Anyone who's seen my comments on Project CARS articles published here on TeamVVV.com will know that I've been a fairly vocal critic of Slightly Mad Studios' most recent racing game release.
Most of those quandaries I have had with Project CARS mainly stem back to the problems it had from launch, particularly on the Xbox One. Though it's been said that circumstances that heavily weighed against developer Slightly Mad's favour were a contributing factor, the fact Project CARS was released with the myriad issues it had at the time is something that I found to be borderline unacceptable for a game that had endured not one, not two but three big delays.
One issue of mine that has persisted, though, is the DLC programme for Project CARS, and how it has the potential to set a very dangerous precedent for the video game industry.
My qualms don't necessarily deal with the price of the content Slightly Mad has been offering to date – the recently-released Aston Martin Track Expansion pack for Project CARS, which includes three Aston Martin racing models and an all-new location with a variety of circuit layouts, costs less than a majority of the individual car packs for Forza Horizon 2. And the car packs for Project CARS take a substantially smaller hit on the wallet when compared to the Forza games, too.
For that aspect of its DLC programme for Project CARS, Slightly Mad should be applauded. But at the same time, I believe the studio should also be called out more frequently on one main issue of contention: the premium content released for Project CARS so far wasn't disclosed as such when it was first announced for the game.
Take the aforementioned Aston Martins as an example. Back in August 2014 when Slightly Mad declared it had successfully acquired the rights to feature cars from the British sports car manufacturer in the game, it opened the official statement on this revelation as such:
"Slightly Mad Studios announces a spectacular new addition to the lineup of vehicles in Project CARS as Aston Martin joins the WMD-powered racing title."
At first glance, it seems perfectly innocent and controversy free, as does the remainder of the statement text. Looking back in hindsight, though, it does leave me feeling really uncomfortable – we now know almost half of the game's licensed Aston Martins will only be accessible to players who are willing to pay extra for them, yet the announcement from Slightly Mad is so vague (intentionally or not) that it makes no allusions to the fact only three of them will actually be featured in the standard game.
Similar stories can be said for other cars and tracks – it's impossible, for instance, to race any Bentley in Project CARS without forking out for the Racing Icons Car Pack they're featured in, even though they were announced for Project CARS over a year before the game went on sale. Likewise for the Ruapuna Park location, every sports car prototype from before 2003, a vast majority of the touring cars… the list goes on and on.
The fact so many vehicles and locations announced for Project CARS before its launch have yet to actually be featured in the game only further reinforces my cynicism towards the title. I'm not usually a betting man, but I'd easily wager the next "big track expansion" for Project CARS will revolve around the Indy 500 license announced for the game in May last year.
Granted, a good chunk of this frustration on my part is down to the fact I was swept away in euphoria when these cars and circuits were announced, to the point where I jumped to conclusions whilst reporting on these license acquisitions. As a journalist, it's fundamental for me to remain impartial to emotional outbursts, and to always question the validity and clarity of the facts being asserted. In that area back then during my more inexperienced days as a news writer, I fully admit to failing in that area.
It's also worth pointing out that Slightly Mad has redeemed itself slightly in recent DLC releases – the Mojave location featured in the Aston Martin Track Expansion wasn't, to my knowledge, announced before Project CARS' on-disc location list was revealed. A decent selection of cars are also available for free as well – I personally was as relieved as I was ecstatic when I heard the 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL would be coming to Project CARS at no extra cost.
And the worst thing about all of this is that I fear we're beginning to see other racing game developers jump onto this "announce cars now, charge extra for them later" option: the all-new Ford Shelby GT350 was officially confirmed for Forza Motorsport 6 earlier this year in January, yet it wasn't until E3 2015 that it was revealed the car would only be available to players who purchased the £15.99 VIP Pass. It also hasn't stopped Microsoft from featuring it (or, indeed, other VIP Pass-exclusive cars like the Lamborghini Veneno and Ferrari 458 Speciale) in the launch trailer for the game, without actually disclosing it as being one.
If we're genuinely starting to see an 'announce content now, release it as a premium extra later' trend developing, then I really hope there's enough of a backlash before it has the potential to get out of hand. Outcries in recent years have been able to reverse many moves that are inherently unfriendly to consumers and, whilst vague statements on content that may or may not be featured in a video game may be lower down on the priority list, it is something that I ideally want to see tackled before other developers and publishers decide to follow suit.
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Editors note: this opinion blog represents the personal views of the writer and not the overall views of TeamVVV.