This review was contributed by freelance writer David Latham.
Assetto Corsa has earnt a stellar reputation on PC as being the best racing simulator experience in recent years, and is a must-have for enthusiasts. When 505 Games announced back in June 2015 that it would be making its way to consoles, fans of the series were unsurprisingly excited about experiencing the racing sim in the comfort of their lounge room and/or console racing setup. After two frustrating delays, Assetto Corsa finally hit the shelves for Playstation 4 and Xbox One at the end of August 2016.
The gameplay is made up of two main sections: A career mode made up of 27 different series to work your way through, and 94 “Special Events” where you drive certain vehicles on certain tracks. Both modes will have you trying to achieve certain objectives including drifting, hot laps, time attacks and of course races. As to be expected, Assetto Corsa is an incredibly technical simulator and therefore its difficulty level is very high, and not for the casual gamer. Just getting a place in a race or staying on the track in a time attack as to not earn penalties is challenging. If Dark Souls was a racing game, it would be this.
Fortunately, in order to progress through the career mode, you are not required to earn a gold medal in every event. In fact, in the first few series you barely need any medals at all, despite having 5 or 6 different challenges. It’s an interesting way to do progression and not one you see in your typical racing game, where you would have to come first or restart, but it was difficult to come to terms with not being capable of coming first in every race. There are four difficulty levels, being easy, medium, hard and alien. Coming from someone that gets continually prompted in the Forza Motorsport series to increase difficulty to Pro, easy was more than hard enough to get started in Assetto Corsa. Without a racing wheel or even a full setup with a roll-cage, the difficulty level should almost certainly be set to easy. Using the dual-shock, you don’t really get to experience the full capacity of what Assetto Corsa is, and in the console market, owners are likely to buy the game off the shelf without realizing this, leading to a frustrating encounter.
I had two big pet peeves with Assetto Corsa. First was the penalty system, where if you leave the track bounds you’re forced to take your foot off the accelerator for five seconds. The game says “slow down”, but doesn’t determine at what speed, meaning you simply can’t use the accelerator pedal at all. If you’re at a standstill due to hitting a wall, you literally have to wait five seconds until you can revitalize your race. If you ignore the warning, you’ll teleport to the pits and be disqualified. The other main gripe was the racing line. Racing lines are meant to assist players that may be finding a racing game or simulator challenging. It was amazing to see that for such a tough simulator like Assetto Corsa, the racing line is almost entirely useless. It isn’t reactive to how fast you’re going, it tells you to brake when you don’t need to, and it basically does not assist you at all. All your other usual assists are there such as TCM and ABS, but without extra keys there is no way to actively switch these on and off during a race, unlike in the game’s PC counterpart.
Without delving too deep into the world of racing simulators and everyone’s opinions, Assetto Corsa has never had the best physics. Sims like iRacing and RFactor 2 are arguably better in this aspect, while not looking as pretty as Assetto Corsa. So to say Assetto Corsa is a racing simulator and that casual racing fans should not compare it to Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo is fair enough, but the game itself should be attempting to stand out. Unfortunately, it falls short in both the physics and the graphics rendering departments.
The game does look great, just not the best. Be careful taking too close of a look at the environment too, as you’ll see the trees are 3 2d textures in a star-like foundation. The developers said the rendering engine had to be rebuilt for the Playstation 4, and with performance targets of 1080p and 60FPS, it would seem the environment was cut back and doesn’t compare to other titles. The vehicles all look top-notch, but in 2016 gamers would not accept anything less, so without the option to customise the body, or fiddle with a fancy paint job, there’s not really anything special about how the cars look in Assetto Corsa. The graphics, as a whole, for a 2016 title, felt remarkably clunky and just didn’t match the finesse/polish of other racing titles currently on the market.
Jump online with Assetto Corsa and you’re greeted with dedicated servers. The game actually plays better online, as the difficulty of racing online is a different kind of difficult. When you join a server you get to choose between a set list of cars, and then start practice, qualifying or race sessions. Unfortunately, the downside of there only being dedicated servers is that there are no private servers, meaning there’s no option to set a race up the way you want. Hopefully, we might see this with a future update.
Assetto Corsa is not a fun game; some might not even call it a game, but at its core it’s a racing simulator that can be enjoyed. Unfortunately for the console version, it was too little too late.’ Being released almost two years after its full release (and another year after its initial early access release) on PC, the game feels empty and lifeless. Some have even gone so far as to call it incomplete. Perhaps 505 Games should have started with an Ultimate Edition for the consoles with more tracks and cars, to better help match what fans of the series have already been enjoying for years on PC.
- A good entry-level racing simulator for console owners
- Promising future content (at a price)
- Lifeless menu screens
- Harsh penalty system
- Useless racing line
- Not fun