It's that time of year again; riding a swanky E3 showcase and a heavy marketing campaign, the latest Forza is upon us. This time however, it's joined on Xbox One by relative newcomer Project Cars 2. Let’s see if the underdog can give Forza a run for its money.
Testing the brakes in both games revealed that Project Cars doesn't have variable braking; in Forza, holding the trigger halfway would gently apply the brakes, whereas the slightest touch locks the brakes instantly in the former.
Progressing to some faster cars in PC2 saw the game fare better on the whole - steering felt looser and braking was easier, though still slightly problematic even with assists on. Project Cars has a huge number of assists and difficulty levels on offer, with the option to play using the same assists that a vehicle’s real-life counterpart features being a particularly nice touch, along with the different damage levels and engine failure options. Someone heavily into their racing games will doubtless be able to mess around for hours tuning the experience to handle just as they want, but, for us, it would be nice if the game a little more accessible.
While that’s the basics covered, how do the more in-depth areas compare?
A notable difference between the two is that Project Cars doesn’t feature a rewind function, which only serves to make it even less accessible. Yes, it might be more true-to-life not to have it, but losing a whole race because of one mistake on the final corner is just plain frustrating. There’s a reason most racing games have adopted the mechanic.
A notable difference is that Project Cars 2 doesn’t feature a rewind function... There’s a reason most racing games have adopted the mechanic.
Both racers feature weather and time of day options that affect events, though Project Cars boasts snowfall as a unique weather condition between the two. Despite that, Forza feels more realistic on this front, with attention to detail like hitting a puddle causing the car to hydroplane (veer) and lose traction. Project Cars in the wet is hampered by a weird sliding mechanic, where even driving in a straight line the car starts to randomly jerk and slide - the perfect AI goes completely unaffected, naturally. PC2’s nice adaptive weather system somewhat makes up for it, whereby rain can come and go at any point and you can even program weather patterns for custom races. Forza, on the other hand, only has rain and night options for certain tracks, which is oddly restricted, though probably explains why it works so well where it’s implemented.
As Microsoft themselves may have already made you aware, Turn 10's Forza is the winner in terms of performance. The game runs smoothly and always looks great, whereas Project Cars generally looks good, but occasionally suffers frame rate dips - quite noticeably when viewing the car info HUD mid-race. Both games have similar loading times, which can feel a bit long, though Forza has the benefit of interactive loading screens to help pass the time.
Both games feature a wide variety of vehicles to choose between, ranging from small saloons to Formula series cars, though Forza has the clear advantage here, boasting over 700 cars to thoroughly trounce Project Cars’ 180. Whilst PC2 has silly Go-Karting to enjoy, as well as specific race series cars (eg. Clio Cup), Forza’s 1950s classics, lorries, dune buggies, and more, have them beat.
Slightly Mad Studios’ Project Cars has quite the edge when it comes to tracks however, featuring over 40 individual tracks and many variants of each. Well-known tracks stand alongside smaller ones you probably haven't heard of, plus Rallycross events even enter the mix. Forza has all the big-name tracks from before, along with a few new ones, all of which are beautiful and provide enough variety, but, if you want something new on this front, PC2 is the game that delivers.
Forza's 700+ cars thoroughly trounce Project Cars’ 180, though Slightly Mad Studios' racer has the edge when it comes to number of tracks.
In terms of visual customisation, there’s really no contest, as Project Cars comparatively may as well have none. You pick your car and then have a choice of decals to apply to it, adding flavour but no real personal touch. Forza allows you to fully customise the look of every car in the game, all through simple systems. If you aren’t the creative type, you can also download shared designs, some of which are genuinely amazing.
As mentioned earlier, you can make pre-race tuning tweaks in Project Cars, but you can’t change the bodywork in any way. Forza features component choices and upgrades, plus a limited selection of body changes, as well as the fun swap option that lets you shove huge engines into tiny cars and inevitably spin-out upon revving up.
Forza and Project Cars both feature career modes that see you attempt to climb the career ladder, though you’ll do so in different ways. In Forza, you continually gain points, experience and currency to work towards unlocking and purchasing the next tier of vehicles and events, lead along by fancy videos and voice overs about becoming a racing legend. PC2 makes more of an attempt to have you feel like a bona fide race driver, with contracts, team support in-race and liaising with the team off-track, though it's nowhere near as detailed as in the recent F1 2017.
Free play and multiplayer are also on offer in both, though Forza has the larger variety of race types available and multiplayer feels more integrated. Project Cars does have the option to do a 24-hour race though, which is worth mentioning, for anyone dedicated enough to undertake it.
It must be said that, despite all of its positives, Forza 7 doesn't really change much from Forza 6. Arguably the main addition just so happens to be is an unwelcome one: paid loot boxes. Their inclusion seems forced and adds nothing to the game; when players request more cars, locking them behind a gambling system and microtransactions wasn’t what they had in mind. On the other hand, Project Cars 2 fixes many of its predecessor’s issues while also implementing substantially more cars and tracks. In terms of evolution, PC2 is the better sequel.
The racing genre has always been a flaunted visual powerhouse, making the question of how good these games look an important one. The quick answer is that both look good, but you aren’t (still) here for quick answers. Vehicles appear crisp and shine a gleaming shine, though Forza has an extra level of detail as every car is beautifully rendered right down to the interior. Forza's tracks are more immersive too, with expansive backdrops and nice touches like moving cameras, cheering crowds, and even Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen on some tracks.
Project Cars, while still a looker in itself, can feel very bland in comparison. Tracks look somewhat flat, seemingly retaining no tyre marks and overlooking details like spewing dust when you stray off-track.
Weather wise, both games have visibility nicely reduced in heavy rain; Project Cars has more spray flying around in the wet, but, in a stunning bit of detail, raindrops on cars dynamically react to movement in Forza, whereas there’s no such technology in PC2. Forza’s night races are also quite beautiful, and very dark, with the areas outside the headlights a deep, inky-black.
One pet peeve with Forza has always been the poor damage model when crashing, and, in a recurring theme, this instalment doesn’t change that. Cars get scratched, dented and dirty, but never anything more significant, no matter how terrible the collision. Driving the same vehicles into the same situations in Project Cars will rip the bumpers and bonnet off, or may well even cause you to flip and roll.
A pet peeve with Forza has always been the poor damage model, and, in a recurring theme, this instalment doesn’t change that... Driving the same vehicles into the same situations in Project Cars will rip the bumpers and bonnet off, or may well even cause you to flip.
Now to the aural side of things: both racers have loud and throaty engine sounds, but Forza has the most variety and detail, from screeching engines at max rev to squealing tyres as you drift around corners. The music in both games is serviceable, if unmemorable, Project Cars going for a 'chill beats' feel while Forza has a ‘70s rock vibe to it.
Forza Motorsport 7
While Forza 7 doesn't really bring anything new to the table, it's still a fantastically satisfying game to play, looking gorgeous and maintaining a fluid feel all the while. Project Cars 2 is very much more an enthusiast's game, with a wealth of options and track choices that simulator fans will love sinking their teeth into, but, the unforgiving mechanics won't be for everyone, just as they weren't really for us. Still, considering Project Cars 2 was faced with full AAA fury, it puts in a podium-worth performance.