Project CARS 3 PS4 Pro Review: Slightly Mad Studios are back with arguably one of the more questionable racing games. I say arguably because the first game in my opinion was great, but the second release was possibly one of the worst racing games I had played and seems like quite some time ago that I wrote an article about it comparing it to Gran Turismo Sport and DiRT which were also around at the time of release.
Compared to the previous releases, Project CARS 3 is definitely one of the most expansive racers on the current market. At least they hadn’t marketed this title as The Ultimate Racing Sim as they had with the second of the series; they do seem to have given up on that idea ditching the likes of tyre wear and fuel usage for all out fun racing.
One thing that I noticed right off the start line is Slightly Mad do seem to have finally addressed the issues they have always had with the terrible handling physics in their other titles. You still have the different drive setups of the cars being front-wheel, rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive but the majority of the cars are hard tuned monsters that you can upgrade which all aim toward generating more oversteer and can be quickly tamed back into submission with a flick of opposite lock on the steering.
Getting rid of the ‘driver for hire’ mechanic that most racing games seem to adopt, Project CARS 3 has gone for the 10-tier race series starting off with road cars and growing toward the use of hyper-cars. All of which can be upgraded to span over multiple race series’. This is where the game fails right from the off I’m afraid. To upgrade your car you obviously need money in which to do it. The game refuses to throw money at you easily.
You would presume that for every race win or entry that you would take a share of the winnings? Nope, not here. The only time you will earn any money is when you start to level up your racer and to do that it will take 4 races or so. Now that may not seem like a lot, but it does mean that you will need to seriously grind the game to start to get anywhere and I found it hard after a while.
Reason for this was simple.. I started off the game with a trusty Mitsubishi Evo and jumped into the first race series. Within races you are given a couple of tasks to try and complete which will bring you added XP and I was starting off relatively well completing all the tasks I needed to. Once you have completed those tasks you can’t go back to races to do more tasks and gain more XP, so once you have maxed a race its pointless racing it again.
I completed the first few races of the series I was in and flicked over to the next page of races. Straight away the races demanded that I bought another car that I had to use to race. This trend continues through all the race series that you will need 3 or 4 different cars to compete, but the distribution of money starts to make this nearly impossible after a few hours of playing, especially when you need to upgrade your cars to be able to compete with others on circuit.
I did try to upgrade my Evo to be able to use it in the next level of race series and it worked for a while, but it was soon obvious that I was unable to really compete unless I bought a car specific to that tier of racing. One car I did manage to buy and upgrade through different series was a Nissan R34 GTR, but even that started to struggle and in the end had to sell it and buy something new. That trend continues through the game unfortunately making it extremely frustrating.
The pay-outs are extremely stingy to be brutally honest to support the amount of cars that you have to buy. If you do want to try and use the same car for as long as you possibly can through the various tiers you constantly have to keep quitting out of the game and back to the main menu to adapt your car before going back into the career mode. Its very frustrating and ill thought out.
I’m not going to lie, when I first loaded up the game I was nervous about playing it. I remember what a terrible game the last iteration was and I wasn’t holding out much hope for this one. I was however pleasently suprised when I started playing. It looks and feels so much better than the last game. For the first few hours I was really getting into the game and had started to think that luckily Slightly Mad had finally made a great game.
This was short lived however. It wasn’t long before all of the issues started to creep in, and there were a lot of them. The above image happened more and more in literally every race. Half of the image in frames were missing and just a white area where game graphics should be. Looking through the official account for the game on Twitter there are a hell of a lot of complaints about the game and people are screaming out for refunds.
Whoever is running that Social Media account does seem to be ignoring the mass of negative feedback from the fans and only responding to those who are praising the game.
Each event has a trio of objectives that you need to complete in order to unlock further events. These can range from the basics of overtaking a set number of cars, drafting for 30 seconds in total through the race or combining drafting and then overtaking. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t ever get any of the combined draft then overtake challenges to complete, even when I watched the screen closely. The idea is to draft one car only for a set time and then overtake. I timed my drafting and allowed a couple of extra seconds then took the car on the corner. No matter how many times I know I had completed the task, the game was saying that I hadn’t managed it.
Luckily most of the objectives you will complete without even thinking about it. There are bonus objectives to get in all races from perfecting corners driving the right racing line and mastering the entire race course you are on. Corners are marked with breaking points, apex and exit markers. Doing this ditches the traditional racing line overlay that a lot of other racing games use, but the game places the breaking points far to cautiously from the corners, but try to push that breaking point and your car will easily go off track. It just doesn’t feel consistent enough.
The AI in the game is all over the place. In early races whilst I was still getting used to the game I was running wide on corners, smashing into walls and bouncing off them yet I was still managing to easily overhaul the hardest AI drivers. Then there were races especially when it was pouring with rain where my grip levels werent great yet the AI seemed to be capable of unbelievable grip levels. This would leave me languishing at the back and being nearly impossible to catch the rest of the field of cars.
Speaking of wet races, it confuses me how at the end of a wet race we see a scene of the top three drivers stood near the bonnets of their cars, rain pouring down yet the drivers are bone dry without even the slightest hint of rain on their helmets.
There was also one race which I needed to get the objective points from. I forget exactly which race it is now but was a timed lap race. The race starts up and your car is under the computer control until you are about to pass the start line. The second you get control of the car there is a message in the top of the screen saying that it is an invalid lap time and impossible to get any XP from completing objectives in that race. That then obviously has a knock on effect as those objectives are needed to unlock further races.
There was also an issue in numerous races where voice text from your garage crew at the start of the race would display over the screen throughout the entire race rather than disappear. No matter how much you would hear the voice through the race giving advice the initial text would stay and not be replaced by the new.
The annoying thing with this game is that a lot of the issues that the game has thrown up ruins what should be a great experience.
The authenticity in the game is great and the selection of cars is unbelievable. I have never seen so many Porches in various guises in any other game to date but then you delve deeper into the game and customising your car adding authentic tyres from manufacturers that you would never see on any car in the real world is fun.
The ammount of official cars from the history of racing here is phenominal. From the Porsche 935 Moby Dick, Jim Clark’s Lotus Climax, Hurley Haywood’s Brumos Porsche 911 RSR and Vic Elford’s Porsche 917K are just a few of the greats available for you to get in and take for a spin on the circuit. If you have enough money that is or if you manage to unlock enough objectives to take part in Invitational Events where those cars are provided for you.
As I mention events, there really isn’t that much to do within the game other than a timed lap, an average time over three laps or racing. There is a fun box smashing game where you need to smash boxes on track to rack up points but it just doesn’t really bring anything to the game other than a very slight distraction to the monotony.
Handling (as I have said) feels great in the game and taking part in initial races felt great compared to previous experiences. There is also a whole host of official race courses featured as well as some fun city tracks but the game still doesn’t compete anywhere near the level that the likes of Gran Turismo, DiRT or even Forza for that matter.
The race series in the game as well are a complete mess. In the GT4 series for instance there is one race alone that requires you to own and race with a Fusion NASCAR. It doesn’t fit in with any of the other cars in the series and just feels like an attempt to make you spend money that is extremely hard to come by in the first place.
The online races do run smoothly enough but are still plagued with the bugs that the game has. It just feels like the release of the game was rushed to get it out and it wasn’t quality tested in any way. Project CARS 3 is one of the most broken and damaged games I have ever seen released to date and yes, that also includes Fallout 76! Running on my PS4 Pro I expect a lot better.