By now simulation fans will be well aware of Assetto Corsa and that it’s a simulation racer that’s adored by PC gamers around the world. A game from a small studio that came out of nowhere and muscled its way to the front row grid in their efforts to dice the big guns. It’s now finally ported to consoles, but does it fall into the traditional port conundrum or does it pass the finish line in flying colours?
Only aliens need apply
First things first – Assetto Corsa is a simulation racing game, nothing less, nothing more. If you like arcade racing in any sense of the word you should stop reading this review right now. It’s only made for the hardcore of hardcore simulation racing fans. It’s also only made for those who have supernatural powers from the beyond as Assetto Corsa is easily the most brutal experience I’ve ever had in a racing game. Jump into your first race and you’ll walk away frustrated and downright despondent.
[pullquote_left]In the car setup you can tamper away at everything, but that of course means that you’ll need a very good understanding of motorcars.[/pullquote_left]Assetto Corsa does not have a huge amount of modes, but there’s enough to sink your teeth into. Special Events will set you up with a scenario using a specific car where you have to drive a Hot Lap, Time Attack, Drift or Quick Race. Meet the time, position or score and you’ll be awarded a bronze, silver or gold tier medal. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to head to the Career mode, and this is where you’ll pull your hair out and throw your wheel spanners. You see, Assetto Corsa is so difficult that I’m still, after 15 hours of racing, stuck on the Novice Series. Change the default difficulty, that was on hard (it goes up to ‘Alien’), to easy and you’ll feel a relief when crossing the line in fourth place. It’s a tough game. So how do you get around this? There’s no way of upgrading your car with improved parts. Your only way to improve your car is to tweak away at the car setup.
Tune this game before it tunes you
In the car setup you can tamper away at everything, but that of course means that you’ll need a very good understanding of motorcars. Head to the suspension and you can set the pressure of each wheel, the camber, toe, height and springs. Also be sure to set your dampers by adjusting the bump, fast bump, rebound, fast rebound, packer rate and travel range. Ensure the gear ratio is just perfect and that you have the right tyre selection and pray that it’ll help you succeed. Not sure what on Earth you’re doing? You’ll find some great setups online that’ll help you setup each car for a specific track. Problem is that after doing all this I was still stuck and could not continue the career as the AI was just far too aggressive and fast for me to catch them. After 3 hours of frustration I moved over to the Drive menu… where I finally found ‘the game’.
Here you can Practice (oh, you’ll need it, that’s for sure), enter Quick Races, a Race Weekend, the online multiplayer (which wasn’t yet functioning), Hotlap, Time Attack and Drift. Suddenly I was having fun and before I knew it I had entered a 100-lap race driving a Nissan GT-R GT3 around Mugello. The feeling of gaining one position is just about unmatched by any other racer I’ve ever played before as you have to work so hard for it. No rewinds to correct your mistake – make sure you hit your brake point or make peace with the fact that you’ll end up in more sand than David Hasselhoff. There are however some other serious setbacks that spoiled that experience.
Consoles receive some of its own medicine
Forget about the 60 FPS the developers were aiming for. It’s all over the place. There’s also a serious case of screen tearing and, when you’re racing in bumper cam view, you’ll notice some jaggies on the cars – something I’ve not seen in a game for years. The roadside textures look bland by today’s standards. Sadly these issues all scream one thing: PORT! There is some good though.
[pullquote_right]The thing with Assetto Corsa is that you can see there’s lots of heart that’s gone into it, and you really want to love it, but it keeps fighting back.[/pullquote_right]The sound effects are actually quite good. Perhaps not up there with what we’ve heard in Project CARS, but it’s next level when you think of something like Gran Turismo. The tracks in the game include Spa, Silverstone, Vallelunga, Zandvoort, Nordschleife and more. It’s a fantastic track selection and some of the older tracks, such as the Monza 1966 course, are just sublime to drive on when using an open-top oldschool F1 car. All-in-all there are just over 100 cars, though I was surprised to see some DLC cars showing up in the menu. All these cars are exquisitely detailed and you won’t find the ‘standard car’ nonsense (that plagued Gran Turismo 6) as each car has its own interior detailed right down to every stitch.
The thing with Assetto Corsa is that you can see there’s lots of heart that’s gone into it, and you really want to love it, but it keeps fighting back. It’s in dire need of a patch to fix the difficulty, but unfortunately no patch will solve the screen tearing and frame rate issues… and in a racing game there is no bigger sin.