Project CARS (Pagani Edition) by Slightly Mad Studios / Bandai Namco (2015) - PC
Driving games have always among my favourites and it has pained me to miss out on some of the more recent ones. One that has looked as good as any in recent years is Project CARS but I don't own any of the consoles it's on and I was far from confident my PC would be able to handle it. An opportunity to find out came recently, however, when Steam offered a special cut-down version of the game for free! It is this, the Pagani Edition. I imagine it is meant as a kind of playable demo for the full game but however it was intended it was a nice surprise. Even more of a surprise, though, is that despite its apparent minimum system requirements exceeding the abilities of my PC, it actually works very well!
There is a bit more to it than I had expected too - there are two play modes (Quick Race Weekend and Time Trial), you can choose from five cars (three models of Zonda and two Huayra), and there are three circuits (Monza GP, Azure Coast, and the mighty Nurburgring Nords combo). Perhaps not much in comparison to the full game but back in the mid 90's it would have been enough for a full game by itself, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have looked as good as this either! Indeed, to an oafish retro gamer like myself, that's the first thing that strikes one about Project CARS - it really does look quite lovely. It's probably the norm these days I suppose, but the level of detail is amazing. The cars in particular look photo-realistic at times, but everything else looks gorgeous too.
It wasn't long before something else struck me about the game as well though, and that's just how frickin' hard it was! It is more of a simulator than an arcade style of game, and admittedly my control pad has conked out a bit, but my goodness - it's hard to even keep my car going in a straight line! It starts squirming around even when pulling away from a standing start, never mind when trying to negotiate a series of tight corners or something. "Crikey", I found myself repeatedly exclaiming while playing. In all fairness to me, though, both the Zonda and Huayra are insanely powerful cars and starting off with one without any practise or spending time with less mental cars is asking a lot.
As a free demo, though, I think the Pagani Edition of this game does its job well. It impresses with its superb presentation and attention to detail, and also gives a good impression of the game's scope - if Bandai/Namco are willing to give this much of the game away for free, just imagine how much there is in the (now quite reasonably priced) full game! A glance at the trailer reveals just about every kind of car you could think of as well as numerous play modes and types of course. It's definitely one that will take a lot of practise to get the best out of, and in my case I suspect it will also greatly benefit from the purchase of a steering wheel, but if I can get to grips with it (and that's a big 'if' judging by my progress so far!) I'm sure it will keep me occupied for a looong time.