February 13th, 2018 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Prepare to Drive Edition

So recently, between bouts of Monster Hunter World, I’ve been playing a bit of Project Cars 2 on the side. No wait, that’s not right, I’ve been trying to play Project Cars 2. Okay, no, I have made several attempts to play Project Cars 2. And I’ve failed miserably, but I don’t understand why. I love my racing games and tend to reach for the simulation-oriented games like Forza Motorsport/Horizon, Gran Turismo Sport (which sucked), and Grid Autosport. Basically, it has to have “sport” somewhere in the title in order to be a simulation game. I love these games and always have a blast. Unless I’m playing Project Cars 2.

To call PC2 the Dark Souls or racing games isn’t quite right. It’s not that it’s just hard and requires you to ‘git gud.’ Its demands are far higher than that. From the very moment you start the game, it’s strongly suggested you begin at the rookie section of the game which consists of… go karts and average cars. “Oh, you played Forza? That’s cute. Learn to drive for real, dumbass.” I got schooled in the way of racing as crash after crash, restart after restart, I failed to even finish one race in anything other than last place. That’s if I manage to finish a race at all, which was also infrequent.

The legitimacy of the game’s mechanics can be seen right there in the settings when you decide how much help you want/need from the game. Back when I played Gran Turismo Sport, I had to set the game’s assists to ‘Expert’ because the ‘Intermediate’ car practically drove itself. By the end of Forza Horizon 3, I had almost all assists turned off and had the car’s AI set to Pro. In Forza Motorsport, it’s the same but I leave traction control on and race against ‘Highly Skilled’ drivatars. I’m great at these games, I had fun and I loved them. Project Cars 2? Almost all of the assists are on and I still can’t catch a break. And the number of settings there are to adjust are mind-numbing, just look at the general settings screens: [Click here for HQ]

You see that? I can’t catch a break even with all of the help the game is willing to give me. It doesn’t help that the cars you’re up against don’t seem to have any difficulty slider, and in many cases, they don’t feel like they have to obey the rules of the road as much as you do. I’ve had to restart a race 8 times because I accidentally clipped a corner or bumped into a car. These infractions can sometimes force you into the pit lane as punishment.

Another problem seems to be the controls. It appears that the game was on showcase frequently with a full steering wheel and pedal set. Driving wheels cost quite a bit, usually in the $400 range unless they are on sale. Playing the game on a regular controller doesn’t always feel right, as if it wasn’t optimized to play on it. I’m sure Project Cars 2 is a spectacular one-to-one recreation of real driving if you have a wheel. But for that price, you can also get a PSVR. Funny enough, this game has VR support on PC but not on the PS4. Not that it matters, as I’m playing it on my Xbox One.

Again, the game can get rather infuriating. You can race again and again and again and never improve. At some point, you may think that I may be being spoiled by Forza’s rewind mechanic. While I do admit it improves the racing experience, I still play plenty other racing games and fare just fine without being able to rewind. Rewind is merely an evolution of the game. It’s not cheating at the game, but instead is the game telling you that you did something wrong and that you have to do it over and over to get it right. But that’s just it. When you screw up in Forza, you hit the rewind button repeatedly until you fix it. With Project Cars 2, you end up pressing the ‘Restart Race’ button many times because in most cases, crashing will leave you so far behind there’s no point in attempting to catch up. Honestly, one of my best friends is a bonafide gearhead and racing game aficionado and even he says that this game is too hard to be enjoyed.

The game is kind of boring too. It flaunts its rules and pinpoint precision in racing mechanics, but that doesn’t make the game fun, it just makes it realistic. And that’s not always fun, especially when it’s to the extent that this game has implemented. The game doesn’t give you a whole lot in terms of motivation to keep racing, you just fail and that’s the end of it. So, having played around 5 hours of this game, I just don’t really want to play it anymore unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic. This game might be perfect for many people out there, but as a person who is more of a gaming enthusiast than a racing enthusiast, this doesn’t quite work out. Here’s the basic rating the game gets, based on our scoring system.

GRAPHICS: 1/2

Doesn’t look as good as the average racing game lately. If your racing game doesn’t look absolutely gorgeous, something terribly wrong has happened.

