by Philip Orona
I was a little harsh in my previous Project Cars 3 review. Although, I was not alone in my opinion that Slightly Mad Studios made a big mistake in watering down its racing franchise for broader appeal. By itself, it wasn’t a terrible racing game but when held up to the competition, the latest entry for Project Cars lost what made it special. Now, adding on to the easy access broad appeal offerings is a mobile game for Android, Project Cars Go, which has also been met with some hostility from the fandom.
Launching the game, you are greeted with the familiar Slightly Mad Studios logo and a reminder how many hands were in the pot. Now a Codemasters company, SMS has partnered with Gamevil to create this freemium app as a recurring cash generator. Oh yes, much like Microsoft’s Forza Street, this is free to play but pay to win. The game is also time gated in the form of fuel, which is not dissimilar to other games of this type. Each race costs 5 fuel points and replenishes over time at the maximum amount of 60 and higher as you level up. Need more fuel fast? That will cost you. Or you can watch a commercial for some free petrol. There is plenty of in game cash to throw you for a loop. Regular cash, which is won from races, can net you car upgrades. Mad bucks, a premium currency, are used to open the random item loot crates and diamonds are the other premium currency which can be used to buy vehicles. *whew* At least you have some control over your car collection unlike Forza Street.
The game play itself is also a bit of a departure from some of the other mobile offerings and once again we have to bring up Forza Street, Project Cars Go is the exact opposite. Here, the car is automatically on the gas from the green light, your only controls are when to shift and when to brake. In a circuit race, as you begin, you have a rev meter. You must rev up your engine to the optimal level before the green light hits to execute a good take off. Once the car is launched, the vehicle is on rails moving through the pack of cars. Your job is to tap to shift gears at the indicated markers and tap and hold your finger down to brake at the indicated location and release at the correct indicated location to get moving with gusto again and that is all there is to circuit racing. There are also drag racing events that can be challenged. With drag racing, you are prompted to tap the screen in the burn out box to warm up your tires. Then you are revving up your engine again (Hey! Scotty Kilmer!) and then once you launch, its tap to shift through the quarter mile at the indicated markers. This is very simplistic shallow game play, which is certainly counter culture to all 3 of the mainline Project Cars games, but looking for positives, it is very easy to pick up and learn.
As far as graphics and audio is concerned, this game certainly shines. You will see during the loading screens a notification that says, “Best with Headphones” and I cannot dispute this. The music and sound effects are fantastic and cannot be correctly administered by the weak speakers of a cell phone. From the “Need for Speed” like techno of the post race win screen to the “Michael Bay heroic battle scene” like theme that gets played during a race, this game is aurally on point. The car sounds are also very well done. You can hear the turbo blow off valves and some drivetrain chatter as you shift through gears and break through a turn. The engine notes are a little generic but do vary from vehicle to vehicle. If you plan on playing this, do yourself a favor and use headphones. The games graphics look good and the car models look very similar to Project Cars 3. The game uses real life track locations but only utilizes sections of them in addition to sectors of highway road for racing, all which are rendered well.
I understand that Codemasters\SMS was aiming for an easy time waster free to play money sucker but I can’t help but wonder how this game could have looked if they had aimed to compete with Real Racing 3 in terms of gameplay. A full control racing game can be difficult to play at times on mobile but EA has found a way to do it well, Heck, Codemasters themselves have done it with Grid Autosport! The resources and know-how was there for SMS to pull from and I am a little disappointed that they didn’ t. I don’t want to get all negative again on SMS as this is a decent little mobile game with a lot of polished presentation. Still, when you start comparing it to the mobile gold standard of racing games (Real Racing 3) it all starts to fall apart. What we (the gaming racing community) wanted was a real racing simulator in our hands that could top that could run with the best. Instead we get a game that is only just a little better than Forza Street.
Excellent sound design
Good track selection
Overly simplistic game play
Obnoxious free to play trappings
Real Racing 3