Racing games are never in short supply, with an abundance of new additions gracing our consoles in various forms, at a rather frequent pace. Recent years have even seen the arrival of a genre only seen on PC, with hardcore racing simulators now finding their way to consoles. Last year saw the arrival of the well-received Project Cars to compete alongside the already popular Forza franchise, with Project Cars aiming to offer a more ‘realistic’ approach to racing. This year however brings the arrival of a direct competitor within the simulation genre with the release of Assetto Corsa pushing realism as a top priority.
The developers, Kunos Simulazioni, certainly picked an inspiring location for development with their office right next to the Autodromo Vallelunga, but with games such as the previously mentioned Forza series and Project cars already offering a vast racing experience it would take much more than inspiration to take the crown. With that in mind I jumped in to see if Assetto Corsa has what it takes to be the next go to game for racing fans.
From the off there are three ways to play the game, these include Drive, Career and Special Events, with each of these containing several different game modes within.
Drive is the best place to start for those who like to gain some practice and experience before heading into the competitive stuff. This option gives the player a good opportunity to get to grips with the various game mode offerings as well as the cars and tracks with a one off event in the mode of your choosing. There are seven different game modes in total including Practice, Quick Race, Race Weekend, Hotlap, Time Attack, Drift and Online.
Being a long time gamer, I’m fully aware that Career mode is where the vast part of gameplay in most games take place so after a few minutes with the Practice mode I decided to take my journey here to start out on my path to the podium… or mechanical failure. Whichever the case may be!
Career mode sees the player tackle and advance through a number of series starting out with the novice series, through intermediate before progressing to manufacturer specific championship events. Progression is controlled by the number of medals accrued throughout events, however with no real goal to achieve or anything to aim for, it doesn’t take too long to notice that career mode is actually rather uninspiring. Sure there are different events for you to take part in and a decent number of series for you to complete, but even with the different series on offer, it seems nothing more than a handful of random events chucked into a small list for you to complete one after the other. This can very quickly feel like more of a checklist rather than a full blown career mode.
What really takes the fun out of career mode however is the gameplay itself.
Being the main focus of the game, you would think that the racing side of things would be finely tuned by this point, especially given that Assetto Corsa is aimed to be a racing simulator, however this isn’t the case at all. A.I. within the game are possibly some of the most unbalanced A.I. I have come across. No matter whether you find yourself trying to defend your position or trying to catch other racers you will still be facing the impossible!
Defending a position often means finding yourself on the receiving end of an A.I. driver with more aggression than the Terminator. For me this often ended with being promptly shoved off the track, almost as if I was never there in the first place, which would in turn see a penalty received for going off track. With penalties in the game requiring the player to actually stop the car instead of a simple slow down, it was only a matter of time before I was forced to try again. Of course to experience this however you must first catch up to the opposition and this is a near impossible task on its own. During my time with the game I found myself forced to restart events over and over countless times due the simple fact that no matter what difficulty level I played on, all the other cars would be much too fast to even get close enough to attempt an overtake. For a game mode that requires a set number of medals earnt from a podium finish in order to progress, it became quite apparent that no matter how many attempts I made, the only events that I would stand any chance receiving medals for would be the ones in which no other cars were on track.
Unfortunately, the Special Events section doesn’t provide much credibility and instead simply adds to the overall disappointment of the game. Events provide nothing new to the experience, with players once more given a large list of seemingly random events to work their way through. With no real reason to do so, this feels more like a chore rather than an enjoyable experience.
The final option for racing that offers any real difference is the online option, however this is another of the many fronts Assetto Corsa currently lacks on compared to the many other racing options currently out there. Multiplayer racing is full of issues of its own, issues that really put a halt to this being good enough for an enjoyable online experience. If freezing for a few seconds isn’t bad enough then the framerate surely will be. As a general rule I tend to not really focus on the graphics of a game when talking about the quality of a game, however, when it starts to affect the gameplay then it is something that needs to be brought to attention. As an issue that was already prevalent in the single player offering, this simply ends up ruining the multiplayer experience altogether. With every turn proving much too quick for the game to handle it feels more like I am playing something in early access rather than a full blown racing simulator. Every corner would see the screen flicker and when a simple corner turns into a blown engine things can quickly become quite boring.
It is also worth noting that I fully intended to review Assetto Corsa with both the controller and the Logitech G920 steering wheel set-up to see how both faired with game, however after just a few minutes with the earlier mentioned practice session, framerate issues and the lack of suitable options such as steering sensitivity, it quickly made the steering wheel useless with the smallest and slightest movement throwing the car off the track.
One direction praise must certainly go to for the folks at Kunos Simulazioni is with the creation of truly brilliant visuals to each of the twenty-seven laser scanned tracks within the game. Even with several of the included circuits boiling down to different variations, there is more than enough difference in each to warrant an inclusion as an extra track. Tracks such as the legendary Monza 1966 and the infamous Nurburgring are present in perfect detail, along with inclusion of the great Zandvoort track in the Netherlands.
As for the vehicles included within Assetto Corsa, no less than 102 different cars from 21 different manufacturers have been lovingly crafted with Ferrari and Lamborghini present along with the likes of BMW, Mclaren and Pagani as well. All are complete with a meticulous attention to detail and the fantastic visuals to each are on show from the start.
Whilst Kunos Simulazioni have created truly brilliant visuals for each of the vehicles within the game, it goes without saying that Assetto Corsa would have been better suited to the Preview program rather than full release at the present time. The menus are clunky to use and with horrible frame rates and poorly balanced A.I. running riot, it seems 505 games would have been better to have allowed Kunos Simulazioni the extra development time needed before releasing the game in such an unpolished and unfinished state.