happy smiley face next to them - loads of cars? Check. Loads of tracks? Check. VR support? Check. Dynamic weather and time of day? Check. These things are all good. These things give the game a massive leg up over the competition before a wheel has even been turned. Unfortunately turning said wheel is when things start to go a little bit wrong for Project CARS 2, and that is where the disappointment and frustration start to creep in to the experience, massively. Now I'm no technical expert but I've been around a while, and mixing together my own experiences and using the help of our community and my good friend Mr. Google, after literally hours of tinkering and a download of the epic Jack Spade tweaker file later I managed to get a pretty decent setup going through my wheel (Fanatec CSW V2). This is a massive improvement over the original title, however you still have to work to damn hard to get under the skin of the game to find something half reasonable in the force feedback, which frankly is a shame and unnecessary. Why after all the discussion and criticism from the community levelled at the developers following the original PCARS release do we still have to download a community made file to get the FFB half decent is beyond me, and something that SMS should really consider as a bit of an own goal once all the initial fuss has died down following game release. Now don't get me wrong, I still don't think I'm fully in the sweet spot for the force feedback despite my trials and tribulations getting things setup, and the rear of the car still feels too vague for me to confidently begin to push past the outer edge of performance, but in comparison to the original release the overall experience is much better and doesn't kill off the game before it even starts. Not at the level of the other sim racing titles out on the market today, but definitely a decent base from which to build upon. So lets break down our impressions into a few key areas of the title: UI - Vastly improved over the cluster of mess that was Project CARS. Looks neat, professional and functional. I find flicking through to the different menus easy and straight forward, but still keeping that stylish Project CARS feel and vibe. For me this is one of the most impressive improvements over the original game, and possibly the best UI of any of the sim racing titles currently available. Nice background music too and the bits of Ben Collins speaking about Senna are a nice touch, although these could maybe get a bit tiresome after a few hours of continual play. Weather - Visually very impressive and aquaplaning is a thoroughly enjoyable extra dimension. Perhaps more grip than I would expect as my track experiences suggest more throttle steer and better modulation of the loud pedal out of corners would be needed than is currently simulated, however overall despite the limitations in some areas weather in PC2 is an area where the game stands out above its rivals. Some gripes I do have with it are when you get to the randomisation element of this feature, as basically selecting random weather means over 90% of the time you can expect some level of wetness, which is a shame as I would have liked to see more variety in the mix, such as dry running for a number of sessions then maybe a shower at the end of the race or something. Having tested almost 20 race weekends with random weather, I've had rain or snow during at least one session on every occasion... Speaking of snow, lets be honest now, this is a gimmick and one that any serious sim racer will rarely use in a race setting. Strangely this cannot be removed from the weather randomiser, so you could get seriously annoyed when it pops up in a race weekend and spoils all the fun. This really does need to be addressed, as who wants to race GT3's at Brands Hatch in the snow anyway? AI - A total and utter disaster. Period. How in the name of all that is sacred did this get past QA I will never know. The AI is simply awful. First corner crashes, no awareness and ridiculously slow wet driving are all regular occurrences that continually pop up to hurt the soul. One evening I endeavoured to do a race weekend at the Nurburgring in a Lamborghini GT3, a car and track combination I hadn't yet tried. At 105% difficulty with a default setup and no fuel removed I finished my 15 minute practice in P23, 1.6 seconds off the pace. This was good, I had some more pace to give in the limited time I had on track, but that is exactly where I wanted to be and I was a happy boy. Maybe another 3 tenths could've been won if I didn't keep crossing up in the chicane, but that was fine. Come my 10 minute qualifying and hey, random weather so time for rain. Ran two laps, put it on pole by 1.6 seconds. Parked it, remained on pole. Hmm. Race day comes around and the rain has progressed to a thunderstorm (random weather rain strikes again). Get a good launch off the rolling start and by lap 3 I have 45 seconds of lead, without even pushing the car at all. ESC and back to menu. Little grey X button