STORY: 0/2

I have no idea if the game offers more encouragement down the line, but as of right now, it’s practically nonexistent. The game feels empty despite everything it has to offer.

AUDIO: 1/2

Car sounds are as true to life as is expected from a racing sim. But the soundtrack is dismal, with annoying and overly dramatic movie score music playing on the main menu and nothing else.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

This game truly is about as non-fictional as a racing game can get, if that hasn’t been made apparent in the rest of this article.

FUN: 0/2

Imagine being so annoyed by a game that you go off on a rant about it instead of doing a proper review. That’s what just happened here.

But honestly, f*ck this game.

SCORE: 4/10




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October 27th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

The rules are real, the racing is not.

Gran Turismo Sport is the thirteenth game in the Gran Turismo series, one that has been forever exclusive to the Playstation platform. Props for loyalty, eh? It was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Now, I’m going to be up front here, I’ve never been a big fan of Gran Turismo and have always leaned more to the side of Forza and being an Xbox fanboi. But considering that the most recent entry in the Forza series was the lackluster but well-made Forza Motorsport 7, I was hoping that some good, sturdy competition from a rival series would bolster some friendly competition between the two. The last Gran Turismo came out in 2013 and that’s quite the gap. Can the new game pull it off?

GRAPHICS: 2/2

It’s becoming increasingly hard NOT to find a racing game that looks stellar in the visuals department. Gran Turismo Sport is no different. Every car has been built with careful and loving detail from top to bottom. The fictitious race tracks also lend some credence to creativity when it comes to the design, as many other racing sims rely purely on real world tracks, so this game was a breath of fresh air in that regard. Sadly, unlike the new Forza game, this game does not feature realistic weather and every track and race are all situated in a clean and clear race day. That said, to make up for this, the game features the tracks at many different times of the day, so you get many variations of lighting. You can race at dusk, dawn, noon, afternoon, evening, morning, night, and everything in between. If you’re keeping your eye out for flaws, you will notice that some buildings in and around the circuits could use some love but that’s some sheer nitpicking. One particularly great looking course is a dirt rally track based around a wind farm and the aesthetics of that track are gorgeous no matter what time your race.

STORY: 0/2

As stated before, in games that don’t particularly qualify or have a story, you have to observe what sort of progression the game gives you and what incentives are in place to keep you going. GTS sadly has none. For starters, it has three very sad campaigns you can take part in. The first is literally driving school, in which you watch YouTube videos on what you’re supposed to do (no really, it has YouTube videos embedded in the loading screen) and then drive for usually seconds at a time. Not only is it boring, but it also gets incredibly hard as it tasks to perfectly recreate a corner it wants you take to learn about turning. That would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that it drops you into the heat of things too quickly and makes a lot of the intermediate driving courses unreasonably challenging in a vacuum. If the driving school isn’t your bag, the second campaign is a series of challenges that start off interesting but quickly become annoying or unreasonable by the time you reach the second or third series. Then if that’s not enough, the third campaign is track mastery in which you just do specific sections of the tracks in the game, which isn’t very fun either.

All of this leads to me giving up and just playing the “arcade mode,” which is far more fun and just lets you race with whichever car is available. But, while the fun can be dug from there, the progress you make is far from engaging. It has four sections for leveling: you have your currency, mileage points, actual miles, and your experience. Leveling up your EXP unlocks tracks in arcade mode and nothing else (for the most part). The mileage is a daily challenge that gives you a free car if you do a sort of daily mileage workout. The mileage points are used to unlock cosmetics that are laughably minimal. The credits you get aren’t quite enough to buy some cars, but buying cars is a moot point when most of the races supply you with the car you need to race with for free, and the car selection is absolutely abysmal. This game really doesn’t hold your attention or do much to keep you going.

