Project CARS is shaping up to be quite an impressive piece of work, both with the actual game, and the development process which uses the World of Mass Development (WMD) platform. In short, this is what has the potential to be one of the best racing games ever tied with one of the most innovative development methods there is.
I won’t go too far into the specifics of the WMD method of development, (you can find details on this page and in this PDF.) but the basic premise is that it is a part-community funded project where people who buy into the game at various price points get different levels of developer interaction, game build access and a potential tangible financial reward based on the success of CARS.
For instance, I am a Full Member which costs €45, this gives me access to weekly builds of the game, the ability to make new threads on the forums and to read minutes of developer meetings. I will also get a free copy of the game, exclusive cars and an opponent named after me. At the lowest level, costing €10 to join, you get access to monthly builds and a €10 discount off the final game, along with one or two other levels of developer access. The highest level on WMD is a Senior Manager role which costs €25,000 and amongst a whole host of perks, gets two in-game advertising boards. It is a very innovative take on crowd-sourced funding, different to the recent trend for Kickstarter projects and the more traditional indie idea of letting people play the Beta if they pre-order.
As a Full Member, I have been playing the latest build (number 211) and I have come away very impressed. I haven’t delved into CARS for a couple of months, and in that time a hell of lot of new content has been added, with new tracks, types of races and cars all being new to me. No longer is the Alpha limited to traditional racing tracks like Le Mans and Spa (lovingly re-created, despite not being fully licensed and named), there is now an Oval track along with a 1990 era Stock Car. In addition, there are also a couple of point-to-point races, with one gorgeous event taking you along the Californian coast.
The variety of cars is ever expanding, with everything from DTM styled touring cars, karts to Le Mans style LMP and GT racers and some stupendously fast open wheel Formula cars. There is still a wide mix of licensed and un-licensed cars, but vehicles like the Pagani Zonda R and Ariel Atom have been lovingly reproduced in the game with support from the manufacturers.
It is great to see the expanding tracks and vehicles, as the ultimate target for CARS is for a multi-layered, multi-disciplined career with karting, rallying, NASCAR and ultimately Le Mans Prototype championships all planned to feature in the final game. While there are no elements of the career mode present so far, the expanding rosters start to give you a taste for how the different championships will feel on the road.
The various vehicle classes all feel very different to race with, even using an Xbox 360 controller with a few driver assists turned on, it is easy to get a feeling for how the different machines handle. I will say that turning the realism settings to the full results in some cars which are quite tricky to handle, but it is clear that to handle the cars at those settings will require a wheel, not a gamepad. There is also an extremely in-depth tuning screen which purists will love.
It is important to note that the game is still technically in Alpha testing, so if you do take the plunge and take part, don’t be surprised to find the AI doing some really crazy stuff along with the odd graphical oddity. But, to be fair, this build feels a lot more stable for those aspects than when I played the game a couple of months ago. With the talent working on the game, I really believe CARS can really shake up the racing genre and provide an experience on the PC beyond anything we have seen so far.
Project CARS is still in development and doesn’t have any set release date. It will be released on the PC with possible console launches further down the line.