Project Cars 3 is in the starting blocks with a heated engine and wants to convince the players with the largest licensed fleet to date, an upgraded gamepad playing experience, the possibility to finally customize vehicles and characters and a completely new career mode. In the same breath, however, it must also be said that Slightly Mad Studios will henceforth do without important elements of the racing sim genre such as tire wear and pit stops. Fans were cautious after this news at the latest. Many feared that, like so many genre neighbors, they would orient themselves towards a broader audience and lose sight of their previous roots and the community.
Already in the first minutes of the game it is noticeable that Project Cars 3 also wants to be more attractive for newcomers, but old strengths are still in focus. One of the biggest innovations is the completely redesigned career mode, with which the London-based studio wants to score.
Time for a new career
Source: Slightly Mad Studios I Bandai Namco
The Project Cars series is actually known for its rough presentation and rock hard gameplay. It wasn't quite enough for the same league as iRacing, Automobilista or rFactor, but there was hardly a better alternative on the arcade-heavy console market. The only real competition is the Italian racing series Assetto Corsa. With Project Cars 3 (buy now for € 68.23) The studio is now strikingly fresh and seems to prefer to duel with other series such as Forza, Gran Turismo or Grid. A decisive point was certainly the takeover of the developers by Codemasters in November 2019. Among other things, a new career mode should help with the realignment, which strongly reminds of the modes of the listed competitors.
From now on it is no longer possible to plunge into any racing series, you work in the classic way from bottom to top. Over the course of the game, you will always be presented with new racing classes, which should continuously increase the motivation curve. Project Cars 3 dispenses with cut scenes, story elements and other bells and whistles. The new "First Time User Experience" system, or FTUE for short, is intended to help newbies and help them to find their way in the highly complex everyday racing life. Finding the ideal setup settings is so much easier. In general, it is striking that Slightly Mad worked hard on the accessibility and presentation in the third part. Furthermore, there are countless long-term challenges that reward us with money and experience points even off the stairs.
Source: PC Games
A certain number of perfect curves or other challenges such as a given time that has to be driven in the slipstream are just a few of the many examples. A clever idea, because after a bad maneuver or an accident the race was not completely over and we remain motivated to get the best out of the time on the asphalt. After successfully crossing the finish line, we will also be rewarded with vehicle and driver XP, awards and upgrade discounts. An important factor why this concept of career works well is the large scale of Project Cars 3.
Have fun thanks to a lot of scope
In addition to the career, there are many other game modes that should captivate the controller or steering wheel in the long term. The custom events let us create any racing scenarios ourselves. The entire content of Project Cars 3 is available to us here. We can immediately access all vehicles, routes, weather conditions etc. Modes such as free practice, time trial and multiplayer are of course also built into a racing game as standard. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to play the latter in the preview version, but we will of course report in detail in our test in a few weeks. There are also completely new game variants such as the asynchronous multiplayer mode "Rivals", which uses its own reward and ranking structure. This includes daily, weekly and monthly challenges. Our performance decides how much XP we are rewarded at the end of the month and whether we ascend or descend in the system. "Breakout" is also worth mentioning. There are carefully placed blocks with different numerical values on the route. The goal is to achieve a certain number of points and to deviate from previous routes. That might sound a bit boring at first, but it's actually a lot of fun.
Source: PC Games
The focus of the game is of course on the many vehicles and routes. While the predecessor still provided a fleet with a total of 189 vehicles, Project Cars 3 goes one step further: a total of 211 licensed vehicles are available. Of course, this includes all major manufacturers such as Ford, Audi, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lamborghini and Bugatti. Chevrolet, an important brand since Project Cars 2, brings the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R to a mainstream racing title for the first time. So fans can look forward to a variety of cars. In the career mode these must of course be bought with in-game currency, but fortunately no microtransactions are made. Fans can look forward to a total of 51 courses and 121 different route layouts. These include legendary courses such as Silverstone, Nürburgring, Imola and Brands Hatch, but also tracks in Havana, Shanghai and Tuscany specially created for the game. A special reason to be happy is the Brazilian Interlagos Grand Prix, which is making its debut in Project Cars. The routes are all great and detailed across the board and often offer beautiful scenery and lively backgrounds even off the asphalt. Graphically, as with the predecessors, there is little to complain about, only the weather effects simply look better with the competition.
