Thanks to Xbox for the code for this one!

Rain... rain... go away

I take the turn way too tightly and I quickly learn why Project Cars 2 is as uncompromising a race sim as it gets. I'm in the middle of an exciting and troubling endurance race at Le Mans. It has gone from being nice and bright, to a sudden and torrential downpour as the sun slips slowly behind the horizon and blankets the track in darkness. Now there's just the haze of the headlights, the red of my opponent AI's taillights and the encroaching fear that I might rear-end someone if I lose concentration for a nanosecond. With each passing second puddles form and the track becomes more like an ice-rink, with aquaplane physics and more pushing the danger of a spin-out even further.

These are some of the best dynamic weather effects I've seen in a racer so far, Forza 7 not withstanding of course, and it is a real shame that Forza exists or this game might just take the crown.

If you're after a totally uncompromising racer though, one that pulls zero punches and doesn't hold your hand even if you are playing with assists. Project Cars 2 nails that aspect of the genre big time. However, as a caveat I've played this with a wheel and a pad, the wheel is where the magic truly happens in the game and the pad controls feel as though they're not quite there. Almost, but still clunky.

Spin Spin Spin!

I might have been spoilt on Forza of course, so when I first got back behind the 'wheel' of Slightly Mad Studios new game I was out of practise, woefully so. So much that I spent my first few hours re-learning how to drive in the game, frequent spin-outs were my bread and butter, and I ate the sandwiches of tasty gravel and asphalt time and time again. So many tracks have blind turns, changing elevations and features that it is truly hard to get to grips with the game out of the gate.

Of course you can tune your cars, and there's a massive slew of options to allow you to do so in the game. Anti-roll bars can be softened, gear ratios tinkered with, and so on. It's all there for you to play with and change as you want, but be warned, it doesn't mess around in that regard and your changes can have a dramatic effect unless you study up on those kinds of things from a mechanics point of view.

As I continued to play, I got better, I started to get better and better times and everything just clicked back into place. It's what I liked about the first game, only there was more of it and more polish this time around.

Model Driving

No, not the kind where you tootle around the countryside in your stalely BMW doffing your cap at old ladies and saying, "Good day madam". To all the spinsters. No, we're talking pedal to the metal, gear-grinding, tyre melting speed demon racing here. With all the bells, whistles, and magic of a better physics engine for the driving model. There is definitely more response here, less disconnect with the player actions and those of the car. The cars feel nice and weighty this time around, they stick to the road better, less like arcade vehicles and more like the real thing.

The wheel is still the best option when it comes to the game, but as I previously mentioned Gamepad support has been improved a lot more. Watch out for the understeer, it's a killer.

Lots of POWER

We've got a lot on offer here with Project Cars 2, it'd take a lot longer review to talk about it all here and honestly, there's 60 tracks, 29 motorsports, 180 cars spread across the game. There's the gruelling Indianapolis 500, or Rallycross, or flying around Monoco's street course.

It's all in the DETAIL

Where to start. I swear I could smell the fuel, the tyres. I could feel the rumble of these mighty steel horses as they roared around. The graphics are gorgeous, the lighting is something else, and the weather system is brought to life on the Xbox One very nicely indeed. It also runs like a charm, nice and smooth, no framerate issues and nothing holding it back. The audio is top notch, everything is modelled in terms of sound, from the whine of a supercharger, to the sound of shifting gears, it's all here.

Making a name for yourself

If you want to sample all the game's got to offer, punch into Career Mode and let the good times roll. You are taken from one racing discipline to the other, across the globe. You can choose where to begin your rise to fame of course. Start in GT4 maybe, or do some kart racing to get the feel of a true 'journey'. Whatever you choose, it's better than Project Cars, because there's structure now. Career mode isn't easy street though, be warned, finish outside of the top 3 and you're a failure and you need to retry the whole championship again.

AI Headache

Can we talk about AI for a moment, come on... The AI is better than the first game, but it's still able to pull magic car dust out of its exhaust and pull off some typical evil AI move that no sane human would do. Yes, it can and will make mistakes. Yes it will mess up during inclement weather, but it'll also rear end you, cause a pile up, or just crash right out of the first corner.

Qualifying is also a real pain. The AI seems to get some magic speedboost when you're tallying up the numbers in terms of who places where. The AI manages to gain a sudden boost of 5 seconds or more on your best lap time, and I'm not the only gamer who has spotted this, or reviewer. The race director is a harsh lunatic who'll give out penalties for no apparent reason too.

I feel like the AI could have done with a bit more work.

Racing Humans

There's Multiplayer, but I hardly got a game, and when I did, it was sparse at best with hardly anyone playing. I had a bunch of crashes and a few odd connection glitches when I did try mp.

The Last Lap

When it all clicks, it is quite brilliant. When it all clicks that is, otherwise you're left with a game that's not quite going to win first place compared to the likes of Forza. Normally I try not to compare these things, but if you asked me to choose at the moment, even with the loot boxes - I'd say Forza 7 wins there in terms of delivering a better experience and racer out of the gate.

Hopefully with a few more patches and a few more tweaks/fixes, a lot of the issues will get sorted and the game will be a lot more fun to play.

If you want a seriously solid sim-racer though, with a lot of motorsports and decent race design, get this.

Just watch out for the rear-ramming AI.