A month on from Project Cars' original release, update 1.04 brings a number of enhancements to both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that may surprise. Weighing in at 500mb, the update addresses a few of the qualms we had on PS4 specifically - such as the temporal anti-aliasing technique that caused ghosting behind moving objects that wasn't present on Xbox One. But above and beyond that, it's a solid, all-round performance boost for both consoles too, introducing new visual features previously only seen on PC.
The finishing line is in sight. Only a day remains until Project Cars becomes a finished article on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, an accomplished racer with beautifully detailed cars, plus an impressive real-time weather dynamic. There's a sense Slightly Mad Studios is pushing each platform as hard as it can while still angling for 60fps, though to cut to the chase, neither PS4 or Xbox One gets a perfect lock on this figure. But given its suite of options, which race setups give us the best frame-rate, and where is the engine at its most fragile?
With the final retail release to hand, Project Cars' initial install weighs in at around 19.5GB for each console. In its default state, this precisely matches the size of the build tested in our original hands-on
- though a day one 817MB patch on PS4 increases its HDD profile, and bumps the version number up to 1.01. A smaller 482MB update is also required on Xbox One, and it's impossible to play anything besides one track in solo mode until the update is finished on either platform.
Editor's note: This is an early impressions piece, based on a few days' play with Project Cars. We'll be posting our final review in the coming days, once we've tested the game on fully populated online servers.
UPDATE: It's come to our attention that the build of Project Cars used as the basis for this article was not intended by the developer Slightly Mad Studios for technical analysis. We weren't aware of this, which was the unfortunate result of some miscommunication on our part with the game's publisher. It was an honest mistake and it is not our intention to misrepresent the game, so we've unpublished the videos that form the basis of the article.
Slightly Mad Studios is in fighting mood. There's a slight cockiness to creative director Andy Tudor as he runs through the crowd-funded, crowd-developed game, taking an assembled audience at Brands Hatch through everything that will make Project Cars stand out, and how it's out to compete against the big hitters, against Gran Turismo and Forza. There's an admirable, tenacious bite to the demeanour, too - I can't help but think of iconic images of a sprightly Lotus Cortina snapping at the heels of the wallowing Ford Galaxie in 60s saloon racing.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, Slightly Mad Studios has reached an agreement with the Financial Conduct Authority to stop accepting new backers and to offer refunds to those already involved, on request. Read our news story on the agreement for more details.
We're a fussy bunch, really. Soon after a game's release and public forums become autopsy slabs, full of should have, would have, could have. It's at this point in a game's life cycle, once the hype has blown away and after the controller's been put down, that everyone becomes a game designer; everyone knows how to make a game better.
Project Cars, Shift developer Slightly Mad Studio's latest project, inverts the process. Here, it's those suggestions, that nitpicking and those moments of fan inspiration that are being harvested for a game that's bravely decided to do much of its growing up in public.
It's all quite simple; sign up to WMD, the somewhat unfortunate acronym chosen for Slightly Mad's World of Mass Development platform, and you're granted access to regularly released builds of the game, which you're then free to pick apart in the official forums. That feedback then gets absorbed by Slightly Mad Studios, a simple loop that means that, when the game is eventually released, it'll be as much a product of the community as it is of the studio.