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Sooo... Project Cars 3. The latest racing game from the legendary sim racing series has taken a different direction. But is it for the better?
This review is a culmination of a lot of long play sessions, through both career mode and multiplayer. And I hope it helps you get a better picture of exactly what this controversial racing game has to offer.
If I had to use just one word to describe this game. I’d be stuck between, Disappointing, Underwhelming, Ugly, and pointless. It really is just that bad.
I’ve had the displeasure of spending a few days with Slightly Mad Studios latest racing game, and In this video I’ll give you my thoughts on each aspect of the game, from a sim racers perspective.
I want to start this review by talking about the structure of Project Cars 3.
It seems to be biased heavily towards the single player career mode, which quite frankly isn’t very fun.
It is setup to take you through a fairly linear path from the slowest road cars, through to hypercars, and then the GT series and LMP series.
Each class of car, features a variety of races, hot-lap events and a few other special event types. And then each class culminates in a mini championship, where you typically race across 2 or 3 races with championship points being tallied to crown the champion.
Progression through each rank is locked behind a medal system. Essentially each event has three objectives which you have to meet. Each objective gives you a medal, and when you have so many medals, you unlock higher tiers.
This structure isn’t exactly fun, and you feel like you are just ticking boxes off a list to progress through the career mode.
Sitting alongside this, is your car garage, where you buy new cars and upgrade your current car.
Each car is separated into performance tiers, just like Forza have done for years. You can purchase faster cars in higher tiers in the showroom, or you can upgrade your current car to move it up through the tiers.
This is a fairly nice fluid system as you can keep your much loved hot hatch, and upgrade it to start competing with much more expensive supercars.
There are a wide range of upgrade options, which all improve your car in some way, be it more power, less weight, better braking performance etc. There are also body upgrades, although these don’t actually affect the look of your car which is disappointing.
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The time I spent with the career mode, was very much a boring affair, as I found myself picking and choosing events with easily achievable objectives, just to move through in to the locked away GT cars as fast as I could.
Gone are the glory days of PCars 2, where you can pick which style of motorsport you want to race in from the get go. Almost all players will find themselves grinding through the early events to reach the real meat of the career mode.
And another missed stepped with the career mode, is the fact that almost every race is a simple 2 or 3 lap quick race, where you start at the back of the grid.
We all knew going in to PCars 3, that qualifying, pit stops and strategy has been thrown out the window. And I wouldn’t have minded so much, if the races were a bit longer.
By limiting every race to just 2 or 3 laps, you find yourself having to blast through the field very quickly to get to the front. As a sim racer this just isn’t fun. I get much more enjoyment over battling with the same couple of cars across a longer race. But there is none of that here.
Generally you’ll find yourself setting the AI difficulty lower than normal to allow you to progress to the front of the grid. But once you are there, you very rarely find yourself under pressure from cars behind.
If you did raise the AI difficulty to the normal level where you can race wheel to wheel with the AI drivers, you just wont be able to get to the front of the grid in the short amount of time you are given, meaning you’ll find it hard to hit your race objectives.
While we’re talking about the AI, you wont find any outstanding behavior here. The AI cars will generally stick to the racing line, but they are more than happy to turn right in to you as though you aren’t even there.
You will tend to find a lot of close racing here with the AI, given the short nature of each race. There is a lot of rubbing against over drivers, with drivers being forced off track, and forced in to spins being a regular occurrence.
When racing the slower cars, around the skinnier tracks such as Oulton park, racing is a hectic affair. The only way to the front is to push and barge your way there, and you’ll find yourself being frustrated often due to this. This just isn’t the racing that we have come to expect from the Project Cars series, and in many cases the arcade nature of the AI is much worse than in games such as Forza.
When it comes to the actual heart of the racing simulation, the physics, it isn’t all bad. Yes, Slightly Mad Studios have tuned the car behaviour to become much more arcade in nature.
Almost every car has a tendency to understeer, on corner entry, and then oversteer unrealistically on corner exit. Yet, the oversteer has been tuned to the degree where it is very hard to lose control of the car.
It is almost as if the developers themselves, want you to drive in this manor, with your rear end stepping out at any opportunity, because we all know its cool to go sideways. Unless your sim racing of course.
