Project CARS – Could it Have a Preordained Pole Position as the Best Sim Racer Ever Made?


These are heady days for fans of racing sim games. Sim racing is a broad spectrum of possible game playing choices that ranges from outright cartoon physics to as hardcore realistic as technology today permits. In such an ever more crowded marketplace, a new title needs to do something different that makes it stand out from the crowd. The team over at Slightly Mad Studios(SMS) seem to have hit upon the most unique strategy to date with their upcoming game Project CARS.

The Philosophy

It all starts with the name – Project CARS. CARS is capitalized for a reason. It is actually a clever acronym for Community Assisted Racing Simulator. Behind that acronym stands the philosophy upon which the game has been developed from. PCARS is a departure for SMS whose previous racing games, such as the Shift games for Electronic Art’s ‘Need for Speed‘ series were developed in house. This time SMS turned to the public to not only fund the game but to give them the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions on the game as it was being developed.

This is an excellent strategy as it gives SMS backers with near unanimous buy in and investment in the final product before it ever hits the shelves. A strategy to which SMS committed itself to as backers had access to successive early builds to test, bug hunt, and evaluate. Over the course of Project’s development cycle one can trace the progress by tracking Youtube clips put up over the last couple of years by backers. It is easily evident how much progress has been made between the first builds and the more recent ones just before the game goes gold for mass duplication and distribution.

“Project CARS. CARS is capitalized for a reason. It is actually a clever acronym for Community Assisted Racing Simulator.”

The Ambition

PCARS has also set itself ambitious goals. There are no platform restrictions here – beyond the decision to not release the game on the previous generation consoles, so no Xbox 360 or PS3 versions. The game will released simultaneously on all current gen platforms except the WiiU which will be released later. That is big. To be able to play the game on any platform will certainly add to the visibility of the game’s profile.

SMS’ vision doesn’t stop there of course. They are also setting out to create the most fully featured racer and graphically impressive game possible. Things such as weather, pit stops, career mode, and a wide variety of road and open wheeled cars. If they can pull all of this off on delivery date the impact will be very, very big. Why? Because of the way the release of sim racing games has evolved over the last ten years or so.


“SMS are setting out to create the most fully featured racer and graphically impressive game possible.”

The Features

To create a fully featured sim racer is no small feat. Players expect a suite of functions to be available in addition to providing a spectrum of cars that handle realistically through physics and Force Feedback. The game should support car customization be it with the ability to tweak setups or import their own liveries plus the ability to edit driver profiles. Players also expect a good selection and variety of  tracks – modelled as accurately as possible – that can support simulating real world racing seasons as closely as possible. Plus all these features should be supported in single and multi-player modes. Additionally in the single player mode there should be a robust career mode that allows a player to work their way up through the ranks of multiple racing disciplines from rookie to pro in the associated car classes.

There are even more features players expect such as telemetry, robust re-playability, weather effects, proper enforcement of racing rules (racing flags, pitting rules), and undoubtedly the biggest one – proper AI opponents. Despite the ease and emphasis placed on multiplayer functions, sim racing entails a lot of solo racing to learn the cars and tracks to hone one’s skills to become as competitive as possible.

The list of desired features is long and understandably daunting for any company publishing sim racer games to deliver on all fronts. So what’s been happening is sim racing games being released with gaps in the feature set. To counter this, racing sims push the sexier aspects of their game – be it the graphics or the car licences or their track set or endorsements by professional racers.  However if you check out the current racers on the market their deficiencies are easy to identify.

The Goods

Project Cars is presenting a wide spectrum of racing a decent selection of tracks for single and multiplayer sessions with the latest graphical whiz bangery possible. Hold on to your butts, this list is massive. Their car list at time of launch includes:

Drivable In-Game:

