The Stanceworks Track Expansion launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on Tuesday, January 26. Check out our exclusive pictures of the new RADBUL here.
Eight months have elapsed since Project CARS first raced onto PC and consoles. Even in an age of season passes and frequent patches, for most studios, that's ancient history – just another gold disc on the wall and the hazy memories of all those weeks of crunch.
As the name Slightly Mad Studios suggests, the developer of this crowd-assisted racing sim does things a little differently though. Not only is the studio still supporting Project CARS while surging ahead with a crowdfunded sequel for release on PS4, PC and Xbox One, it's showing no signs of slowing down whatsoever.
If anything, Slightly Mad creative director Andy Tudor tells us in an exclusive interview, when it comes to new content for Project CARS, the team are putting their collective foot down on the accelerator.
"Our On Demand program hits the ground running in 2016 with a big expansion that includes the KTM X-Bow R, professional drifter Mad Mike Whiddett’s Mazda MX-5 RADBUL Formula Drift car and two BMWs – the 1-Series M-Coupe and 2002 model," he reveals. "Both BMWs been modified and lowered by renowned automotive lifestyle enthusiasts Stanceworks."
The Stanceworks Track Expansion, which arrives on January 26 on PS4, Xbox One and PC, is not just a handful of new cars for the virtual garage, however.
"It also includes a new road course located in the highlands of Scotland, to join the existing ones in the US and the French Riviera," says Tudor. "And as if that wasn't enough, the free car this month is the Ford Falcon FG, which saw huge popularity in Australia’s V8 Supercar series."
What makes the new vehicles distinctive? As you might expect for a game that embraces nearly every aspect of motorsports and racing, the new models are as much acknowledging every part of the scene as they are upping the horsepower.
"Well, they're all completely unique and bespoke for the motorsport or area of car culture that they represent," Tudor explains.
"The game is called Project CARS because on a worldwide scale, we all have love for different types of cars and motorsport, and I think this pack in particular showcases that really well since there's something for everyone, whether that's track day cars, modified rides, or touring cars from down under."
"The X-Bow R is road-legal for instance, but it's a competition weapon and weighs less than 800kg, making it extremely agile around a track."
And then of course there's the RADBUL, Mike Whiddett's legendary drift machine.
"This modified Miata on the other hand uses two Garrett GTX40 turbochargers under the hood to create an insane 1,500hp, so it's definitely more extreme when it comes to taming that beast – especially sideways."
Downloadable content sometimes gets a bad rap – if a developer doesn't dripfeed new content carefully, gamers can come to feel like they've been nickel and dimed. But the Slightly Mad team have been planning this expansion for a very long while. In fact, Tudor reveals that work on the Stanceworks Track Expansion stretches back years: some of the ideas were conceived in the early days of the studio, founded in 2009.
"The concept for the Bannochbrae road course actually happened over four years ago, believe it or not," he says. "We wanted to represent the kind of beautiful sweeping roads and countryside that many fans in the UK love to take road trips to visit. A pit lane positioned beside a petrol station near a small village, a loch complete with sailing ships, a high viaduct and local chapel, and even some animated sheep make this an ideal location for historical recreations."
Just as much preparation goes into the creation of each new car, as Tudor explains.
"Each car is built using a defined set of processes that we've refined over the many years we've been making racing games, using CAD data or blueprints as the starting point for the physical form, telemetry data and technical specs for the physics and handling side, and on-site visits for additional photography and sound recording."
All of this is done with co-operation from the teams and factories. "At each step, we work alongside the manufacturer or license owner to discuss items and get approval. There's no guesswork, no interpretation – just pure digital craftsmanship."
Once the car is in a good shape, it then becomes available in the game as a driveable vehicle, and it's then that the active Project CARS community gets involved, Tudor adds.
"We can fine tune from there, gather opinions from our WMD [World Of Mass Development community], put it in the hands of our professional drivers like Ben Collins and Nicolas Hamilton to get their feedback. Then we continue refining until we reach the stage where we're confident that the car looks, runs, and sounds as authentic to the real-world version as possible."
It's as painstaking a process as it sounds. "Depending on the car, reaching that stage usually takes around three months. And even then the liveries and beauty shots still need to be done!"
Slightly Mad also collaborated with the drivers most associated with the new vehicles, to make sure their virtual recreations handled just like their real world counterparts.
"For the cars, we worked closely with Mad Mike on our previous title, Shift 2 Unleashed, where we built his Mazda RX-7 (FC3S) machine. He's been running the RADBUL MX-5 with our Project CARS logo on it throughout last year's Formula Drift season, so we've had almost a year to make sure it's accurate to his real-life counterpart in terms of build, sound, and handling."
Tudor interjects with a word of warning at this point. The RADBUL is meant to be driven sideways at speed, and by people who can legitimately call themselves 'mad' and have nobody in the room snigger when they do. It's going to take a bit of getting used to, in other words, even for CARS experts.
"I'm not going to lie: with an open roof and flames shooting out of the hood vent like an angry dragon, it's going to take a little time for people to get a grip – no pun intended – on its unique characteristics and power output," he says.
"But when you do and you're gliding sideways with the scream of the engine there’s nothing better."