When Project Cars 3 was announced back in June, developers Slightly Mad revealed how the latest entry in the series would be the most “approachable” so far. Exactly what this meant was yet to be determined, but with the game now out we can see that this was a good move from the studio. The first two games in the series focused primarily on racing simulation, included lots of cars, tracks, and a community focus.
Project Cars 3 strays away from this completely, bringing a more arcade-focused feel that drives towards experience points progression and a more relaxing pace. There’s still a ton of cars to collect and with over 140 events and tracks to take them for a spin on, the game is certainly not short on content. This year’s incarnation is also split into three main modes: Career, Multiplayer and Rivals, each with a hefty offering in terms of quantity.
In terms of quality though? You might expect something to come chargining like the headless horseman, but instead Project Cars 3 feels more like a mad and freshly-decapitated chicken: All the energy that it can possibly muster, and no sense of direction.
Career mode is where much of the focus comes in terms of the game’s “approachability”. Create your character with one of the few templates available, pick a car and race through a series of championships and challenges. Each section is broken up per car type and rank, and has you attempting four races per section. While there are a few variations of what’s expected, most of this content is simple racing against the AI. The other challenges include “Hot Lap” which has you attempting the fastest times, and a challenge where you have to break through point barriers in as short a time as possible and get the highest score.
By competing in races you’ll amass XP and level up, which looks great but has no real effect on anything other than being able to simply progress to the next level. A number of objectives per race help you gain further XP, but again this is relatively easy to obtain and is mostly cosmetic. You also amass XP for the specific car you use and receive upgrade discounts the more you use that particular car. Just about everything you do in career mode (and the rest of the game) is linked to this climb for more XP. At first it seems great, but then you realise that it’s all rather pointless.
The multiplayer section of Project Cars 3 is split into quick play and scheduled events. Quick play is a simple race along one of the tracks with up to 20 competitors, while scheduled events require you to qualify and based on your times in qualifiers, you’ll be matched up with similarly skilled drivers on the same track about 20 minutes later. Qualifying is more boring than your watching paint dry as you drive around the track for what seems like an eternity and wait for the event to start.
Rivals is a new addition and reminds me of Rally Car Racing to a degree. In this mode you can compete in an event, set a time and gain points based on how many of the tracks you try out. Getting points will rank you in different sections and eventually lead to more XP and money to unlock new cars. It’s a good addition and for the most part it’s a lot more fun than the standard multiplayer, but it’s nothing mind blowing.
And that’s Project Cars 3 summed up: Nothing truly stands out. The modes are generic and the career progression requirements are too. Yes, you can buy new cars and upgrade your existing vehicle, and customise to your heart’s content. But when you are done with those distractions, the game just feels emptier than an F1 track in May.
While the circuits and cars look decent, the game just comes across as being hollow. Racing along in any mode, you’ll hear your team manager give you some encouragement, but it almost sounds like he is being sarcastic or is completely unaware of what’s actually going on. At one point I finished 16th out of 20 online, and got told by the manager how well I had done. Weird.
Even the crowds suffer from a lifeless feeling, or did Slightly Mad try to add some intentional authenticity in the current COVID-19 era by making it appear totally empty? I can see some fans in the crowds, but there’s absolutely no noise coming at all. The atmosphere in the game has seemingly socially distanced itself.
Project Cars 3 does stay true to one promise: It is definitely more approachable, especially in terms of how you can turn on and off any assists to fine-tune the driving, making it more rewarding or challenging based on your personal tastes. Either way, the AI driving in career mode is terrible even if you set them to be more aggressive. Taking over more than half the field at the first corner is relatively easy, and you hardly ever get caught afterwards. The arcade feel will appeal to some, but fans of the series expecting the realistic gameplay of the previous games will be left disappointed.
Project Cars 3 does nothing to impress outside of the ordinary in terms of its visuals, which are passable. The sound of the cars racing around the tracks provides some immersion, even if the rest of the sounds and music does little to improve the experience.
Last Updated: September 4, 2020