Usually we’d say read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper… but for this week’s racing game blowout he’s been ousted in favour of the far more qualified Christie Doran. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 24th September 2017.
It’s All About The Manufacturers
CAR firms handed out secret dossiers on their new motors to make Project CARS 2 the most realistic racing game on the planet. The Slightly Mad Studios development team spent months going back to the manufacturers to make sure the smallest details were right before they got the green light to include the supercars. Chief Commercial Officer Rod Chong revealed the lengths they went to to take Project CARS 2 up a level from the original title. They have been working with the likes of Lamborghini and Porsche but raised eyebrows when they included Ferraris and McLarens. And Chong insisted they became such experts in the quest for perfection that they know more about the cars than the firms themselves. He said:
“Ferrari took a lot of time to get know us and understand what we are about. They like Project CARS quite a bit because it is about the purity of simulation. We are not going to them and saying ‘Hey, we like your car but we are going to have our 25-year-old game designer design a bodykit for it’, or ‘We are going to let our players put all sorts of graphics on the cars so they fly through the air and crash into police cars’. They like how we focused on the purity of motorsport, the purity of replicating their amazing cars — whether they are the old or the modern ones.”
“I don’t call McLaren, Ferrari or Lamborghini or Porsche difficult to work with — I would say they are specific and precise. They want you to look very carefully at their cars and how they drive and their history and they want you to do the best job possible. Because we are such motorsport fanatics, often we know just as much if not more about their old race cars than their historical archive people do. So again it wasn’t too much of problem for us. The stitching on the seats had to be right — those were the sort of details that we had to get right.”
The attention to detail even led to suggestions that the team helped develop the real cars, but Chong insisted:
“I don’t think they needed help to develop the car per se. We engaged some of them to help us make sure the physics of the car were perfect — that the car behaved in the game exactly as it would in real life. An example of that would be the McLaren 720S. The car is set up for trail braking. The test driver, Chris Goodwin, loves late braking and braking up to the apex of the corner. The car is set up very specifically for that. Chris and McLaren wanted us to make sure we captured that. They said many times that it was not right. We are pushing the boundaries of how you can interface with the manufacturer when you are replicating their car. A lot of them are game to give us very secret data to make sure we do the best job possible.”
To hear more from Rod Chong about Project CARS 2 listen to our EGX 2017 interview.
Fanatec CSL Elite Racing Wheel (PS4 and PC, £499.95)
YOU have access to arguably the most realistic racing game ever, but you are driving with a gamepad. You won’t win. If you want to get the most out of the experience, then get a wheel and pedals. There are plenty of good sets on the market at prices that won’t break the bank. But the more you want out of your sim racing relies heavily on what you put in. Let’s hear it for Fanatec – the daddy of racing wheels and pedals. The German firm deals in high-end gear but the CSL Elite racing wheel is one of the most accessible in the range.
At first, it seemed like we needed the technical knowhow of my race mechanics, but we soon worked it out. The wheel base is chunky and heavy, but the wheel is superbly light, balanced and gives you plenty of feedback. You need to wear gloves to get the perfect grip — and to stop sweating up the alcantara. But the CSL Elite is no plug in and use system. You need to set it up. There is a universal clamp if you want to use a table. We managed to adapt that so we could use the GT Omega seat. Then we tweaked the sensitivity so it was virtually identical to my race car. We set the feedback levels, sorted the ABS and set the turn circle limits. It was a virtual Golf.
The wheel looks the business — with rev lights and easy-to-use buttons. You can set it for paddle-shift gears — like my race car — or a sequential gearbox (£250) or even an H-pattern system. That left the pedals (£197). Fanatec have put as much thought into these as with the wheel. You can alter the force to use on each pedal. We actually called the team so we could set them as close to the real thing as possible. Many of my non-racer friends are shocked by the feedback, but it is a true reflection of a real race car. As a racer who uses games to help prepare for races, I want the best kit and Fanatec is front of the grid. Casual gamers may think it is a cost too far, but try one and you will want one.
Project CARS 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £47.99)
THE lights are out and it’s go, go, go for Project CARS 2. The original version was a must-have buy for gamers, but a growing number of racers used it to practise for upcoming real-life meetings. That cranked up the pressure on Slightly Mad Productions because they knew they had to get it right. It also means Project CARS 2 has to be even better. I was one of the racers Slightly Mad spoke to after the first game came out. They wanted to know how realistic I felt it was. The fact that I have used it every week since would answer that question.
But it didn’t have some tracks and I did feel the handling of the cars was different to real life. I had saved big moments on track, but could never do that in the game. The bar was high, but it could have gone higher.
Project CARS 2 is a different beast. The graphics are simply stunning – more realistic than any game I have seen before. The developers are rightly very proud of the live weather “four seasons” simulation. Sit there for long enough and the sun will go down and the leaves will fall from the trees. That’s all very good but I want to race. I have used the career mode — which is great fun — and I am sure the eSports leagues and competitions will love the on-track action, especially the new rallycross section. But they have added Knockhill this time round. I have done a fair few laps so know my way round. The secret behind the look is that the tracks are laser-scanned. It is weird going round a track you know so well, but you find all the little bumps and curves you would look for on a real lap. And I did like the fact that, on a test session, the cones were actually out as they would be for real. That is a great way to help you learn the turn-in and braking points for corners.
There is a great range of cars now, and you can feel the different characteristics in the handling and performance. As a Golf racer, I loved seeing a VW and it did feel pretty similar once you have played with the settings. There is more fight in the steering wheel than Project CARS 1 but the races seem so real, and you can’t just bludgeon your way to the front. You have to work on heating your tyres — and plan attacks. Then, like any racer, you want to go over the data — or just thrill at the highlights reel. You can watch races back and you get a heap of different angles. Project CARS 2 had to aim high but it is a winner.
THE Badly Awesome Movies Podcast — or BAM Cast — is hosted by Justin Knowles and Ben Wyatte and brings in guests to chat about movies that are so bad they’re good. The more terrible or absurd the better for the monthly debate. Nothing fits the bill quite like movies based on games — we all know a few stinkers.
“In the coming months the BAM Cast is planning on reviewing everything from classics such as Plan 9 From Outer Space to low-budget 80s movies. And the Sharknado movie is on our radar.”
A special thanks to Christie’s work this week with the reviews, and Stuart will resume his usual duties once he makes it back from Birmingham. If you want to hear more from Christie Doran, check out the Codec Call featuring her.