Project Cars already up to its third iteration with Project Cars 3, out now from Bandai Namco on the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It promised a more accessible experience this time around – does it deliver?
I remember catching my first glimpse of the original Project Cars, and being blown away by the realistic visuals and ditto approach to racing – something I then mostly associated with Gran Turismo, a PlayStation exclusive and that looked quite unique on especially the Xbox. When I eventually played the game, I was still impressed, but I also had to conclude that perhaps sim-oriented racers aren’t really my thing because of their unforgiving nature.
Project Cars 3 is slightly less unique in that sense, but it still look and feels like a Project Cars game even though it’s going to appeal to a wider audience while perhaps also alienating a few hardcore fans. There are still plenty of laws of physics at work here and you can still hook up your steeling wheel for a more sim-like experience, but gamepad control (which is what I used for the first game as well) feels much more comfortable this time around. I slid off the track way less than I did before, and didn’t have the sense I had to be extremely careful when attempting any kind of overtaking maneuver either. It’s not an arcade racer, but it’s certainly far more accessible than it was before.
This accessibility translates to the difficulty levels as well, which are currently a bit out of balance – I wasn’t expecting to dominate so easily on the ‘normal’ setting and was instantly very competitive on ‘very hard’, which really shouldn’t be the case since I’m not a diehard Project Cars veteran. The game doesn’t hide its new approach either, since it’s now filled with things like in-game objectives, ranging from getting to a certain top speed (Back to the Future, anyone?) to knocking over blocks. Not very sim-like perhaps, but definitely fun for those who enjoy these little challenges.
What’s not new compared to the previous games is that Project Cars 3 is absolutely filled to the brim with content, with literally hundreds of (visually customizable) cars and dozens of tracks to play around with – an astounding amount of content that almost makes you wonder who is really going to be needing that season pass content that’s coming. In a game that’s going to appeal more to the casual/arcade racers out there, cars that might handle a little differently might not be as much in demand. In addition to cars and tracks, you also get a lengthy career mode as well as the usual online mutiplayer options.
Project Cars 3 does seem to have a few issues on the technical side of things though, which inconsistent frame rates and a few cases of texture pop-in. Booting up Project Cars 2 I didn’t notice any of that, so I’m just betting this has to do with changes to the code base that have something to do with the transition to next-gen consoles – or perhaps it’s just a case of a game that was pushed out the door a little too early.
Hopefully the technical issues are temporary in nature though, because Project Cars 3, even though it might disappoint its original audience, is still fun to play. If you’re an arcade racer at heart then you might want to stick to the Need for Speed franchise or the upcoming DiRT 5, but if you’d like a stab at a more serious approach to racing that’s still accessible then Project Cars 3 is a more than solid choice.