When Slightly Mad Studios introduced Project CARS back in 2015, many, including myself, felt that the team had the next big sim racing franchise on its hands. Fast-forward five years later and Project CARS 3 is here with the series making some changes to try and appeal to both the sim and casual racing communities.
The game dumps a lot of things that made past release’s feel like an authentic sim in favor of elements to welcome in more players or varying skillsets. It also features fewer tracks than its predecessor, but do other areas of the game keep moving the series forward?
As it should be, the best part of Project CARS 3 is the racing. Even with the changes over to a less simulation feel, it still gives you a nice ride no matter the circuit.
Each car I drove felt different, and made you think of different ways to tackle each race. Weight distribution among vehicles actually feels impactful, and can change as you add or remove elements to your cars. Steering never felt too off, and the controls are as responsive overall as any racer available.
The improved weather system effects everything you do on the track. Snow and rain will cause your car to slide around if you’re not careful while a clear, sunny day will see better grip with somewhat slower speeds.
One of my biggest problems with Project CARS 2 was how it felt with a control. Sometimes, I’d just want to sit on my couch and do a couple races, but using a gamepad just made for a lousy racing experience. It was twitchy and didn’t really feel like you were ever in actual control of your car. Project Cars 3 has taken the feedback from players, and made playing with a controller almost as enjoyable as with a wheel.
Personally, I think it’s close to the F1 series in terms of how it plays with a controller. That said, using a wheel and pedals will still give you the best gameplay experience overall.
Accessibility wise, Project CARS 3 has a number of various assists to make the game as easy or as hard as you want. Unlike past installments, Project CARS 3 does a good job with helping ease you in if you need it. Finding that perfect balance with assists and settings, though, will be key to getting the most out of your time.
Now, I did say that the game gameplay is good even with the more-arcade feel to things. But, there in lies the problem with the gameplay. It’s going to make simulation players upset. Gone are elements such as pitstops and even vehicle damage (aside from cosmetic). In ways, it feels more like a Need for Speed than what fans have come to expect with the series.
Still, I did find the racing enjoyable for what it is.
Project CARS 3 is pretty unambiguous when it comes to modes. There’s Career, Multiplayer, Rivals, and Custom Events.
Rather than sticking to one series for too long, you now have a tiered collection of events
Custom Events is exactly what you’d expect. You set the track, car, weather, and other race details before taking to the circuit. You also have a chance here to loan an unowned car in order to get an idea for how they feel behind the wheel.
Rivals mode sees you take part in daily, weekly, and monthly events over the course of a four-week season. As you complete these challenges, you can check in the Leaderboards for where you stand in the daily, weekly, and monthly challenges. You can also check the Rankings to see how you compare to others in a specific season.
The game’s Career Mode is where you’ll spend nearly all of your time outside of multiplayer races. An overhaul of past iterations, Project CARS 3’s career is a bit too much of a straightforward affair.
Rather than sticking to one series for too long, you now have a tiered collection of events that range from races to hot laps and things in between. The mode gets you into the action faster than either of the two games of the past, and gives you more than just race results to strive for. In hot laps, it’s all about your time while races will see you have to make a specific amount of passes in a set time period, hit a top speed, and more.
What it does is make races feel, at times, like minigames. While that’s good every now and then, I found it taking away from my focus on the actual race itself. If the end game of a race isn’t to win, then what’s really the point? The lack of race weekends also takes away from the immersion the mode could offer.
Besides career mode itself, car ownership and upgrading received an change for Project CARS 3. You now level up your cars by racing them more and more. It’s a nice way to make each car unique and add your own flair to it. Something that almost all racing games should have in 2020.
As expected with almost every AAA racing game at this point, Project CARS 3 looks great. The cars look clean and crisp while the various circuits are incredibly recreated. From a sound standpoint, each vehicle sounds nearly identical to its real-life counterparts aside for a couple hiccups here and there with shifting.
An area that looks good in the game is the weather system. Driving in rain or snow adds a great aesthetics to the track while, as mentioned before, does a good job in changing up how you drive. My gripe with this is that rain looks a bit too much like smoke while racing.
There were also a couple issues that I fully expect to be addressed via a patch, but they are worth mentioning because of the repeat occurrences. The first is a crashing issue that would come when adding paint stripes to my cars. The first couple times I chalked it up to a weird coincidence, but after the third, fourth, and fifth crashes, I realized there may be something actually wrong. It wasn’t every time, but it was enough to cause frustration.
The other problem from a visual standpoint comes during a race. Every now and then — for me it happened in at least eight of my races — random cars will look like ghost cars throughout the event. Though they look like you can drive through them, I suggest you not if you want to not wreck.
After a race, you have to click through four different screens just to leave when all of it could’ve been handle on one. For a game with longer load times as is, adding more steps is not something that players will appreciate.
Project CARS 3 isn’t really the game you’d expect from the series at this point. After the first two were geared much more towards the hardcore sim community, Slightly Mad Studios clearly moves the needle to invite newer players in.
The improved upgrade system is a nice addition to the game, and the streamlined career does have its moments of feeling refreshing. Unfortunately, however, there’s nothing here that really screams major upgrade from the last game in the series that was released three years ago. In fact, some are sure to look at the more arcade experience as too much of a shift from the norm.
If you are looking for a simple, straightforward racing game to jump into and cruise, Project CARS 3 is going to be right up your alley. If you are looking for something a bit more serious, this likely isn’t the game for you.
Recommendation: Wait for sale
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Project CARS 3 Review
Project CARS 3 isn’t a bad game, it’s just too much of a change from the type of game fans have come to expect from the series.