The world of simulated racing has always been a rather inclusive one. Household names have been made of incredibly accurately portrayed Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo beginning in the late 90’s. Many have tried and failed to live up to the expectations set by these very talented developers.
One company has tried and succeeded again and again, even getting their start by adopting a popular franchise and producing a very well received product with, “Need for Speed: Shift” and its sequel, “Shift 2: Unleashed.”
Slightly Mad Studios, an independent developer, founded in January 2008, in London, England got their start by obtaining the remaining business assets from Blimey! Games after it had gone into administration. Ian Bell, the man who established both Blimey!, and Slightly Mad seemed to make the decision after problems with his previous publishing company, 10tacle Studios AG.
Both companies seemed to have a similar agenda. Blimey! is known for such games like 2004’s “GTR – FIA GT Racing Game” on the PC, “GTR – FIA TG Racing Game 2”, and “GT Legends”. 10Tacle Studios AG even partnered with Blimey! And signed a license agreement for the development of several games with Ferrari in 2006. This might have led to their partnership with Rombax Games and Atari to make the eleventh and final game in the Test Drive series, “Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends” which showcased the same engine from Shift 2 and its “convincing physics models.”
The next racing game to be released by Slightly Mad was “Project CARS” in May of 2015. They gathered the majority of the five million dollar budget through crowdfunding and the developers themselves, which probably explains the acronym, “Community Assisted Racing Simulator.” They seem to have used a model that many of us have seen these days, giving players who contribute to the game monetarily before release certain opportunities depending on how much they decide to put down. These would include content creation, marketing media, and QA probably in the form of Alpha and Beta access. Using their funding to its full extent, Slightly Mad also employed the expertise of professional driver Ben Collins, Clio cup and European Touring Car Cup race car driver Nicolas Hamilton, and former Formula Renault 3.5 and current WEC driver Oliver Webb.
At release in May of 2015, Project CARS came out in several editions and sold moderately well in the first week, reaching one million copies sold by June 2015. It was well received overall, the most overwhelming complaint coming from the fact that the cars cannot be customized or modified in any way. Mainly praised for its realism, some singling out its balanced handling based on whichever of the 74 cars you chose, and some praising the stunning graphics, even to plan ahead for the new contacts they’re going to need after being blinded by the sun during a particularly sharp turn. Oh, the beauty of a sun flare. One or two critical reviews did not enjoy the bask in the sun, however, comparing it to games like Evolition Studios’ “Driveclub” and finding Project CARS coming in just a little short.
After the initial success, Slightly Mad went on to make 11 DLCs which added a hefty list of new cars, tracks made by the developers and community, as well as a select few new tracks which are based in the real world. The first of these, the Limited Edition Upgrade, added five cars which were in the Limited edition. After this came several new car packs and then, still within the same year, Slightly Mad released the Audi Ruapuna Speedway Expansion, Classic Lotus Track Expansion, and the Aston Martin Track Expansion.
After all their success, it seemed only natural to release Project CARS: Game of the Year Edition which brought all of the original and DLC content together for the price of 49.37 (Steam). Available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, this edition of the game includes all 125 cars, over 100 tracks in 35 locations. It also includes two new cars, the Pagani Zonda Revolucion and the Pagani Huayra BC. Apparently it also has a modified Nürburgring track with a day and night cycle. Support for each one of the VR platforms is featured in this version as well.
Marking their ascent into the best of the best in simulated racing, Slightly Mad Studios announced a sequel to Project CARS, Project CARS 2, on June 22, 2015. It will feature more modes, tracks, and cars, a co-op career, hill climbs, and rallycross. Project CARS 2 is expected to launch late in 2017.