Project CARS 3 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 03.09.2020

Review for Project CARS 3 on PlayStation 4

When it comes to racing games, they tend to fall heavily into either the camp of the casual or the hardcore; arcade fun or simulation. For Project CARS, the series fell on the simulation side, alongside games like Gran Turismo. Well, it did. That ends here. With Project CARS 3, the developer has left the sim focus to its Automobilista and is instead taking on the arcade racer genre. It certainly has the pedigree, and this entry offers up a huge catalogue of fan favourite cars, combined with some of the most iconic tracks in the world. It seems all the pieces are there, but can Slightly Mad Studios pull it all together? Cubed3 grabs the steering wheel to find out.

The majority of the time here will be spent in Career mode. Here there are sets of ranked roads and later GT stages to play through, which are each unlocked by completing sufficient challenges in the previous ranking. Starting out on Road E on a set of maps known as "Road E Basics", there are three different events to take part in. There are two races and a "Hot Lap", where the aim is to get the best time in a single lap of a famous track. Each of these events has a series of challenges to accomplish. The Hot Lap just requires hitting certain times, while the races have things like mastering a set amount of corners, achieving a set amount of overtakes within the start of the stage, or even just hitting a top speed. Achieving sufficient totals of these unlocks a championship race within the basics, and then unlocks subsequent new sets of stages within Road E. This unlocks more themed sets of four events, more races, more Hot Laps, more Championships, all with their own challenges to accomplish, and once enough are done, Road D class is unlocked.

This is the same setup throughout all the classes and roads across the Career mode, and it all works quite well, but there's a frustrating little restriction that begins to rear its head more and more. As the stages go on, and the new tracks are unlocked, the requirements to take part in each event becomes more stringent. One set of races requires the use of a Ford car, another a 4x4, and another a Japanese car made between 2010 and 2020. This, in itself, isn't a bad thing in any way; it's a great way to showcase the expansive and fantastic catalogue of cars on-hand here. There are over 200 in all, with plenty of favourites that will get the gearheads in the audience very excited. The problem is actually making money to unlock these things.

Screenshot for Project CARS 3 on PlayStation 4

The money in-game is linked to the levelling-up system, with hitting certain amounts of experience rewards a few thousand credits. This too works well, along with getting experience just for taking part in a race, and bonus experience is awarded for driving well and finishing in a good position. In addition, there are tons of career objectives, such as taking a set amount of corners perfectly, winning races upon specific tracks, winning in specific brands of cars, and so on. These drop big chunks of experience at regular intervals, too, and incentivise not just replaying but again trying out more cars, more tracks… just playing more. This would all add up to a winning formula if not for the minuscule amount of credit rewarded. There may be 200 cars on offer but it's unlikely most players will see anywhere near that number.

In later ranks and classes, this becomes even more of a problem. Each car can be upgraded for more credits, purchasing car parts from tyres and fuel injections, to bodywork and the engine block itself. Each of these then increases the fundamentals of the car; the handling, the acceleration, the top speed, and the braking. However, upgrading these parts also increases an arbitrary score of the car and each rank of race must fall within these numbers. Level up that starting Toyota from the Rank E races enough so it can take part in the Rank D and it can no longer take part in Rank E without going back into the garage and tweaking the equipment down to meet those lower requirements.

This tweaking of parts is required even when staying on the same rank of races. Long, windy street races are going to require better handling, while the long straights of basic tracks require some swift acceleration. This wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to capture exactly what parts worked, saving them to a "loadout" or the like, instead of having to go and alter individual parts each time, especially since the game charges credits for altering those parts. Even if they have already been purchased, it still applies a fee just to switch them out.

The best way to get around this issue is to own multiple cars… but that again goes back to the limited credits that the game doles out. It's so very frustrating; it all works together so well and then due to this issue with the stingy amount of credits rewarded everything is affected. It results in having to go back and grind out races over and over and over to achieve career objectives, like "Take over 1,500 cars", to even be able to progress. That could still be part of the game but leave it for the post-game; leave it for unlocking special cars that players will want to go back with and replay earlier stages. Don't make it a gating mechanic that cuts players off from progressing unless they grind for hours.

Screenshot for Project CARS 3 on PlayStation 4

Even with this issue, there is still a huge amount of fun to be had here. As previously mentioned, the catalogue of cars is expansive and contains a wide range of types and styles for every fandom out there. All of the big names are here, with models from the classics up to the very latest from this year, including the phenomenal 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8. Regardless of which car is purchased, there are a wealth of customisation options available, including every possible type of branded tyre and mass amounts of decals to plaster over every part of each vehicle.

Fans of motorsports have more to look forward to than just the car catalogue here, too; there's also where they get to race those cars on. There are real-world locations of 19 countries represented, with some of the most famous and renowned tracks. While some countries only have one track, like the tight and constricting bends of Wildcrest in South Africa or the ultra-modern track of Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, some countries have numerous tracks to their name. The most iconic tracks of Germany, the US, and the UK are all on-hand. It's also great to see less represented areas, like Shanghai, Japan, and Dubai here, with each area giving a wholly different feel thanks to the unique locales - not to mention new challenges, thanks to the weather. There is an expansive and robust weather system and it has major effects on the tracks.

Screenshot for Project CARS 3 on PlayStation 4

There's more to Project CARS 3 than just the Career mode; there's an online competitive challenge mode, "Rivals". Here are daily, weekly, and monthly challenges, and doing well in them rewards Rival points that add to a Rival rank, which awards big prizes at the end of each season. Then there is, of course, an online multiplayer mode, separated into the usual suspects of quick race mode, a scheduled events mode with matchmaking based on player levels and, finally, a custom lobby for players to set up their own personalised matches with friends.

Speaking of customising races, there's a custom event mode that lets any track with any weather condition be played through with any settings. Best of all, every car is selectable to test drive, giving players a chance to try out the cars they will need to grind for months to get their hands on in Career mode.

The difficulty is a little too easy on the normal mode and experienced racers will need to increase things somewhat on both the difficulty and AI behaviour sides to give them a decent challenge. That being said, though, the game is hugely welcoming to new players, and for the junior players in the audience, reducing the AI to very easy means even young gearheads will be able to brag at school about reaching first place on the podium. Along with being able to tone down the difficulty and the AI of opponents, track markers can be displayed that guide players into becoming better drivers, showing them where to slow down, where to enter a turn, and where to exit a turn.

Screenshot for Project CARS 3 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The previous entries in the Project CARS series catered completely towards the sim racer and the decision to break away from that is both strange and bold. Not only has the series abandoned its roots, it doesn't seem to acknowledge them, either, with the team stating this is still a sim gaming. It's not, though - at all. However, that's not a bad thing for the casual fans. The result is a brand new, arcade racer that wider audiences can truly enjoy. Slightly Mad Studios has crafted a fast, frantic, and enjoyable arcade experience. The new cars feel individual and there's plenty of incentive to replay challenges to get the career level increased and the career achievements completed. It's just a shame then, that there's a key part that so negatively impacts the whole experience of Project CARS 3, and that is the grind. It regularly makes things so much worse and it seems like such a quick thing to fix - just increase the money paid out. Make it retrospective for those who have already invested so much time and this will instantly address the biggest issue.

Developer

Slightly Mad Studios

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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