However when you progress to the GT cars, things sharpen up significantly. That understeer that is found in the road cars is minimised, and the cars behaviour much more realistically when on throttle.
Yes, the car is still more likely to kick out the rear end, but you can push the limits of the car much more than in other sims, including P Cars 2.
I ran some laps back to back in both PCars 3 and PCars 2, in the BMW Z4 GT3 around Laguna Seca to get a comparison.
In P Cars 2, if you overdrive the car or get a little too lively on the throttle, the car isn’t afraid to go round on you. And with a racing wheel, you can feel when this is going to happen.
However in P Cars 3, you can get away with much more, and that leads to a much more aggressive driving style. You can accelerate hard out of corners, and while the rear end will still start to step out of control, it is much much easier to control. In all my hours with the game, I only spun the car a number of times.
As a comparison to P Cars 2, when I jumped back in to that game, I spun the car a number of times across just a few laps because I was pushing too hard.
That alone highlights the major differences between these two games. In PCars 2, you have a true connection to the car and the track, you learn the limits of the car, and gain small amounts of lap time as you do.
In Project Cars 3, every car seems to have a in built limiter so its very hard to overdrive the car. You can jump in to any car, on any track and be competitive almost instantly.
While I’m talking about PCars 2 and 3 directly, we did an audio comparison between the two games. Project Cars 3 seems to be toned down significantly, and I don’t really understand why. Check out our video above to hear the audio comparison.
The cars in PCars 2 sound absolutely ferocious. While every car in PCars 3 sounds muted in comparison. For me, sound isn’t as important as other areas, but its certainly noticeable the first time you boot up the game and its a clear area where Slightly Mad Studios have simply downgraded the game from its predecessor.
Finally, I wanted to touch on the graphics of Project Cars 3, as this is my biggest gripe with the game, and its something that is absolutely unforgivable.
All of this footage was captured on the powerful Xbox One X, and this is a console, which while coming to the end of its production life, still allows for absolutely stunning looking games, with the latest Forza Horizon included.
Yet, when it comes to this 2020 release of Project Cars 3, the graphics look like a previous generation game.
The texture work is terrible, and there is no sharpness to anything in the game. The tracks and environments look muddy and blurry, and the cars themselves feature some of the harshest ragged edges I’ve seen in a long time.
Watch the footage of me driving in the Honda 2&4 concept car in our video review, and just look at the dashboard. Its unusable, and laughable at the same time.
The interiors of every car look absolutely hideous, and don’t even get me started on the weather effects.
When it starts raining the tracks themselves become a blur. The muddiness I mentioned previously gets dialed up to 11, and the tracks become a blur.
As I’ve mentioned in this review, the majority of my testing was with a racing wheel. In the faster GT cars, the force feedback and wheel feeling is actually alright. You get a good sense of weight in the wheel as you drive, and you can moderate your inputs nicely.
However, after trying a few races with a controller, I quickly realised that this is the way this game was designed to be played.
As soon as you start racing with a controller, set your camera to the chase cam, and you embrace the arcade elements, Project Cars 3 almost has a level charm about it.
There aren’t many games which feature this many licensed race tracks, this sort of selection of race spec cars, and an arcade physics engine.
I mean, racing games such as ACC or iRacing with a controller when I have a wheel available is almost criminal, and it definitely isn’t the way to get the most out of these hardcore sims.
Yet, PCars 3 very much feels designed to be raced with a pad. So if you are a racing game fan, who doesn’t have access to a racing wheel or a sim rig, and you have a craving to race some GT cars, then, well. Maybe give Project Cars 3 a go.
But if you are any other form of sim racer, if you regularly race games such as ACC, and have access to the latest Forza games, then I really can’t recommend this game.
It is worse in almost every area compared to its direct competitors. Terrible graphics, inconsistent AI, weird arcade car physics, and a boring career mode.
And I’ll leave this review right there. I tragically bought this game, so you guys don’t have to.
Its pretty safe to say, that I wont be spending much more time racing with Project Cars 3. But, if you enjoyed this review, and like sim racing content, check us out on YouTube, and subscribe to our channel for more sim racing content.
See you on track.