The Project CARS series, known for its deep simulator racing experience has become a staple in gaming. . You know, the kind where you have to worry about the heat of the road and how it affects your tires? Avid fans of racing simulators love it and there’s a little joy in it for those who like to tinker with settings and car systems. I have always struggled to find enjoyment in these hardcore sim games. Just give me a car to paint, a road to speed across and some vibing music and I am sold. Thankfully, Project CARS 3 is just that. It is so far from its predecessor that it should have the name “Project CARS Arcade”. Best of all, it is a lot more fun than the past two games.
Right from the start, Project CARS 3 is an entirely different ball game. At the same time, it manages to improve on the basics while delivering a fun and addictive racing game. Gone are the oversteering issues because I did not tweak a nob. Gone are the collision problems because my axis was off balance. Most importantly, gone is the lack of “game” that often arrives with a simulator. Instead, Project CARS 3 is a pleasure to play with fun races, a crazy roster of cars and a fresh and new approach to the series.
There’s a little bit of everything here which is familiar to racing veterans. The game is clearly inspired by the likes of Need for Speed: Shift with a touch of GRID. However, there is skill required in order to master the game. You can’t just speed up and forget about racing ethics. Things like cutting the corner still resulted in my car slowing down and my fellow racers being able to drive right through me. A drastic penalty if there ever was one. Not to mention bashing into a wall saw my lap time forfeited. Thankfully, this helped me become a better driver. Hitting the apex, and accelerating out of the corner became an obsession. It also helps that races promote being a skilled driver with challenges and XP rewards.
When it comes to the career mode, Project CARS 3 does a great job delivering a casual experience. You start from the bottom with a basic car. Each vehicle includes a Performance Index Rating (PIR) and only specific ratings can enter the early races. Your car earns XP by competing in events and completing those side challenges in each race. The higher your car level, the cheaper upgrades cost. For example, level five gave me a 5% discount on brakes and suspension.
Technically, one could use their car from the bottom of the career mode and improve it enough to carry them through the game. Upgrades improve the PIR making it a great way to rise in the ranks. It is also rewarding to see your little starter car improve in speed and performance as you go about each tournament. However, this system may take a while as XP progression does slow down the higher your level. The same is said for money as there always feels like there’s never enough to go around.
When it comes to customization, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Each car can get a custom paint job with various paint types. You can also change the rims, add a bumper, change the colour of each and tweak the paint type. Instead of focusing on the performance aspect of upgrades, the game left the cosmetics to be cosmetics and the performance in another department. It works well and meant I could have a great-looking car without worrying if my tyres were holding me back.
So how does Project CARS 3 play? Well, pretty great. Not only does the game’s new casual approach mean it is more accessible but as you progress through the game and purchase new cars, the difficulty scales with it. This helped ease me into the gameplay. Cars handled well, and races were fun. Of course, I often just rammed into every one to get to the front but the AI can be tough at times to get around.
The game includes some crazy modes too. Breakout saw me smashing into boxes to rack up points and Pace Setter had me race on a track multiple times in an attempt to improve my time. As for the tracks, they look okay and took me all over the world. The weather effects add to the excitement and delivered some interesting racing experience. However, the game does not look that great. Compared to the other two, Project CARS 3 looks just mediocre. Even on the PS4 Pro, objects looked jagged, draw distance was boring and there’s some ugly motion blur going on.
Lastly, there’s multiplayer which is also as basic as ever. Quick Play let me jump into a game quickly. Scheduled Event had me qualify beforehand for a race that takes place at certain intervals. There’s also Rivals which is my favourite mode. It pit me against drivers in a skill-based matchmaking scenario. There’s also daily, weekly and monthly events to add some meat to this mode.
Project CARS 3 is a massive step away from the series. However, it works and delivers some fun racing moments. Sure, you won’t be able to replicate the sheer customization options of the original two games but this does a great job making this simple and enjoyable. There’s plenty of cars here, a handful of modes and some satisfying gameplay to enjoy.
This Project CARS 3 review is based on a code sent to us by Bandai Namco.
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 28 August 2020 | Price: R1,069