Screenshots courtesy of Slightly Mad Studios
When Project CARS 2 was announced, it made a lot of people very happy. According to Andy Tudor, Creative Director of Slightly Mad Studios, Project CARS 2 would not only address some of the issues players had with the first game, it would also add more in the way of cars, tracks, and ways to play. That all sounds great, but what exactly would that mean when it came to the final cut of the game?
I got a small taste of what's to come when I was invited to visit CXC Simulations in Los Angeles to go hands on with Project CARS 2 before it launches. In case you aren't familiar, CXC Simulations produces some of the most advanced racing simulator rigs money can buy. In fact, many of CXC's customers are professional race car drivers and teams who use the simulators to get much needed seat time to keep their skills honed and to learn the nuances of race tracks they are not accustomed to.
While at the facility, I was strapped into CXC's "Motion Pro II," a $50,000 simulator to play Project CARS 2. As you may have guessed from the name, the Motion Pro II does move while playing. It has a full-sized racing bucket seat complete with a five-point harness all attached to strategically placed moving pistons. These pistons will move the seat to simulate acceleration, lateral-G's, road surface bumps - there is even a mechanism attached to the seat belts which will pull back on the player under braking to simulate the physical effects of deceleration! Oh, and one more thing: the rig was connected to an Oculus Rift VR headset to make the whole experience feel even more realistic.
While in the simulator, I tried out three different cars in-game on two different tracks. In our first session we were behind the wheel of the new Acura NSX GT3 race car on the Long Beach Grand Prix street course. The interior of the car, the sounds, and the race track environment all felt very true-to-life. As an added bonus, the sky gradually changed from day to sunset to night over the course of the 10-minute session. As far as I can tell Project CARS 2 may be the first racing game which allows players to run the Long Beach Grand Prix Course at night.
In the second session I found myself piloting an Indy Car, also on the Long Beach Grand Prix course. Being from Long Beach and going to the Grand Prix every year since I was a kid, this experience was a virtual (no pun intended) dream come true, especially since this launch event was held literally on the eve of the Grand Prix this year! To virtually be inside an Indy Car looking around at the course and really feeling all of the turns, and bumps was a pretty breathtaking experience.
In the last session I played the new Rallycross mode. But before my session I was treated to a demonstration by none other than two of the Honda Red Bull OMSE Rallycross team drivers, Mitchell Dejong and Oliver Eriksson. After watching them put on an absolute clinic, I was thrown into the simulator and pretty much embarrassed myself. I always knew that driving Rally was different than traditional road racing on asphalt but Project CARS 2's mechanics, combined with the realism offered from the simulator, really emphasized those differences. I came away from that session with even more respect for rally drivers and their talents!
When it was all said and done I had a really great time trying a small sliver of what Project CARS 2 promises to be - though it should be remembered that my experience with the game was far beyond what most people will have when they get their hands on it. I mean, how many people have five-figure, virtual reality, professional-grade racing simulators in their homes? The truth is, when Project CARS 2 is released later this year, most of us will be playing it on our couches with a controller in our hands.
Will the same fun experience still translate when all of that fancy stuff is stripped away? Collectively we won't know until the game is released - though, I have to say after playing it for myself, I am optimistic.