AUDIO: 1/2

The sound is in good form here. Like many other racing games, the realism takes precedence over everything and most cars sound exactly like how they are supposed to sound in real life. I think the real problem comes with a few nagging points that stick and never go away. For one, it has a combo soundtrack of licensed songs and originals for the menu. The menu music is sadly generic and feels like it was done at the last minute. It also sounds like it belongs in a decades-old game featuring big beat and IDM. The licensed soundtrack is a joke, with uninteresting songs that get drowned out by the racing sounds to the point where they are completely unnecessary. There’s that and then there’s the screeching. The screeching sounds you hear when you make any turns or slam the breaks are deafening and unrealistic; taking a hard turn while jamming down the throttle sounds like you’re in some sort of drifting competition, but that’s not the case. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are going, you are going to hear a solid “SCREEEEEEEEEEE” whether you’re driving a Ferrari or a Ford. It’s so homogenous and grating that it really detracts from the experience. I had to stop playing and load a couple other games to see if it was present in other sims, and it just wasn’t. Or at least, not to the degree that this game emanates.

GAMEPLAY: 1/2

For a game with a subtitle under it that reads “The Real Driving Simulator” it sure as heck feels pretty unrealistic. Besides the aforementioned screeching, the brakes don’t feel like they work properly. Maybe it is the realism just getting to me, but it feels a lot like the cars are very very lightweight. This doesn’t apply to just braking. Collide with another car, be it a high-speed impact or a ding, and you send the NPC car flying off the track. It also feels like your car is made of elastic with the bounciness of slamming into the guard rails on the track. You don’t get stopped dead, you just BOING right off a guard rail and continue racing. I’m thankful for this mechanic, considering it doesn’t have Forza’s legendary “rewind” mechanic, but it also feels cheap at the same time too. If you’re going to call it a real racing sim, then make it so. This feels a lot more like you’re driving a go-kart at times. This was especially so when I tried out various racing assistance settings.

This game allows novice, intermediate, and expert presets for how much assistance the game gives you with driving physics. I immediately started with expert and was pretty satisfied with the realism it offered at the time, except for my aforementioned issues. Then I tried “intermediate” mode and suddenly the car was practically driving itself. No joke, I kept forgetting to steer the car I was driving because I fell into a trance as the game practically takes over the controls for you when you get to any of the corners. This “autodrive” feature took me completely out of the experience and sent me right back to expert mode. But the problems don’t end there. At the start of many races you are in “autodrive” mode while the race counter counts down from 3. More often than not the game relinquishes control to you in the middle of a corner. It’s absurd.

FUN: 1/2

As said before, the game puts a lot of focus into some realistic driving expectations. Once you get used to the physics engine, the game is rather enjoyable to play for a quick race or two in arcade mode. Unfortunately, you will often find yourself bored as the game makes you try driving around the same corner for the thirteenth time in driving school, doing the same challenge over and over because the difficulty spiked tremendously, or you simply run out of things to do. This game has a lot of merits that save it from being bad, mark my words. For one, restarting a race is instantaneous. If you are unhappy with your drive, you can start over at the press of a button and boom, the race is ready to go. For what it’s worth as well, despite the driving school being unfun for the most part, it DOES make you a better driver. The use of cones to signal braking and turning points are new and interesting. But none of this is enough to keep you going. You have to watch two racing etiquette videos just to join multiplayer. Not only that, but they seem to be fixated on making the races official, so instead of any form of matchmaking, the game just has scheduled races you have to sign up for. I had to borrow a PS4 for this review and didn’t feel like this was worth my time, so I avoided it.

I was really hoping that Gran Turismo Sport would be a triumphant return to form for the series, but sadly this is not the case. GTS feels like another prologue game at best. With its extreme focus on rules and regulations while not being quite a good driving simulator in and of itself, it falls short of being the true racing experience it wants to be. There is a VR mode available for it, but I don’t have 400 dollars to spare so that was ignored, unfortunately. Could that increase the quality of experience? It’s entirely possible. But for now, it seems that Forza will keeps its racing game crown until it gets more complacent, but hopefully that doesn’t happen. With these two racing sims tried out, the way is paved for me to try more racing sims. Project Cars 2 came out earlier in September and is now at the top of my priority list to try before the end of the year. Nintendo is also going to throw its hat into the ring with the upcoming Gear.Club Unlimited in December. Can they best the almighty Forza? This reviewer wants to find out.

SCORE: 5/10

Also, WTF was up with that always online crap? I need to be online even in the ‘campaign’? Total bullsh*t.




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