The time has come: The discussions about the realignment of the popular racing underdog Project Cars could be shelved. We have left the release date behind and Project Cars 3 is available worldwide. But many question marks continue to cause heated exchanges within the racing community. How much will Project Cars 3 still target its regular players? And is the feel of the game really that much better and more action-heavy on the asphalt after the controversial decision was made public that one would forego pit stops, tire wear and fuel consumption? We have dealt extensively with Project Cars 3 and in our test we will tell you who the racer is aimed at, where the strengths lie and in which areas Slightly Mad really messed up.
Source: PC Games
Slightly Mad Studios, the British racing game company behind Project Cars, is not one of the big players in the racing genre, but the boys and girls at the studio, founded in 2009, are not completely unknown either. In addition to the Project Cars series, the team that Codemasters took over in November 2019 is also known for the very popular Need-for-Speed-Shift series and the disastrous Fast & Furious Crossroads (Chris has a lot to report on the total failure). But the big figurehead is of course Project Cars, a "community-developed" racing simulator created in 2015. Five years later, the series has a big problem in the eyes of the community: the distance from its own genre roots. So it's no wonder that fans are not very enthusiastic. With Project Cars 3, it almost seems as if Slightly Mad wants to leave the past behind and compete with the giants of the arcade racer drawer on the asphalt. Part three is much more a daring balancing act between arcade and sim racers – dangerous. The beating heart is the completely new career mode, which wants to convince the old and new players alike.
Source: PC Games
Unfortunately, we have to disappoint anyone who hopes for great innovations. Project Cars 3 (buy now € 57.02 /€ 53.99 ) presents a classic racing career without much fanfare. We start in the "Road E" league, where we have simple street cars like a 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer or a 73 BMW 2002 Turbo. Each league offers a total of 16 events, these include, for example, classic races, hot laps (fastest laps), "pacemaker" and "breakout". At the pacemaker, three clean laps have to be driven, the average lap time decides whether you win or lose. With breakout, however, there are objects on the route with a certain number of points. Our job is to destroy as many as possible in a given time frame. If we want to move up into a new league, we don't have to win every race for better or worse, which is extremely pleasant. Rather, it's about small mini-goals that we have to meet within a race. These require us, for example, to drive eight perfect corners or to achieve the fastest race lap.
Source: PC Games
If we have met enough of these mini-goals, the gates open for us to the next league. But if you want to become champion of the league, you have to win the final event, the championship. That usually consists of two or three races. There are also invitations and challenges, which mostly focus on classic cars, formula racing cars or other special bodies. Project Cars 3 actually offers a lot of variety, is multi-layered and, through many clever decisions, manages to motivate and inspire over a long period of time.
Experience makes perfect
In order to be tied to the steering wheel in the long term, Project Cars 3 does not save with challenges and experience points. For every movement of the steering wheel there is a feeling of loud applause. Perfect curves, driving in the slipstream of an opponent, clean overtaking maneuvers or sectors, Project Cars 3 always rewards with experience points. They are even divided into different areas. There are EPs for us as drivers, for the racing car driven, for the track … you quickly lose track of things. However, the flood of rewards also has serious advantages. Not only does victory play a role for us, we are also motivated to keep fighting after driving mistakes. You don't just give up, you fight for every place and every second. The dynamic weather system in particular does its part to make races more exciting and to constantly challenge our driving talent. Mistakes happen and instead of relying on a rewind function, as in some other racing titles, we only have our own skill.
Source: PC Games
The negative is that our mistakes have little effect on the condition of our car. Anyone looking forward to a realistic damage model will be disappointed. To speed into the wall at 120 km / h only means wasting time. Like so many decisions, this one is probably justified by the fact that Slightly Mad wanted to make the races more exciting and provide more action on the track, but the claim of a racing title that describes itself as a "racing sim" should be different be. It is of course good news for all those who found it too difficult to get started with racers like Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo or Project Cars. On the one hand, Project Cars 3 offers a completely revised gamepad control, which is one of the big pluses. The controller feedback was successful and doesn't have to hide from the competition. Project Cars 3 only has to put up with the accusation that the grip of the car is sometimes difficult to predict. In addition, the cars react extremely violently to curbs on special routes. Overall, the driving experience is a step further away from the realism of its predecessors. The steering wheel controls are good, but also feel slightly spongy. As with its predecessor, almost all well-known steering wheel manufacturers are supported. You can find an overview here.
Project Cars 3 manages the balancing act between arcade and sim racer quite well in many ways. Experienced sim racers, but also newcomers to the genre, whose only points of contact so far have been racing games such as Need for Speed, can sooner or later make friends with the arcade sim. This is due to the increased accessibility, the polished user interface and the many settings for driving behavior.
Wide audience, please
Whether professional or beginner, Project Cars 3 is a matter of the heart to do well with a wide range of players. A multitude of possibilities to adapt the requirements to one's own skills are indispensable for such a project. In the racing genre, these are usually driving aids that are supposed to help bring even the beastiest car under control. When it comes to driving aids, there should be something for every type of player. For example, we can decide to switch steering assistance, brake assistants, handling or route assistance on or off. There is also the option of using a stability program, ABS (anti-lock braking system) or traction control. The transmission can be shifted manually or automatically. We can also decide at what level and how aggressively the AI drives. It is implemented solidly, but in other racing games we have seen far more realistic rivals on the track. Such settings are actually common today in the racing genre, but we would like to positively emphasize the resulting successful driving experience of Project Cars 3. Because those who choose the driving aids get solid vehicle control in the arcade area. For all those who drive without driver aids, Project Cars 3 offers great vehicle feedback. If you are not careful with the gas and the brakes, you have to expect a regular breakout of the rear end.
