Xbox One, PS4, PC
June 23, 2020
I love a great racing game, since the dawn of videogames they have always been a constant. Great arcade racers like Outrun, Daytona USA and Ridge Racer; then there are more sim style racers like the original Need for Speed and Test Drive, the genre evolved into games such as Gran Turismo and Forza each sitting on a spectrum somewhere between arcade and simulation. Then there are games that push to extremes. Ferrari 355 Challenge comes to mind, unplayable, but apparently incredibly realistic.
Of course the big sim at the moment is iRacing, but another game that is fawned over by certain PC gamers is Assetto Corsa and unlike iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione has just made its way to consoles. The developers say it has photo-realistic weather and graphics, and that it reaches a new standard in driving realism and immersion. To be honest, all of these things concern me, firstly, I have not played a game yet in my life that is photo-realistic and secondly, I wonder how realistic we actually want our racers to be? Nevertheless though, I took this one for a spin to find out for myself.
To start with, let’s get the stats out of the way. Assetto Corsa Competizione is based around GT3 racing and it features 24 cars from 13 manufacturers. These include Lamborghini, Ferrari, BMW and Audi for example but its worth noting most of the cars are model variations; for example there are 3 variants of the Lamborghini Huracan and 3 variants of Porsche 911. So that is far less choice of vehicle than most other racers on the market. It features 11 tracks (with another 4 available via DLC) again this is less than most other racers, the staples are there such as Monza, Spa and Brands Hatch. But again, those tracks plus more are available in other games.
When it comes to the racing itself, this is definitely an acquired taste. I don’t know what its like to actually race a GT car on a track so I cannot comment whether it is accurate or not. But what I will say is that this is a tough game to tame and it is definitely not the plug an play experience that most gamers look for in a racer. Having played loads of racers in the past I initially attempted to play with no assists and I could barely keep the car on the track. It could be that this game is designed with a steering wheel in mind, but with a game pad (which 99% if us would play with) it was incredibly frustrating. Even with the assists on, if I got one wheel off the track the thing vehicle would just spin around. The controls are incredibly twitchy and even with all the assists on the cars are a tricky and frustrating drive.
Whilst you are racing, there is a rating system assessing your driving ability section by section on the track. I must say it really annoyed me. When I started career mode, I needed to go through a junior school to test my skills, which is fair. But I noticed that loss of traction was seen as a negative and to be honest, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a controlled power slide around a corner, but the game holds a different view. So, if you lock your brakes or lose traction at any point you are likely to get a red mark for that section of the track, thus you are officially a “bad driver”. Gone are the days when you can late break and cut in front of the driver ahead (even if it is an AI driver) in fact, any contact at all with another car will cop you a penalty.
Aside from the penalty system, the AI annoyed me as well. They drive incredibly stupidly, stuck to their line. In one example I knew I was way slower than the AI cars, to the point of being lapped. So I slowed down and pulled over so the leaders could go by, in any other game they would just fly by but not in this one, there was more than one occasion where they just sat behind me even though there was plenty of room.
It got to the point where I almost slowed to a stop, I think I actually yelled at the TV “GO AROUND” – who knows, maybe I should have engaged my indicator instead of my rage. In another example at one point I spun my car around and I knew there were cars behind me, so once I came to a stop I didn’t move so the cars could drive around me but one was so determined to drive their line they just plowed into me anyway, resulting in… inexplicably, a penalty for both of us.
Regarding options for gameplay, you have a career, can play through a season or do a quick race with settings of your choice. I found season and career to be pretty similar to be honest, the main difference is that if you play a season you can choose a car of your choice. If you play career your choice of team or car will be limited by your performance in the junior school. Both are long hauls; practice, followed by three sets of qualifying and two races. When I did medium career, it worked out to be 3 sets of 10 min qualifiers and two lengthy races per track.
There are few things in gaming life as frustrating as trying to deal with both an uncontrollable vehicle but also really fast yet stupid AI. Heaven help you when it comes time to the pit because that is a mission in itself, you need to watch your speed, engage the speed limiter via menu, make your pit choices via that same menu whilst simultaneously trying to drive your vehicle to your pit box and stop. Miss your pit box and you are going to have to go round another lap and try again. Oh and speed through pit road and you will cop yourself a stop and go penalty, meaning you will need to pit again, stop and then leave. This will guarantee you last place in the race.
Graphically, well, it is not photo-realistic. The game is not bad looking at all but it is not on par with current gen racers in general. Also, given the tracks available are playable elsewhere and I’ve raced them in multiple other racers, they just didn’t look right to me, particularly from the in-car view. It felt like the scale was a little off as if the car was a similar size but the tracks were more narrow and shorter. It just did not feel or look right to me.
That all said, incredibly, I don’t actually hate Assetto Corse Competizione. There is a spectrum between arcade and simulation that all racing games sit on and I recognise it is all just personal taste. For me personally I like my racers to have a little bit of both. I like games with loads of historical beautiful cars, that I can drive around famous circuits how I would imagine them to be, not how they (probably) actually are. I am sure if a GT3 car was that easy to wrestle around a track, we would all be professional racing car drivers. I have no doubt there will be some of you that enjoy hardcore simulation racing and may enjoy this game and that is fine, it is just not for me.
- Attention to detail will be appreciated by fans of GT3 racing
- Loads of options and settings will make those that have a racing rig happy
- Limited selection of cars and tracks to race on
- Tricky controls will take some getting used to for most players
- Visuals are not up to to current gen racer standards in general
For most gamers, this one is best avoided. Assetto Corsa Competizione makes Gran Turismo feel like an arcade racer. I know that some will appreciate the finicky gameplay and precision, but for most of us we will feel frustrated trying to tame this racer. I get that esports and simulations are popular at the moment but this is one game that probably did not need to cross from PC to console.