Speaking of which, Project CARS sure does have some cars. Alongside five classes of open-wheel "Formula" cars, and five classes of touring cars, there are two classes of kart, classic cars including several Lotus Cosworths and, prototype cars such as the Palmer Jaguar JP-Lm, and an abundance of Road cars, from souped up Renault Meganes to supercars like Pagani Zondas and the Gumpert Apollo S.
It's a mighty roster. But more impressive is the cavernous difference in how each car handles. I began my career driving for a Formula Rookie team, and cruised my way into the championship lead. The car was so easy to drive I was slightly concerned. Had Slightly Mad accidentally made an arcade game? Then I was invited to a classic race event driving a 1970's Mercedes Benz, and driving it into a corner was like trying to control a brick on marbles. On the subject of controls, I'd recommend playing with a pad if you don't have a wheel. The keyboard controls are fine, but you don't get the same nuance of acceleration and braking, which is vital if you're playing with minimal driving assists.
Like everything else in Project CARS, the career mode is highly adaptable. Alongside being able to start at any level you please, if you perform well during a season you will receive offers from other teams and race-types. After winning my initial season at Formula Rookie, I accepted an offer to race for Red Raven Racing at GT4, and the difference was striking. The cars were slower, heavier, and twitchier in the corners, and it took a while to adjust. It's also worth noting the career mode is as fastidious as it is flexible. Practice and qualifying sessions can all be experienced, and each race type has its own rules.
If you don't fancy playing through entire race weekends, the practice and qualifying sessions can be simulated, although whenever I did this it seemed to put me in last place. I have a couple of other issues with the career mode too. Firstly, coming off the track during qualifying or practice automatically invalidates your lap time, and doing it more than once invalidates your lap time for both the current lap and the next lap. It's incredibly strict. Even dipping a tyre in the gravel on a corner wipes your lap from the scoreboard. I don't mind this being a feature, but I'd like the ability to switch it off, so I can see my lap time even if I did spin off at one point.
The other aspect of the career mode I don't like is the faux-Twitter account that shows you the "opinions" of your fans. This has clearly been added to inject a little humanity into what is largely a faceless game. But frankly, social media can be distressing enough in real life. I don't want imaginary randoms griping at my performance in an imaginary race, and nor do I care for their vacuous praise. The feed is also repetitive and often contradictory, although it is mimicking Twitter, I suppose.
The career mode exists mainly for those players who need a little structure to their events. Personally, I prefer dipping into the single-race mode and creating my own. It's fun to experiment with ridiculous scenarios, like putting 22 formula A cars on a stretch of California Highway in the lashing rain, or arranging a dusk race at Silverstone in which drivers can use any car they like. The game extends this flexibility online, alongside a few extra options such as whether to enforce manual gear changes for all drivers.
The racing exhibits a few flaws. The 150cc karting is abysmal. The controls simply aren't responsive enough to keep the karts on those tight, winding tracks. More generally, the AI is rather robotic. It's challenging enough, and the AI drivers certainly put up a fight for position on the higher difficulties. But I'm yet to see an AI car come a cropper due to poor racing conditions, and sometimes they're too aggressive, making little effort to avoid you if you're returning to the track or squeezing through a particularly congested corner.
In the end I won that final GT4 race at Donington, after completely accidentally ramming my nearest championship competitor off the track. I was quite impressed with this bit of flagrant cheating, given how difficult it is to pull off something like that in a racing sim. Sadly it wasn't enough to secure me the championship, although by that point second place was more than I deserved. Next season I'll probably head back to Formula Rookie, as I preferred it there.
That's what I like most about Project CARS, I think. Day or night, come rain or shine, it simply wants you to enjoy racing its gorgeous cars around its diverse, dynamic tracks, and it doesn't let anything get in the way of that. This means it's a little uneven in places, but that's a small price to pay for a game this detailed and this open.