Project CARS 3

Robo-pop pioneer Gary Numan once mused, “Here in my car, I feel safest of all”. He obviously wasn’t on a race track. It’s brutal out there, and all that brutality comes home in Project CARS 3.

The Project CARS – that’s an acronym for ‘Community Assisted Racing Simulator’ – series has always really taken that last word to heart. It was never a pick up and thrash racer. You couldn’t hit a corner headlong at full tilt, bounce off some poor schlub who’s trying to race properly and get catapulted into podium territory. You had to drive like it was all real and stuff. Seriously real (and stuff). Well, until now.

For Project CARS 3 aims to open its arms to those who aren’t perfect drivers, while still trying to cater for those who wore their ability to complete a lap unscathed in either of its predecessors as a badge of honour. It hedges its bets like never before.

You see, there are now numerous difficulty levels, starting pretty much at Homer-with-a-crayon-in-his-ear and ranging right up to oil-veined motoring savant. A plethora of assists are able to be dialled in or out, so you can go anywhere from almost sitting back and watching the game play itself to the full-on jumpsuit-soiling stuff.

Previously, weather conditions, tyre heat, track heat, brake heat, deep heat and possibly even Miami Heat all mattered, but this nod to technicality has been reduced a tad. The main concern with tyres isn’t wear now, it’s keeping them touching the track. With no petrol gauge to stress over, pit stops have also been given the heave-ho, all apparently in the name of a need for speed.

The developers, Slightly Mad Studios did, after all, give us the Need for Speed: Shift games, so maybe they just couldn’t help raiding the parts bin of the past any longer? That would explain the addition of car customisation and personalisation options, which are pretty much the same as in any other car game nowadays.

These changes aren’t huge, but they really do bring Project CARS back towards the pack of other racing competitors, such as your Gran Turismo, GRID and Forza Motorsport entries. There are now a couple of hundred cars – an eclectic range including everything from 1970s Ford Escorts to pretty much any supercar that Richard Hammond has tried to prang.

Project CARS 3

That being said, after a training lap in a slick slice of new American muscle, you have just enough in-game credit to purchase something a little less ostentatious, such as a Honda Civic Type R (but thankfully not the ugly new one that looks like they let a kid loose with the parts bin). As usual, they all look stunning, particularly when you’re giving them a once over in the showroom. The actual track racing is a little less pretty than many of the game’s contemporaries.

The currency thing has changed the way you play Project CARS, curtailing the chance to just dive in pretty much wherever you wanted, in any of the myriad racing doctrines included, Plus, there’s a rewarding – if somewhat uneven, especially early on – career mode to conquer if you prefer to keep it solo rather than braving the online multiplayer world and its various challenges.

“Aussie petrolheads will be stoked to know that Bathurst’s Mount Panorama track remains – bewdy!”

Track-wise there’s much to love, with some 50 or so unique locations, many of which are presented in several configurations. Oh, and Aussie petrolheads will be stoked to know that Bathurst’s Mount Panorama track remains – bewdy!

Possibly the most critical component of a truly good racing game is its handling, and this one improves upon the work that previous Project CARS games did. Even when driving via a standard controller, you feel like you can get your set of wheels to do pretty much whatever you want. Well, after quite a bit of practice…

Rest assured, Project CARS 3 is a really solid racing game, and it still really rewards you if you stick at it. But this iteration does remove much that previously made it rather unique in a crowded game space. That’s excellent news for those who just wish to go out for a bit of an accessible fang in a set of wheels that they’ll likely never afford in real life, but it does leave the simulator origins of the series in the rear-view mirror. If that legacy has no resonance with you then hey, start your engines!

Project CARS 3 is available now on PS4 and Xbox

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi