While it obviously has its fans, the racing game series Project CARS has always felt inconsequential to me. So much so that I honestly can’t remember anything about the first two installments, even though I know I played the first one and, I think, some of the second. But Project CARS 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) not only managed to catch my attention, but keep it as well, even if it does have some annoying flaws.
In terms of the basics,
Project CARS 3 has everything you’d hope a racing game would have (and yet, so often don’t). The controls are fluid and intuitive, with handling that doesn’t make your car feel like it needs new tires or that the roads are made of ice dipped in olive oil. This also has a nice sense of speed regardless of which of the seven viewpoints you use, while the tracks are not only picturesque, but they’re also nicely curved in a way that makes them feel like real roads, not exercises in automotive sadism.
Similarly, the competition in Project CARS 3 is nicely balanced. Your competition is just that: competitive. Not only do you never feel like you’re driving a 2002 Toyota Camry against a bunch of 2020 Lamborghinis, or vice versa, but your opponents never magically catch up or fly past you when you hit the final stretch or are approaching the finish line. Hence why, when I spun out after hitting a wall in the first lap of a three-lap race, I was neither left in the dust nor able to stage an impossible comeback; I was only able to make it to 13th place of 20 by the end of the race.
Project CARS 3 also has a good variety of race types, be it within the career mode, when setting up one-off races, or playing other people online. In the former, for instance, there are multi-lap races, point-to-point races, time trials, and, of course, multi-race championships. And, of course, these races take place during various times of day and during a good mix of weather conditions that actually impact your car’s performance.
And, of course, Project CARS 3 — like all good racing games these days, save for cartoony ones — lets you chose what kind of help you’d like when it comes to the braking, steering, traction, and on-track hints. Though it actually one-ups the Forza series in the latter regard by having the driving suggestions be icons that float at eye level, not arrows drawn on the ground where they can distract you from the car in front of you that just hit its brakes unexpectedly.
All of which makes for a fun racing game, one that will challenge your driving skills regardless of how easy or difficult you make things.
Though having said that,
Project CARS 3 does have some issues that will annoy some racing fans. Though not, it’s important to point out, all of them, at all or equally.
For starters, the career mode in Project CARS 3 doesn’t have as many events as some racing games (we’re looking at you, Forza Motorsport 7). But it does have a lot, more than enough to keep you entertained for a long time. Doubly so if you’re someone who thinks that some racing game’s career modes have too many events (I’m still looking at you, unfinished copy of Forza Motorsport 7).
It also doesn’t help that many of the races in Project CARS 3 have you getting messages of encouragement from some British guy. Except that unlike in such rally racing games as WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship, where you have a navigator who provides such helpful tips as, “Left turn coming up,” your assistant in Project CARS 3 merely tells you when you’re doing well or when you should do better. Granted, he’s not annoying or anything, just useless. Y’know, like a participation trophy.
There’s also an issue with Project CARS 3 that will probably only apply to people who play on one of the lower difficulty settings, and / or with many of the assists turned on, and will thus think of this as more of an arcade-style racing game than a simulation. Upgrading cars by buying new parts can sometimes change the car’s class rating. This, in turn, may make the car ineligible for the race you’re about to run. The problem being that the game doesn’t tell you this when you go back to the race menu and can’t figure out why you can’t click the button to start the race. And while yes, it is my own fault for not noticing that I upgraded my E class rated Honda Civic Type R into a D class, it would’ve been nice if the game had said something instead of just letting me sit there, starring at the unresponsive menu like a shmuck.
Even more annoying,
not only does it cost you 50 credits to remove an upgrade, thus restoring a car to its previous class designation, but you have to spend another 50 credits to reinstall upgraded parts you’ve bought when you do get to a race of the next class. Why? To pay the mechanic?
Project CARS 3‘s career mode also does this odd thing where, once you’ve run a race, it takes you back to that race’s menu, not the race selection menu. Which, again, not a big deal, but it is annoying if you’ve come in first place and want to jump right into the next event. Especially since it doesn’t let you hit the back button to get out of a menu, which is counterintuitive for anyone who plays a lot of games, racing or otherwise.
Some fans might also be bothered by the fact that there are some events in the career mode that can be completed even if you don’t win. Or come in the top 3. In the “Dark Desert” race, for instance, you win one check of three if you “Finish The Race Within 2:30 Secs,” another for “8 Clean Overtakes Within 1:20 Secs,” and a third if you “Draft An Opponent For 00:05 Secs Then Overtake.” And while all of these do, admittedly, provide a challenge, and you get more upgrade points if you win the race or come in the top 3, it is possible to fulfil these conditions without winning the race, or even coming in 3rd.
Project CARS 3 also has a problem so common these days that I usually cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant game review: The text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your television — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the menus, subtitles, and important information about the races.
Though as I said earlier,
some of these issues won’t bother everyone; not having to win a race, for instance, doesn’t bug me much. But that’s mostly because, fundamentally, Project CARS 3 is a solid racing game. Once you get on the track, and take to the road, this is one racing game that’s, well, hardly inconsequential.