While the standard version of Project CARS 3 doesn’t get released until today, the game has already been widely talked about by fans of the franchise.
From the removal of tyre wear and fuel usage to a change in the structure of career mode, there’s been considerable outcry from players who liked the first two games and weren’t enamoured with changes made for the latest edition.
The first two games were more simulation focused and had career modes meant to replicate moving up the ladder of racing championships, neither of which applies to Project CARS 3.
In their place is a road car heavy career mode with an all-new car upgrade system that allows players, for the first time in a Project CARS game, to improve the tyres, weight, and power of a car among other areas.
The upgrades allow cars to move up through the different categories of racing, with most able to be race converted and upgraded up through the game’s GT classes.
According to Joe Barron, the marketing and esports manager for game creator Slightly Mad Studios, the decision to implement a car upgrading system was done to attract a wider playerbase to Project CARS.
“The upgrade system is one aspect of a larger move to try and bring in a new audience into sim racing,” Barron tells The Race.
“We’re all very conscious in the studio that the genre can tend to be a bit elitist at times and there are barriers to getting into it.
“There are various things we’ve done with the new game to try and introduce more people to simracing.
“We’ve seen with Project CARS 1 and 2 that a lot of people get into the genre from arcade racing, or they’ve never played a racing game before and this is how they got into it in the current generation of consoles.
“It’s been about democratising sim racing and making it a more friendly place for newcomers” :: Joe Barron
“So we wanted to do more for those people, that goes along with improving the way that cars handle on a gamepad, which we’ve made a huge difference to this time around.
“We’ve introduced more RPG mechanics so there’s more of a sense of progression and reward for that kind of audience, the car customisation and upgrading is a part of that too.
“So we’ve always had the idea of the ultimate driver journey, starting out as a weekend warrior or a club racer and rising up through the world of motorsport.
“We’ve made that more personal this time and a part of that comes from being able to put your own visual stamp on the car and the upgrade mechanics as far as the way they impact performance, which is super realistic and authentic.
“Some of the supercars can be turned into the equivalent of a GT3 car, which was something fun for our guys to work on because we have a GT3 equivalent of a Porsche 918 which doesn’t exist in the real world, but Porsche allowed us to develop a race conversion kit for that road car.”
The word CARS in the title of the series is an acronym of Community Assisted Racing Simulator, an ethos that won over many people to the first game.
The third game has taken a step back in terms of realistic driving physics, slightly simplifying how the cars feel compared to the second game.
On top of that an objective-based career mode, which requires players to meet certain goals during races such as clean laps and drafting opponents, means winning a race isn’t required for a lot of the game’s career mode events.
Barron insists these changes weren’t made to get in more players who have less experience with racing games, but they were made to make the game more user-friendly to those players and help them to become better drivers.
“It’s not necessarily a move to try and attract a more casual audience,” Barron says.
“I think what we were finding was that in the previous games people tended to make Project CARS their gateway into simracing even if it didn’t have the tools to help those people get into it.
“Now we’ve got more of those tools so we’ve developed some things around that.
“One of them for instance is that in the career mode sometimes in the previous two games you really had to win to progress, it was an all or nothing kind of situation.
“I was really excited when James Baldwin was originally discovered in Project CARS 2 esports” :: Joe Barron
“Obviously that’s not necessarily something everyone can do straight out of the box, even on the lowest difficulty.
“We wanted to have it so that there are more ways to progress, so the objectives we have in Project CARS 3’s career mode contribute experience on top of your performance in each race.
“The other thing is the objectives; such as clean overtakes or perfecting the racing line around a certain amount of the lap, or drafting someone for a certain amount of time, are all designed not for someone who already knows what they’re doing and can go for the targets straight away, it’s to have an element of teaching people racecraft.
“If people pick that up through the race objectives in career mode it should make them better drivers by the time they jump online.
“It’s been about democratising sim racing and making it a more friendly place for newcomers and helping them to learn to be better drivers along the way.”
The online multi-player has been overhauled in Project CARS 3 as a traditional lobby system has been replaced with matchmaking based on players’ speed and safety ratings.
Despite the changes to driving physics and a career mode focused on improving the skills of less experienced players, the multi-player has been designed with competitive play and esports in mind.
Before he won World’s Fastest Gamer, James Baldwin made a name for himself in esports competitions on Project CARS 2, including winning the Renault esports Series in 2018.
With Baldwin having progressed from Project CARS 2 to real-world racing, Barron hopes the third game can cultivate more driving talents.
“The overhaul we’ve done to the multi-player is very much designed with improving the online experience,” Barron says.
“Something we’ve been really proud of over the years in all the previous games in the series is our ability to find new talent in simracing at a grassroots level and to be involved in the journey of these guys is really exciting and we definitely want to see more of that.
“For me personally I was really excited when James Baldwin was originally discovered in Project CARS 2 esports and I was there at his first tournament and we all recognised immediately ‘this guy’s going to be quick’.
“A few weeks ago I drove down to Oulton Park for the first round of the British GT championship and having been there to see him win his first simrace I was there to see him win his first GT3 race in the real world as well.
“I really want to have more stories like that to tell and with our new multi-player systems and then building tournaments off the back of that is definitely going to be the way to see more stories like that come to life.”