  • 2013 Alpine A450 LMP2
  • 2011 Ariel Atom 300 Supercharged
  • 2011 Ariel Atom 500 V8 2011
  • 2011 Ariel Atom Mugen
  • 2012 Aston Martin Vantage GT4
  • 2013 Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3
  • 2013 Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S
  • 2013 Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3
  • 2013 Audi R8 V10 Plus
  • 2011 Audi R18 TDI LMP1
  • 2012 BAC Mono
  • 2012 BMW 1M Coupe
  • 1978 BMW 320 Turbo Group 5
  • 1981 BMW M1 Procar
  • 1991 BMW M3 E30 Group A
  • 2012 BMW M3 E92 GT2
  • 2012 BMW M3 E92 GT4
  • 2012 BMW Z4 GT3
  • 1990 Caper Monterey Stock Car (fictional 1990 Stock Car)
  • 2012 Caterham Classic
  • 2012 Caterham SP 300/R
  • 2011 Caterham Superlight R500
  • 1981 Ford Capri Zakspeed Group 5
  • 1972 Ford Escort RS1600
  • 2009 Ford Focus RS
  • 1967 Ford MK. IV
  • 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302R1
  • 1997 Ford Mustang Cobra SCCA Trans-Am
  • 1988 Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth Group A
  • 2011 Formula A (fictional 2011 Formula 1)
  • 2011 Formula B (fictional GP2-type Formula Car)
  • 2013 Formula C (fictional Formula 3/Atlantic type car)
  • 2012 Formula Gulf FG1000
  • 2011 Formula Rookie (fictional 2011 Formula Ford type car)
  • 2013 Ginetta G40 Junior
  • 2013 Ginetta G55 GT3
  • 2013 Ginetta G55 GT4
  • 2011 Gumpert Apollo S
  • 1969 Lotus 49 Cosworth V8
  • 1972 Lotus 72D Cosworth
  • 1977 Lotus 78 Cosworth
  • 1985 Lotus 98T Renault Turbo
  • 2013 Marek RP 339H (fictional community designed LMP1)
  • 2013 Marek RP 219D (fictional community designed LMP2)
  • 1994 McLaren F1
  • 2013 McLaren 12C
  • 2013 McLaren 12C GT3
  • 2014 McLaren P1
  • 2012 Mercedes-AMG C-Klasse Coupé DTM
  • 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II DTM
  • 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.8 AMG “Rote Sau”
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
  • 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
  • 2012 Mitsubishi Evo X FQ-400
  • 2013 Oreca 03 LMP2
  • 2012 Pagani Huayra
  • 2009 Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster
  • 2012 Pagani Zonda R
  • 2011 Palmer Jaguar JP LM
  • 2011 Radical SR-3 RS
  • 2011 Radical SR-8 RX
  • 2013 Renault Clio IV RS Cup
  • 2014 Renault Megane RS
  • 2013 RUF CTR3 Clubsport
  • 2013 RUF CTR3 SMS-R (Fictional Racing Version)
  • 2013 RUF RGT-8
  • 2014 RUF RGT-8 GT3(Fictional Racing Version)
  • 2013 RWD Motorsports P30 LMP1 (fictional community designed LMP1)
  • 2014 RWD Motorsports P20 LMP2 (fictional community designed LMP2)
  • 1989 Sauber C9 Mercedes Group C
  • 2011 SMS Shifter Kart 125cc
  • 2011 SMS Shifter Kart 250cc Super Kart

More cars to be released each month.

Turning to the tracks, the list includes the following which allow for 110 configurations:

European Circuits:

  • Azure Circuit – Monaco
  • Besos – Circuit de Catalunya
  • Brands Hatch (laser scanned)
  • Cadwell Park
  • Donington Park
  • Hockenheimring
  • Imola
  • Le Mans Circuit 24h
  • Le Mans Bugatti Circuit
  • Monza
  • Brno
  • Nürburgring Nordschleife (Team Member+ during development)
  • Nurburgring GP (Senior+ during development)
  • Oschersleben
  • Oulton Park (laser scanned)
  • Silverstone
  • Snetterton
  • Spa Francorchamps
  • Zolder

North American Circuits:

  • Willow Springs
  • Willow Springs Horse Thief Mile
  • Sonoma Raceway
  • Laguna Seca
  • Watkins Glen
  • Road America

Asian Circuits:

  • Dubai Autodrome
  • Zhuhai
  • Sakitto – fictional track inspired by Suzuka

Oceania Circuits:

  • Bathurst – Mount Panorama

Kart Tracks:

  • Belgian Forest Karting Circuit (Spa-Francorchamps Kart Circuit)
  • Chesterfield (fictional)
  • Glencairn (fictional)
  • Summerton (fictional)
  • Dubai Kartdrome

Country Roads:

  • California Highway (Team Member+ during development)
  • Azure Coast (Team Member+ during development)

Wow, did you get all that? A very impressive launch line! SMS also supplies a Career Mode which you can see below:

The Prognosis

Being privately funded, SMS has been removed from the pressure of releasing the game to meet an arbitrary release date. The game has been delayed several times.  Originally slated to be released last November in time for the holiday season the game was delayed until March 2015.  Then it was pushed back again till this May. No doubt to the frustration of its backers and eager customers.

Such displeasure is transitory and will be quickly forgotten if Project CARS is released as a fully functional racing simulator. Project CARS appears poised to take on all comers in May 2015.

Let the comparisons begin!