Customization options & tuning
Source: PC Games
In addition to the career mode and the larger scope, the third big feature is that we can customize cars individually. Different paintwork, stickers and coloring of certain vehicle parts such as rims should help the players to identify better with their own racing car. In combination with the many new features, that makes a lot of sense, considering that cars stay in our virtual garage for a very long time. The tuning, on the other hand, is of course much more complex than the design options. We can readjust in areas such as brakes, body, tires, suspension and gearbox, in order to adapt the racing car to our own requirements as best we can. Each car has a performance index that tells us which racing class the car is suitable for and to which limit we can upgrade the car. You should be careful: If you invest too quickly in all kinds of updates, you will simply be excluded from some races. As mentioned earlier, Project Cars 3 has no fuel consumption, tire wear, and no tactical elements such as pit stops. According to Slightly Mad, the focus this time will be on the track and the fun of driving. That sounds as if you would say goodbye to the previous simulation approach and develop more in the direction of competitors like GT Sport or Forza. Is that true now?
With the foot on the right pedal?
Who now hopes we can give a loud all-clear signal and banish all arcade accusations to the land of fairy tales, we unfortunately have to disappoint. Project Cars 3 continues to rely on the great strengths of its predecessors, in some respects Slightly Mad takes the series to a new level. For example through the completely revised gamepad control. The feedback is great and the driving experience is better than it was in Project Cars 2. The right places were also visually worked on. There is no longer an adjustable, visible ideal line, instead three points that symbolize the braking point, turn and corner exit on the route.
Source: PC Games
Not only does it look a lot better, it also helps to have driving help and still deal with the route independently. The remaining driving aids include brake aids, traction controls and the like, which is typical of the genre. For the best gaming experience, however, you should go onto the asphalt completely without driving aids, the feedback of the track and the driving experience presented by Slightly Mad are still highlights in the racing cosmos – at least on the console. The A.I. acts realistically and was able to convince us, but a final statement cannot be made on the basis of an unfinished preview version. The driving skills of our opponents can be adjusted separately in the areas of aggressiveness and difficulty.
Is that still project cars ?!
In many respects, Project Cars 3 reminded us more of the Need for Speed Shift, also developed by Slightly Mad, than of its predecessors. Project Cars 3 wants to gain a foothold in the competitive mainstream market, particularly noticeable in the career mode and the general, visually colorful presentation. This can be understood as a criticism, but it does not have to be of a negative nature to be broader. The trend in the racing genre is towards open arms and a clear focus on accessibility. The studio has by no means forgotten the roots of the series. Project Cars 3 continues to rely on its strengths and remains a sim racer, but adorns itself with many elements of well-known opponents such as Forza, Need for Speed and GT Sport. At best, this can lead to closing the gap between arcade racers and simulations and thus leading the entire genre significantly into a more modern future. The balancing act can also be a dangerous one. The big question of the price remains, how well the new wind direction will be received by the players. It only forgives very little, exactly as it would like on the asphalt and in tough racing.
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The step from Slightly Mad to mainstream is the only right one in my eyes.
Of course, you can be skeptical and demonize Slightly Mad for taking relevant and popular elements like pitstops out of the game. You can just trust the team, which has already done a great job with its predecessors. Not blindly, of course, but so far Project Cars 3 has been a sensible development, the basic core has remained the same. I liked Project Cars 2, but I think the new presentation, the more motivating career mode and above all the great controls with the gamepad are enhancements that I would be reluctant to do without.
Project Cars 3 in preview: A breath of fresh air for the Sim Racer series (Source: Slightly Mad Studios I Bandai Namco)
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