in the top right hand corner, shut down PC, walk away and mash a cup of tea. Not impressed. Sadly this is the case every time some rain falls, and let us be honest, I'm no Michael Schumacher in the rain. Something is wrong, very wrong indeed. Car selection - Excellent. Some really nice cars and a lovely mix of the old and new are included, giving pretty much everyone the opportunity to have a go in something they might enjoy. All the big brands are present, so Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes or whatever takes your fancy can be fired up and raced around the many tracks in the game. A nice nod towards official series such as IndyCar are also welcomed, however the lack of real drivers despite the series licence and liveries grinds a bit, and kinda spoils it for me. Regardless of that little bugbear, you can't really fault the choice of cars in game, and all seem to be of solid quality and look wonderful from inside the cockpit using VR. Very happy. Tracks - Again plenty to choose from, however for me the quality varies massively between different circuit selections. Some of them are just downright bad, both the visuals and accuracy, leaving a bit of a hit and miss feel to the whole game and giving one the impression that quite a few have been thrown in just to bump up the numbers, rather than striving to match the quality level expected of a game of this level. Quality variances aside, it is nice to see that all the different weather options can be used on all the circuits, and that the game doesn't artificially limit what cars can be used on which circuit. Red Bull Ring in snow driving a WRX? No worries, the option is open for you to try. IndyCar at Knockhill? Go for it. Quite a cool thing to see and something I'm pleased about, if only for the novelty value of trying out weird combinations you would never see in real life. Summary - Now I started writing this review very soon after the game released (about a week or so after) and I've parked it until now, half finished, as I wanted to give a bit of space for the developers to patch up some things and get it firing on all cylinders. We've had two patches so far, and still the AI is a joke. Wet weather is pointless against the computer opponents, and the dry weather awareness of where I am relative to the opposition is still poor. Not PCARS 1 bad, but for me at least still not close to the big hitters in the sim racing world. Over a month from launch day, I would expect this to be rectified and frankly I'm shocked it hasn't been addressed yet, making it very hard for me to want to invest any serious time in the sim. Assetto Corsa took a long time to get offline right, but that wasn't too much of a pain as the online stability was pretty rock solid, and more importantly the actual experience of driving the car was first rate, making hot lapping and just simply enjoying the driving experience of the different cars a pleasure, sadly for me at least PCARS 2 doesn't give the same level of driving thrill, it just feels canned and not really an "organic" driving experience. Open up your mind a little and AC or rF2 etc can feel like driving the real thing, PCARS 2 feels like a game. In my experience at least.. Moving to the online portion of the title is where my experience very dramatically drops off, as the events I've ventured into have all pretty much ended in various levels of frustration and disaster. Netcode has been poor at best, with plenty of lagging and cars floating or spawning at random all over the place. I suspect this has been improved since my last try, but frankly I've not got enough inclination to fire it up and have another bash, so this element of the sim will have to wait a while until further updates are released to entice me back to the game again. Now I'm aware that my opinions are probably going to be quite polarising in the community and probably come across a bit harsh, this isn't intended and saddens me to write them. I really, really, really wanted this to be good, and honestly the basics are in place for a very solid racing game. What has probably caused me the biggest disappointment is how I fell for the hype once again, having been promised something that would blow me away and having eventually just sat through what was eventually a light breeze. It feels like I've been promised the best Ferrari in the world, and eventually had a top of the range Fiat Punto delivered. Nothing wrong with the Punto, actually its a rather nice car, but when one expected a brand new 700bhp Ferrari on the drive and looking out over a nearly new Punto just fills you full of disappointment at what could of been. Project CARS 2 claimed to be "redefining the genre of sim racing" prior to release, and having sunk plenty of hours into getting under the skin of the new title I can say one thing for sure: despite having quite a few compelling positives if you look hard enough at the game, if this is the new definition of sim racing then I'm not entirely sure I want to stick around for much longer.