In 2015, Slightly Mad Studios released Project CARS. A game that was a collaboration between the developers and the community that it would ultimately serve. It was a good game, albeit flawed, but it showed that there’s a lot of potential for a proper racing sim to compete against its platform exclusive counterpart.
I couldn’t understand how I was racing in a car that was produced by its manufacturer in 2019, but rendered in 2010.
Unfortunately, in 2020, that potential didn’t realise with the release of Project CARS 3, which isn’t a bad game, hell it’s even arguably a good game, but there’s some problems that is very hard to overlook.
Off to a decent start…
Since we kind of know what to expect from a Racing Simulator game, I’m not going to beat about the bush too much. For the most part Project CARS 3 is a very solid and well-made racing game. The hardcore simulation from previous entries are gone though, and it feels a lot more forgiving with some simulation elements to it. It feels a lot more laid back and inviting to new and less experienced racers, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing, depending on your perspective.
Project CARS 3 has a pretty solid Career mode, with some great progression built into it that, though not perfect, feels very old school and reminisced of the racing games we loved of the early 2000s. You start out with something kinda slow and work yourself up to higher tiers with more rewards and faster and more exciting cars. Throughout your career, you take on different events which consist of different types of challenges such as races, hot laps or getting the best average lap times over a set of laps. As you progress and level up, these higher tier events become available. There’s no fluff and story in it, you simply jump in and race. The game also offers a ton of customisation and assist options, meaning you can really tailor the experience to be as easy or challenging as you prefer, though setting stuff too easy will mean you get less XP, and you might have to grind a bit for progression.
The real meat and potatoes of Project CARS 3 though is out on the track, and I am happy to report that the racing itself doesn’t disappoint. The cars feel and sound real and like they have some weight to them, and the overall driving experience is very good. It can at times, depending on settings, feel a bit arcadey, but it’s nothing to get too upset about. The game seems to strike a fine balance between realism and arcade madness, similar to what you can expect in a Forza Horizon game. So the actual racing is very good, and you have enough tuning and upgrading options to keep you entertained for a long time.
Other than Career mode, you can play quick races or go multiplayer, which offers quite a few options. There’s quick play, which is arguably the weakest option, since the matches are random and very seldom with enough opponents, and then there are Scheduled events. Scheduled events are a type of pre-made races set up by the developers which have different rules and criteria. What makes these interesting is that you get some time to do car tuning and quality for the race, and there always seem to be some people taking part, making it an exciting thing to do in the game. The matchmaking is also very good, matching you to similarly skilled racers out there.
Another cool addition to Project CARS 3 is Rivals events, which is a sort of list of daily, weekly and monthly challenges you can take part in against other players. It is once again stuff like hot laps or average lap times, but doing that against other players and getting ranked for your effort is pretty neat. Obviously, the better you do, the better your rewards.
… but messing it up on turn 2
So overall, Project CARS 3 is a pretty solid game with a lot to offer not even mentioning the plethora of cars you can race with on over 140 different tracks and layouts. There’s a ton of good value here, but unfortunately, it comes with one massive caveat. It looks like garbage!
And when I say Project CARS looks bad, I really do mean it. The game graphics at times looks fine, and the car models, when viewed in the garage or showroom, are good enough, but out on the track, it is an absolute mess and a massive disappointment, especially considering how good it’s own predecessor, Project CARS looked back in 2015. You get an option of favouring resolution or framerate, and this being a racing game, I obviously chose the latter, but soon realised my mistake and reverted to a higher resolution, which honestly didn’t really make much of a difference.
The vehicle models look bland and dated and crowds look like cardboard cutouts at an MBL baseball match during a pandemic. The only thing that looked semi-decent was the environments and the tracks. The game looks fine if it’s only you or a few other cars, but things will quickly devolve into a mess of pixels and frame tears once things get busy and I at some point thought I was back in 2007 playing Gran Turismo 4. It boggled my mind and I couldn’t understand how I was racing in a car that was produced by its manufacturer in 2019, but rendered in 2010.
If you continue playing for an extended time, the issues seemed to get worse, with some weird artifact issues and screen tears popping up all over the place. Restarting the game seems to resolve the problem, but only for a couple of hours.
Tuning required when using a wheel
I hooked up the Logitech G29 Racing Wheel to my PlayStation to get a feel for how it impacts the experience of playing Project CARS 3. My initial impressions were a little mixed, as it worked fine but felt a bit off. After some tuning and setting changes, most notably setting the Force Feedback higher, I ended up getting a lot more enjoyment out of the G29 wheel. It works well and plays well, so it worth the effort setting up the wheel for a session.
(Please note: The steering wheel score and information does not affect the final score, as most players will use a Dualshock controller when playing the game).
Being left in the dust
Project CARS 3 is probably one of the most disappointing racers I’ve experienced this generation. It does so many things right, and should be such a good game, but the graphical downgrade and horrible PS3 era visuals are completely unforgivable in this day and age. If the game had other issues, it could be addressed and fixed, and maybe even overlooked, but graphics like this is not something you simply fix with a patch. For a game that plays so well and has so much potential, it is such a let down that Slightly Mad Studios dropped the ball on this one in the end.