Preview: Project CARS

After a seemingly last minute delay, Slightly Mad Studios’ Project CARS is set for release later this year. The device will support both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, for PC and PlayStation 4 respectively, in due course, and VRFocus managed to get some hands-on time with the former. Slightly Mad Studios are convinced that racing videogames and virtual reality (VR) are natural companions, and given the form Project CARS was presented in on Oculus Rift, it would be hard to disagree with them.

Project CARS is a racing simulation videogame. Though Slightly Mad Studios insist that you can attune the assists and handling to your specific preferences, in the build VRFocus experienced it was never less than challenging. This, of course, makes it difficult to appreciate the beautiful scenery and remarkable quality of the visual design as you turn sideways into each corner and struggle to maintain control of your vehicle. It does however, give you ample room to explore the benefits VR brings to the experience.

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On a traditional monitor your field of view is limited by the edge of your screen. The camera stays locked to the rear of the vehicle, and as such approaching a sharp bend will not allow you a full view of the angle in which you will enter, turn and exit. Relying on a mini-map is something that has become normal, but is a less than ideal solution. VR does away with this issue entirely. In VR, you are able to simply turn your head to view the track ahead, the full apex of the turn and the driving line which you wish to take upon exit. It is, in reality, much closer to the simulation that the genre has purported to have achieved than ever before.

Though still noticeably limited by the Oculus Rift DK2’s resolution, in which that dreaded ‘screendoor effect’ was clear and present throughout, the effect of being inside the helmet of a driver was only slightly diminished. The compulsion to lean into corners and align yourself with the track was strong; it may only be a matter of time til players start feeling the need to toot their horn at a rival breaking excessively on the corners or flip the bird at a driver cutting them up.

Other issues, such as VR drift and motion blur, were noticeable by their limited appearances. Slightly Mad Studios are keen to emphasise the fact that they’ve been working with the Oculus Rift for quite some time and it does show: Project CARS is an undeniably high quality VR experience on Oculus Rift, hopefully the same will be said of the Project Morpheus build when VRFocus is able to get hands-on with this, too.

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Currently scheduled for release in March 2015, Project CARS will support Oculus Rift from day one. Project Morpheus support will likely be added to the PlayStation 4 build via patch, VRFocus is told, but what of the potential Microsoft head-mounted display (HMD)? Nothing is known at this time, but you can rest assured that VRFocus will endeavour to find out more and keep you updated with all the latest details on this exciting VR prospect.

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