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Project Cars 2 release date, news and preview: We go hands-on with the latest build of the racing sim

Project Cars 2 is out in just a few weeks, and it’s shaping up to be one of the best racing games around. Featuring a huge range of cars and tracks and some incredible graphics, Project Cars 2 is going to go head to head with GT Sport later this year, but what’s it actually like to play? Content is great, but if the handling is off, or the gameplay isn’t fun – what’s the point?

At an event at Brands Hatch racing cicruit, I got to play a new build of Project Cars 2. Here’s what I thought:

Project Cars 2: Hands on

When I first played Project Cars 2 several months ago, I wasn’t sure what to think. For the entire event, the people from Simply Mad Studios talked about just how realistic and how predictable the handling was – but I found it a little strange.

When using a steering wheel – and particularly when using a controller — Project Cars 2 was alarmingly sensitive. I’ve driven racing games for the last two decades, and I found the handling to be pretty troublesome – and beyond the point of difficult. Some games are ultra realistic, but they give you a chance to save the car before an accident – and Project Cars 2 certainly didn’t. Overall it was a little too twitchy for my liking.

Fast forward to August and Simply Mad Studios gave me another chance to play on Project Cars 2, and what I found was a much better game than before. As expected, the graphics were still seriously impressive on a high-end PC – and not much worse on a PS4 Pro either.

At Brands Hatch, with the time set to sunset, Project Cars 2 looked incredible. Sunlight spilled through lush, highly detailed trees, and both the tarmac and cars were bathed in a warm orange glow. The car I’d chosen – a sharknose BMW – also looked extremely lifelike, and even sounded authentic too. In short, Project Cars 2 looks like a match for GT Sport – on the presentation side at least.

However, the improved handling was the most impressive thing about the latest build of Project Cars 2. Sure, the cars were still a handful – and they should be – but the handling was much more predictable than before. When I was particularly ambitious on the throttle on the previous build of the game, I’d more often than not end up in the scenery with immediate effect.

In contrast, the latest version of the game gave me way more feedback. The car began to slide, the revs increased due to wheelspin, and I was able to correct the car and ease off the accelerator. The result? I lost some time but enjoyed pushing the car to the limit – and not having to restart the race.

It’s that sort of feedback that make games like Assetto Corsa incredibly difficult and realistic, but still enjoyable to play. And it looks like Project Cars 2 will finally have the handling model to match its already awesome graphics.

Project Cars 2: Release date 

Slightly Mad Studios has announced the release date for its new racing sim – 22 September.

As you’d expect, that release date applies to the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions of the game, because there’s no version for the Nintendo Switch – which does seem to be a trend nowadays. When it does arrive, Project Cars2 will also feature Porsche content, something that’s restarted ever since the German brand’s exclusive contract with EA wasn’t renewed.

Project Cars 2: Cars and tracks

The new game will feature more than 170 cars and 60 tracks – something PlayStation Access says outranks any other game on console. The most recent announcement added Ferrari to this mix. In particular, 10 Ferraris will be included with Project Cars 2 from a Ferrari 330 P4 of 1967 to Ferrari’s modern-day GT, the 488 GT3. Other models include the Ferrari 288 GTO of 1984, the F40LM of 1989 and Maranello’s current hypercar – LaFerrari.

Making up the 10 models are 365 GTB4 Competizione, F333 SP, F50 GT, Enzo Ferrari and 488 GTE. All will come with Project Cars 2 from the day of launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

As you’d expect, the trailer shows GT cars and road cars but it also features a range of intriguing off-road tracks, with snow, mud, ice and gravel being just some of the available services. According to a press release just put out by Slightly Mad, those tracks include the official Mercedes-Benz Driving Events Winter Training Ice Track in Sweden.

Project Cars 2: Presentation

However, one thing all tasters of the game had in common were how amazing they looked. Project Cars was always one of the better-looking racers on the PC and PS4, but it looks like Slightly Mad has stepped things up for Project Cars 2. Day to night transitions – something weirdly missing from GT Sport – looked amazing in Project Cars 2, and the overall definition and quality of the graphics when viewed on a screen were great.

VR drags well behind, even on the high-end PCs we were using, but I’d say Project Cars 2 looked slightly better than Driveclub VR or DiRT’s VR experience.

Better on Xbox One X 

Speaking to Trusted Reviews, game director Stephen Viljeon said there’ll be a “significant, noticeable improvement,” on Microsoft’s hardcore gaming machine – and that’s bad news for Sony fans.

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the Xbox One X is a much more powerful console, with significantly better hardware – so its increased graphical prowess shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Second, it’s hard to know right now where the Xbox One X version of Project Cars 2 will outperform its PS4 Pro counterpart. If the Microsoft console can pack more effects per frame, that’s fine – but if it’s got a significantly better frame rate, then that’ll be more upsetting for Sony gamers.

Project Cars 2: Career mode 

The first Project Cars was great, but its career mode wasn’t really the best. Best described as a calendar with upcoming events, it was a good way to try out a variety of cars, but it didn’t exactly make you feel invested. In contrast, Project Cars 2 will now encompass 29 motorsport types and see you progress from karts or Ginetta Juniors, right up to the IndyCar series. These series are based on Tiers, which echo the model encountered by real drivers, so even the structure of the game is more realistic.

Slightly Mad says you can skip straight to the flagship events if you choose, but as we all know, the journey is just as rewarding as the destination. What’s more, it looks like they’ll be Lifetime goals too, a new feature that urges you to win key events such as the Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours – or pushes you to become factory driver for a legendary brand.

Aside from your own career, car brands will also invite you to take part in challenges – something new for the Project Cars series, and there’ll also be a range of other trophies you can collect throughout your career. According to Slightly Mad, these challenges will earn you money, but also put you on the path to becoming a fully fledged factory driver.

So, the career mode for Project Cars 2 certainly sounds promising. It’s more well-rounded than before, and although not essential, the way it follows the real world of motor-racing careers is a nice touch. It already sounds better than what Assetto Corsa can offer, and shows a maturing of the Project Carsfranchise. It’s also a rewarding and more accessible way to experience some of the 180-plus cars included in the game.

Rallycross comes to Project Cars 2

Project Cars is known for its commitment to circuit racing, but it looks likeProject Cars 2 will let players take part in slightly more rugged conditions too. Released today, a new trailer and screenshots show brand new Rallycross content in Project Cars 2, and it marks a huge departure from the previous game.

The cars in the trailer include a Honda Civic Coupe, Volkswagen Polo RX and Ford Focus RS RX – as well as a Mini Countryman RX. Vintage car lovers will also be pleased to see an old Ford Escort RS1600 included in the line-up, too.