Source: PC Games
It is also very praiseworthy how differently the many cars drive. For example, we opted for the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 in the "Road D" class, which turned out to be a fatal mistake. Not every vehicle fits every driving style! So we were forced to raise money again in the lower class in order to iron out our wrong financial decision. After we swapped the British car with 591 hp for the Ferrari 288 GTO, everything went like clockwork. The Ferrari is a real fury, to put it nicely, and needs a steady hand, but with every racing event you become more friends with the vehicle and after a while we knew exactly how the 1984 car would be controlled. Another new feature in Project Cars 3 is that we no longer get vehicles for events, but buy vehicles and even adapt them to our ideas. There is also the option of delving deeper into the bodywork and using the tuning function to perfidiously adapt the car to your own style. Slightly Mad did not save on the vehicle fleet, with 211 vehicles it is actually the largest of the series to date.
Lots of food for racing fans
Source: PC Games
An important flagship for Project Cars 3 is the large vehicle fleet: Whether Indycar, Formula E cars, Supertruck, touring or GT cars as well as road vehicles from many well-known manufacturers, Project Cars leaves nothing to be desired. The big brands naturally include typical representatives such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus or Lamborghini. Chevrolet, an important partner since Project Cars 2, brings the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R into a mainstream racing game for the first time. Outside of the self-created events, however, the cars must first be purchased with the necessary credits. In addition, certain vehicles require a special driver level that can be increased within the career.
In the area of modes, Project Cars 3 remains quite manageable. Apart from your own events and career, there is only the rival and multiplayer mode. "Rivals" is an asynchronous multiplayer mode with its own ranking and reward system. A daily, a weekly and a monthly event are available. These focus on special racing classes. If we prove our skills, we have the chance to cut gold, silver and bronze. Our reward depends on how successful we are.
The online mode, on the other hand, actually offers everything your heart desires, but disappoints in technical terms. We have "Quick Game", "Planned Event" and "Own Lobby" at our disposal. Fast multiplayer games work quite well, but the planned event has caused several headaches. Every 20 minutes a new event takes place, which focuses on a track and racing class and usually offers between 12-20 laps. Our first attempt ended with the game simply closing after qualifying and before the race. Annoying! The second attempt also ended in the main menu of our console. At the third event everything went well, but we were the only driver who took part. Such problems are not uncommon at the start of a new title, but we hope that Slightly Mad will quickly turn the right screws.
Source: PC Games
For the routes, on the other hand, fans can look forward to a total of 51 courses, which are divided into 121 different layouts. These include of course legendary tracks such as the Nürburgring, Silverstone, Brands Hatch or Imola, but the Slightly Mad team has also opted for fantasy tracks. Luckily! They also freshen up everyday racing. Tuscany, Shanghai or Havana shine with exciting and fun route layouts. But there we come to the biggest criticism of Project Cars 3, which is difficult to overlook.
A graphic tragedy
Source: PC Games
Graphically, Project Cars 3 lags far behind the competition and even – in some respects – behind its predecessor from 2017. A tough statement, but it's difficult to formulate it any other way. Some vehicles and tracks look good, but most of the time Project Cars 3 is more reminiscent of a mobile title than of a real AAA racing game from 2020. We tested and recorded on the standard consoles, but ourselves on a high-quality PC, the exterior of the arcade sim racer does not turn into a splendor as if by magical flicking. Often the vehicles are more reminiscent of plastic than realistic bodies due to their small details, actually a strength of the series. The weather system is attractive on the PC, but also looks old-fashioned on the consoles. In addition, there are graphic errors that keep tearing you out of the racing action. Compromising physics and driving experience would be fine if clear leaps could be presented in other areas. Unfortunately, this only seems to be the case to a limited extent.
Too much, too fast, too confused
Project Cars 3 is by no means a bad racing game. It can be tied to the steering wheel for a long time, presents an exciting balancing act between arcade and sim racers and tries quite successfully in new areas. But we would have liked Slightly Mad to have approached the change of direction with more caution. More arcade would be fine if you don't lose sight of the roots too much. It almost feels like Slightly Mad was dying to redirect the series. That would be okay, with structure, care and the time required. However, the British studio preferred to turn the steering wheel in a new direction at top speed and to step on the brake pedal without feeling. Anyone who understands anything about racing knows that it usually doesn't work very well.
A sharp change of direction at full throttle? Usually not a good idea.
To be honest: I had a lot of fun with Project Cars 3. The fleet can convince in the long term and there are a number of clever decisions that could make their mark on the racing genre beyond the title. The driving experience is not quite on the level of its predecessors or other titles in the sim genre, but if you haven't noticed it yet: Project Cars no longer wants to be part of the old (sim) clique. The Slightly Mad Studios racer would much rather break into the noticeably large gap between sim and arcade racers. In my opinion, that's perfectly fine, but for the next track Slightly Mad should be less forceful and approach the matter more sensitively. Then maybe it will work with the new wind direction and the favor of the racing community.
Also popular with PC games readers PcPS4XBO
Project Cars 3: Simcade highlight or disappointment for simulation fans?
Tests on Project Cars 3: These are the international ratings
Project Cars 3: Gameplay trailer gets you in the mood for the racing game
Project Cars 3 in the test: Lost the rear at full throttle? (Source: PC Games)
(*) We have marked affiliate links with an asterisk. We receive a small commission for a purchase via our link and can thus partially finance the free website with this income. There are no costs for the user.