I have been a fan of driving games since the day of the original Need for Speed and have since moved to other games like Gran Turismo. So when the chance came to try Slightly Mad Studios‘ latest Project CARS 3, I knew I had to give this game a spin.
Project CARS 3 features a few game modes with Career being the main single-player component. Like many racing games out there, the formula is mostly set in stone. You start off playing with a lower end racing car as you work your way up through races to gain levels and cash. This leads to more events, better cars, and customization. Coming from Gran Turismo, it is a great feeling not to have to go through all the license taking that we have to do before getting behind the wheel but hold that thought until later.
“Setting a good time will land you on the online leaderboards with a ranking system.”
If you in for a quick race, Custom Event mode allows you to play every map and every car in the game without the need to unlock them. You can also use your customized cars from Career mode for a spin here. Players who are looking for more competitive gameplay can try out the Rivals mode which lets you race in either daily, weekly, or monthly time trial events. Setting a good time will land you on the online leaderboards with a ranking system. The game does a good job showing what settings a player uses to set the record for example either using a controller or wheel or with ABS on or off.
Tuning Your Settings
“Take some time to configure your game’s driving assist”
You are allowed to do a lot of adjustments from the game’s AI, to turning off visual or any sort of computer-assisted aid like traction control. To my surprise, this function was not only for show but also boosts your experience gain to help you level up faster. Though it seems like a good way to level up faster, inexperienced drivers will find it hard to even take a corner without locking up your break or spinning out. I advise players to take some time to configure your game’s driving assist to get the driving feeling that you want.
The AI drivers in this game is a little better than those found in Gran Turismo. They do act aggressively and try to ramp you of the track sometimes but they still act predictably and easily abuse around the corners. Turning the AI difficulty up does little to improve this. Higher difficulty AI just has better acceleration and at times it feels like they are cheating to get ahead.
“The customization options given in Project CARS 3 are plenty that you can have your personalized dream car in this game”
Project CARS 3 gives quite an amount of customization for your character and automobile. It was nice to see some official decals and paint jobs from official car licensors like having the old school Panda colours on the Toyota GT-86. The customization options available in Project CARS 3 is quite extensive that you can have your personalized dream car in this game.
Now before we get onto the track, let’s get our hands dirty with the tuning upgrades you can get for your car. All found upgrades augment your driving experience ranging from your car tires, brakes to adding a turbo to your stock engine. Once an upgrade has been purchased it can be lowered or changed back with a minor fee. Whats strikes me as weird was that to change certain settings like you ride height, tire pressure, or differential, you have to purchase a car setting slot for each car that you want to change. Even though it only cost a minor 100 coins, it just baffles me who in the right mind thought this was a good idea. Adding onto that frustration is how the game is also missing a mode to test drive your car after you make the changes.
A Casual Drive
After fiddling with the car lets talk about the gameplay. Visually, the game running on the PlayStation 4 looks a little dated. There are no moving crowds and certain road textures look quite bad. Cars can look a little pixellated on the track especially during the beginning of races where a high number of cars are all together on the screen. The dynamic weather is nice but this is nothing new to car racing games. There is car damage in this game but its only just for a visual effect because as far as I know, it won’t affect your car performance.
“All cars feel a little bouncy with only different top speeds and acceleration.”
Next, let’s talk about driving physics in this game and boy, where should I start. First, I find it difficult to notice a difference between the drive trains. Driving an all-wheel-drive car feels the same as driving a rear-wheel-drive car. In rainy weather, the all-wheel-drive car should feel a little more stable but in this game, it doesn’t. All cars feel a little bouncy with only noticeable difference in top speeds and acceleration. There is also no tire ware or as I mentioned earlier, no chassis damage in the game. Overall the driving experience feels a little more casual compared to a serious driving simulator.
“One way I can describe driving in the game is to imagine your mother behind you judging you as you take every corner.”
Just when you think the game is going for a casual route, it hits you in the head with its super strict driving rules. One way I can describe driving in the game is to imagine your mother behind you judging you as you take every corner. The game forces you to drive perfectly and penalizes you for the silliest of mistakes. For example, some country or street tracks has wider roads which have sidewalks which looks like part of the road within the racing barrier. There is no indication that using the sidewalk can incur a penalty. There was another time when I slightly clipped an apex coming out from a corner with my back wheel and I was also given a penalty. I understand that racing is serious and dangerous but minor things like this can be frustrating when you are in the heat of the race.
This issue becomes even worse when you are doing a single lap (Hot Lap Events) or three-lap average (Pace Setter Events) time trials. If you ever stray off the track by a little, you will be hit with an invalid lap which totally makes your time trial a failure. This is especially frustrating on a three-lap average where they won’t inform you have to restart the whole trial if you make one of the lap time invalid. I drove all three laps with an invalid time on the first lap just to fail the event when I finished the third lap. Why can’t the game just fail me after I had the first invalid lap? It is also frustrating to complete the first and second lap to only clip an apex on the third and get the lap invalidated and fail the whole event. If you thought Gran Turismo license test was bad, this game basically says “Hold my beer” and proceed to make me feel frustrated to the point I was about to throw my controller.
Other Bells and Whistles
“smooth and there is barely any lag while driving”
Multiplayer mode in this game is excellent. It can take a few seconds to one minute to find a game but after entering the lobby, the gameplay was smooth and there is barely any lag while driving. There was a rare chance of disconnection even though I was playing with a bad ping and any disconnection was handled perfectly when reconnected. The only issue I had was as highlighted earlier, the penalty system. You will get people ramming into you and if you get rammed off track, you will find yourself, the victim, penalize sometimes while the car who rammed you gets off scot-free. This makes full lobby games feel like playing bumper cars around the corner to see who can punt who off track. I rather enjoy 1 v 1 Quick Race where it feels you win because of your skill. Here is a clip of me having a 1 vs 1 Quick Race online.
The game itself is not without its problems. One visual issue in the game like how sometimes my car silhouettes do not show up when selecting the car and how you have to get in your car again after you customize it for it to take effect to name a few. There is also a visual bug where white pixels suddenly appear on the screen. Hope small issues like this get fixed soon in the future with a patch.
Overall Under the Hood
Project CARS 3 plays really weird for me. On one hand, it feels like a casual driving game with its driving physics and lack of any real car damage and tire wear. On another, it treats you like a professional and penalizes you for every minor mistake you make on the track harshly. It like letting me have my fun but hitting me in the head as I am.
And it is not only these things, but certain small things like unable look around a car in the showroom, or a very basic photo mode with no way to get into the interior or open any doors or hood also make this game feel inferior to other racing games.
“Project CARS 3 brought nothing new or innovative to the car racing/racing simulator genre.”
Seeing as this is the latest iteration and also at the end of a console generation, I feel Project CARS 3 brought nothing new or innovative to the car racing/racing simulator genre. If this is the path they are going, it will be tough for them to stand out in the next generation between Forza and Gran Turismo, given already how niche the genre is.
What I Liked
+ The variety of available cars
+ Car customization
+ Smooth Multiplayer Gameplay even with high ping
+ A nice list of available tracks
What I Wished Was Better
– Time trials Events (Hot Lap & Pace Setter events)
– A very lackluster photo mode
– The frustrating and strict penalty system
– Driving physics feels too casual
– No tire wear or mechanical car damage