A new skin
It is always very complicated to talk about a driving game without having tried it by hand. After all, what matters most in this kind of products are the sensations “behind the wheel“, regardless of the degree of simulation or the focus of production.
That of Project CARS 3, however, it really seems like a small revolution, and the implications of such a clear change of perspective could already be guessed during the first moments of the presentation, which seemed to have been specially packaged to enhance and glorify the renewed focus on accessibility and the spectacle of the game. The noises of the screeching tires could be clearly heard as the cars passed slightly at each turn, accompanied by clearly visible congratulatory messages for each well-set corner; even the voice of the engineer via radio, in line with the rest of the production, seemed perhaps a little less serious than we remembered from the first two chapters.
Have a more colorful and “playful“, however it does not necessarily imply that all the simulation ambitions typical of the series have suddenly been shelved.
We fortunately got to ask the development team for more information, which reassured us. He did it in a peremptory way, claiming that it is absolutely not in their intentions to deny the features that made the series great: long-time fans will find themselves in the hands – once any help is deactivated and the options are set correctly – a produced in line with their expectations. We honestly we continue to remain a little skeptical about it, but we hope to be proven wrong when we test everything by hand.
Back on track
Instead, we were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the interface and the game menus, which already showed up from these first images much more refined and easy to navigate than those of the second chapter. In addition to a couple of new tracks, among which the Brazilian one of Interlagos stands out, we will find an evolved and well thought out career mode waiting for us, full of new ideas and more central within the production.
Also in this case, Project CARS 3 has shown a construct undoubtedly less devoted to “pure” simulation than that of its predecessor; at least conceptually, the feeling is that of being faced with a product imbued with the same playful essence of sacred simcade monsters such as Forza Motorsport or the dear old Gran Turismo.
The cars to be used in the career will consequently be bought with the money earned by the podiums and victories, the same that will logically be used also to improve the performance of each vehicle at a later time. Finally, we have been confirmed that, in an attempt to make our path to glory more varied, the career will not simply consist of a sequence of races all the same, but will occasionally present some variations on the theme that, according to the developers, will be able to make the progression more satisfying and less monotonous. For the moment, however, we have no more details on the matter.
Then add more pepper the progression marked by obtaining experience points. We still cannot tell you for sure how central this element will be within the game structure, but according to what we were able to see during the presentation it would seem anything but marginal: indicators related to it were glimpsed in almost all game modes, including multiplayer races.
While maintaining total discontinuity with what was seen in the previous chapters, this mechanic seems to have several interesting implications in terms of gameplay. The number of points accumulated, for example, is directly influenced by our choices: it will increase or decrease based on the level of difficulty and the help we use, guaranteeing rewards always commensurate with the complexity of the challenges. A nice way to encourage players to continually improve, bringing them closer to the simulation core of the game, which according to the developers will not only continue to be present, but will even be improved compared to the past. Unfortunately, however, without having the game in our hands it is very difficult for us to provide a detailed opinion on these aspects and their real effectiveness, so we just have to wait hopefully.
If instead of submitting to the needs and playful restrictions that characterize the main modes, you prefer a more essential experience, with a pure simulator approach, you can launch yourself headlong into the creation of personalized events, apparently the only ones able to let us run free and without restrictions with any car and on any track. This modality could prove to be a kind of joining link between the needs of the old Project CARS audience and the wishes instead of another audience, perhaps initially more attracted by the bright colors and immediacy than by the hypothetical authenticity of the physical model.
All against all
The multiplayer modes are fundamental for the long-term maintenance of any self-respecting player, which is why we were not surprised at all to see a slice of presentation entirely dedicated to one of the major new features of Project CARS 3: the so-called “scheduled events“, real scheduled races complete with matchmaking geared to our track skills.
As per tradition, these events will have a well-defined start time, exactly as has been happening for years in iRacing (the most advanced online service in the context of simracing) and in the weekly GT Sport races, the title that perhaps, in spirit and ambition , is closer to the model adopted by Slightly Mad Studios. These online races also seem to be directly related to the centralized experience system of the game and, above all, to career progression.
Even during the “scheduled events“we will be forced to compete with one of the vehicles present in our garage or, if we do not have any belonging to the category of reference available, to rent one. At the moment we have not been able to understand precisely if and how much this small detail can hinder the plans of all those who, perhaps, are used to buying driving games with the sole purpose of competing online. In any case, we can only be happy with this addition, which today represents one of the most effective systems to guarantee anyone the ability to quickly find online tenders without the need for external superstructures, infinite lists of servers, leagues or other solutions “do-it-yourself“.
Another huge strength of Project CARS 3 could be represented from the evolution of the Slightly Mad Studios graphics engine, which after showing all its simulation versatility in the hands of Reiza Studios, a software house that – with the help of the Madness Engine – is approaching by leaps and bounds towards the release 1.0 of Automobilista 2, seems to be ready to return to make sparks also in the hands of its creators.
The elements of discontinuity with the past, we have already repeated it several times, they seem very many, also and above all from the point of view of the presentation. This can be understood from the color palette, from the slightly more unprejudiced use of some post-processing filters and from the deliberately more captivating and “playful” user interface.
We were also quite impressed by the total absence of many of the more advanced indicators that we had known in the first two chapters, such as widgets for managing tire and brake temperatures. Although it contained numerous pieces of gameplay inside, however, we are still talking about a video edited ad hoc to show the whole world, for the first time, the renewed accessibility and technical qualities of the product, and this could have influenced in a way heavy on some of the choices of those who packed that content.
It is probably no coincidence, for example, that almost all driving sequences showed the cameras framed with the external camera. Always with a view to making the product more accessible and easy for anyone to approach, the team claims to have worked a lot with a view to improving the pad driving system, an element to say the least fundamental, when trying to expand the own audience.