The Need for Speed: SHIFT games were one of those underappreciated gems that deserved a sequel. Alas, corporate shenanigans got in the way of what should have been SHIFT 3. Now, Project CARS 3 is rectifying that oversight.
Developers Slightly Mad Studios officially announced the third entry in the pCARS series. The franchise began life as one of the most ambitious crowdfunded/co-invested games, as well as an excellent source of car porn. The official reveal and embargoed livestream for Project CARS 3 didn’t hype up the screenshots quite so much this time, but those hoping for another massive single-player career adventure will like what they see.
Slightly Mad Studios are pitching this as a “more mainstream game”, according to the studio’s Joe Barron, Slightly Mad’s esports and marketing manager. “Simulation has a reputation for being a bit self-serious, or being difficult to get into, but it shouldn’t be that way—racing a car around a track in real-life is a thrilling, exciting, visceral experience, and simulation should be a reflection of these qualities that make motorsport so enthralling,” Barron said in an email interview with Kotaku Australia.
They’re not words that have impressed the sim racing community, who loathe the suggestion of anything close to the idea of “mainstream”. But for the legions of motorsport fans who have been glued to virtual racing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Project CARS 3 comes at the perfect time. Project CARS 3 slots into that gap between real racing while still being accessible for those on controllers and regular setups, with the career designed around encouraging racers to adopt better habits, better racing lines, cornering, and general skills.
Slightly Mad’s Barron confirmed that Project CARS 3 wouldn’t have any form of rubber-banding or catch-up AI. Car damage, crashes and effects have been improved, and the car handling for controllers has been overhauled to be more accommodating for newer players.
The biggest change, however, remains the career mode. In a styling that’s similar to Gran Turismo, you’ll unlock new classes and vehicles as you progress through each class of car. Completing more career objectives (overtaking a certain amount of times, for instance, or winning a certain amount of events with only Japanese cars) helps unlock different invitational events.
Cars have a PIR rating, which is basically a single number that indicates the overall performance of that car, averaged out from the balance of their raw power, tyres, bodywork, weight reduction, and everything else. You can spend in-game credits, earned through races, to upgrade any of these parts, and as you upgrade individual cars further and further, that car will be usable in higher-level races. It’s possible, for instance, to upgrade a basic Honda Civic Type R into the hyper-car class of vehicle, if you really wanted to keep it going. Different races and events will require cars of a certain class, but you have the ability to rent a vehicle if you don’t own a suitable one.
On the multiplayer front, there’s a new asynchronous mode “Rivals”. It relies on a ranking and rewards model where the developers create daily, weekly and monthly challenges. The idea here is to make the multiplayer mode a little more accessible than the daunting leaderboards that faced players in Project CARS 2. Instead of opening up a challenge and immediately being faced with the fastest possible times, players are split into divisions within the challenges, where players can be promoted or relegated based on their performance as the challenges reset every month.
The graphics has naturally gotten a tune-up, although SMS confirmed that “we don’t have anything to share regarding ray-tracing, Smart Delivery or next-gen at this time”. The game is getting new motion blur and post-processing effects, though, and VR will be supported once again.
I asked about whether Supercars would make an appearance in pCARS 3, and while the developers confirmed that the Ford Falcon would appear, it’s unknown what Aussie motorsport will feature in-game. One element that won’t return, sadly, is go-karting. “We want racers to get into the thick of the action right away in Project CARS 3, so we left karting out for now, in favour of expanding on the big new features like the revamped Career Mode, metagame, car customisation, and the expanded multiplayer modes,” Barron explained.
Project CARS 3 launches on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in “Summer 2020”, which would equate to the Australian winter, but the localised press release from the game’s distributor says 2020 for now. Either way, we’ll keep you posted — especially if racing around Bathurst is a thing again.