Slightly Mad Studios are back behind the sterling wheel with Project Cars 3. For those keeping up, this franchise has been around for a minute now, and is known for its hyper realistic gameplay and stunning visuals, with more of a focus on simulation. This sequel takes a turn into a different direction, and with that raises questions. Does the departure change too much? Will the fans accept change? Let’s take a look under this hood.
Career mode is where the heart of the game lies, or I should say where the focus was when I jumped in this vehicle. The career mode here is a lot different than past entries, with more attention to detail when it comes to moving forward and having a sense of progression, rather than just standing still while slowly upgrading vehicles. Players start off in a class system with their races, and slowly work their way up by participating events and unlocking currency (all in-game) to move forward. Currency can be spent to skip over races, so players can progress in a much easier fashion, as well as upgrade vehicles – in a path that is much more accessible to newcomers. That being said, some of the depth of the past may be missed, which brings us to the actual gameplay.
Perhaps it’s the tuning, or maybe just it is the accessibility, but Project Cars 3 does not feel anything like its predecessors. If anything, I would state that is closer to a Need for Speed title in terms of feel, as the punishing simulation curve has basically evaporated, being replaced with a more “convenient” style. I was never some hardcore fan of this franchise as my in and out experience with the namesake has been very casual. That said, I found the new variations of gameplay, upgrades, and focus on simplicity to be pleasant, and I don’t think those who took the time to master past titles will be nearly as pleased as the easier difficulty does make some flaws more obvious.
Participating in some races feels like a walk in the park, and the difficulty seems to just fade away even more as you continue through challenges. It is not that I am saying that the game is too easy, as there is a bit of pushback there. It is that the mechanics and customization make for races to be a bit to simply after just a short time playing. The AI was a boasted feature and mostly feels competent, but do be aware that there are some balancing issues in this area as well, and many races feel the same. Oddly enough I thought a lot of those old racing titles for the Sega while making my rounds here, as once you get down the game, multiplayer is the main place to go to have a rewarding and refreshing race.
The customization is absolutely the driving factor within Project Cars 3 – no pun intended. Players can amp up a ride to tackle any terrain for a completely different style of race, and visually alter the look of their ride with decals, decorations, and so on for a more visual alteration. There are other franchises that do customization a bit deeper, but I found myself mostly satisfied with what was here. Keep in mind though for all of this, I am a casual racing fan. I know fans of this franchise that focused on every little adjustment and would spend hours tweaking one device after another, attempting to make their experience as close to perfect before hitting the road that they basically built themselves. That is not this game, and as a result we have a title that is a very basic adoption of a modern racing title, without a lot of flash on the side.
Visually, Project Cars 3 looks fantastic. The weather effects bring a nice sense of realism and atmosphere, while the heavily detailed parts do well to show off what is under the hood, as well as out. I think animations could use some work, as damage timing appears to be slightly off. Sometimes I would see damage on my car on one side, when I didn’t even hit that side whatsoever. It isn’t a big deal, but in a generation where so many have focused on damage details in racers, there is a good chance you may notice a few flaws. The menus are also cluttered, mainly during customization. As you play you do get used to it, but it will take some patience to correctly navigate these muddy waters.
The audio is also decent, with realistic sounds based on map and weather. Customization absolutely affects the audio output of your vehicle, which makes your changes feel genuine. The soundtrack is solid, but I personally find it a bit more forgettable. Sure, that is a preference but I kind of feel it just felt a little flat overall, and if we are going this direction in terms of gameplay, I would have like to have seen some turning the knob up on soundtrack quality.
Project Cars 3 is a great racing title that is sure to satisfy people who are ready to hop in, grind some races, and customize their own experience. The issue is that going this particular direction has caused it to lose its identity, as if the name was not there, this could have been released as any yearly entry in one of those other major racing series. There is still an above average game to be played here, but returning players may be better off sticking to the namesake they fell in love with prior installments.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.