Why Project Cars 2 runs best on PlayStation 4 Pro. Console performance analysed: Sony's super-charged console gets closest to a locked 60fps.
At its core, Project Cars is designed around creating a dynamic racing environment, where shifting weather conditions regularly change how each race plays out. Handling is altered with the transition from dry to wet surfaces, changing how much grip and control is present, while splashes of water partially obscure the upcoming track. It’s an aspect of the game further expanded upon in this sequel.
A new snow season covers the trackside in icy details, while wintery conditions ranging from light snowfall to a full-on blizzard round off the extra dynamic weather effects. Existing wet weather conditions are also enhanced via the use of fluid dynamics – a feature that sees pools of water build up on the track when it’s raining heavily, later receding as the weather changes and the track begins to dry out. Other elements such as changes in ambient and track temperature along with atmospheric shifts all impact on car performance too, with tyres, braking, and aerodynamics all factored into the calculations.
Some of these features are reserved for 30fps racing games like Forza Horizon and DriveClub, but Slightly Mad Studios implements these aspects into Project Cars 2 while still targeting 60fps across all platforms. It’s certainly an ambitious task given the limits of the PS4 and Xbox One hardware, so how has the developer managed this? Pixel-counting suggests that dynamic resolution scaling is in effect across all consoles. Instead of the fixed 1080p/900p resolutions found on the original PS4 and Xbox One versions, pixel counts now adjust according to rendering load.
Based on initial measurements, we’re looking at between 1080p to 864p on PlayStation 4, while on Xbox One resolution tops out at 972p (a little increase over the 900p in the first Project Cars), and falls to 864p when the engine is under intense load. As a result, image quality isn’t quite as consistent as the first Project Cars, with some roughness creeping into the presentation in demanding scenes where resolution drops, but in less stressful races with 16 cars and clear conditions, the game appears crisp across both consoles. PlayStation 4 features a little more refinement here, but the gap is quite subtle at regular viewing distances.
The same dynamic set-up is also present on PS4 Pro, which is given full support for this sequel, with both resolution and performance boosts over base hardware. Our measurements suggest that the game features a target resolution of 1440p, but this drops to 1360p during demanding moments, such as racing under stormy conditions with the full quota of 32 cars in play. It’s an improvement over base hardware when viewed on a UHD TV, but it isn’t enough to pass as native 4K, and the scaled image can look quite rough at times. Opinion on this will vary according to taste, but Project Cars 2 on Pro does support downsampling, so 1080p display users may get the better deal here.
When it comes to delivering a nigh-on solid 60fps gameplay experience, PlayStation 4 Pro mostly delivers, regardless of whether you’re playing on a 4K or 1080p display. Frame-rates rarely waver from the desired target, and outside of stormy stress tests with upwards of 16 cars in play, the game holds firm at 60fps, providing a smooth and responsive racing experience. Even demanding wet weather conditions rarely impact performance heavily. There’s a fair amount of tearing on display as cars are bunched up at the start of a race, but frame-rates only incur a minor drop, and these issues clear up once the cars spread out during the race. While momentarily distracting, the relatively constant frame-times and high frame-rate ensure that the game feels good to play and moves at a smooth pace. It’s not a perfect 60fps run, but the game isn’t too far off the pace, and delivers a significantly superior experience over the standard PS4 and Xbox One consoles.
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