Project CARS is a racing simulation similar to the Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsports and GTR FIA Racing series. Different to those titles the game does not offer initial content where the player has to race and earn experience to perform upgrades and additional cars and tracks. Instead, all of the content is available right away and players can race in any mode, class, car and on any circuit immediately. Similar to games like iRacing and Assetto Corsa it offers very detailed customization where players can fine-tune almost any aspect of the cars, but contrary to those two titles there is not only multiplayer racing, but also a full career mode with offline races against AI-controlled opponents. Optionally various assists can be enabled to simply the gameplay.
The game offers circa 70 cars in various types of motorsports such as classic retro tour cars, traditional road cars, karts, track day cars, supercars, modern open wheel cars, GT cars and Le Mans prototypes. Brands include Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ford, Lotus, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Renault and more. Brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini are not included. Certain cars are part of a modified car pack, some are tied to a specific edition and others are given away for free each month. The game includes a large amount of racing circuits from around the world as well as a number of fictional ones and also point-to-point races.
The career mode offers several goals to climb the ranks, win championships and earn contracts to race in higher series. Examples of challenges include Defending Champ to win three seasons in a row undefeated, Triple Crown to win three different types of championships and Zero to Hero where you go through championships for the different race classes, from karts to Formula 1. There are several championships presented as race weekends split up in practice rounds, qualifiers and race sessions that often consist of multiple races. Optionally certain sessions can be skipped or simulated. It is possible to design custom races, there are various weather conditions and the developers organize events regularly. Online multiplayer is not done through matchmaking but through playlists curated by the developer. Next to regular races it is possible to challenge other players to time trials. The Driver Network keeps track of the player’s progress, stats and results for the various cars and parts of the game.
CARS from the title is an acronym for Community Assisted Racing Simulator, which reflects the game’s development. The game was crowd funded where contributors could involve themselves in the development through Tool Packs which allowed for the creation of assets, content, QA and other parts of the development process with various rewards.