Assetto Corsa [Review]

Assetto Corsa is certainly a game that isn't done in halves, developer Kunos Simulazioni take the tried and tested driving simulator to the next level. Extremely realistic handling physics and a host of racing tracks laser scanned from top to bottom help create a racing simulator that is just about as close as you would get to being a real life race car driver.

My initial experience with Assetto Corsa was a mixed bag, playing the game prior to release saw me dealing with regular tearing and constant frame rate drops, luckily a day one patch was made available to help ease my pain. Don't get me wrong, the screen tearing was still noticeable, but the patch improved it, albeit marginally.

Graphically the game does have some positives, the recreation of world renowned race tracks such as Spa, Brands Hatch and Núrburgring are very impressive, even more so when you are red lining Ferrari FXXK or a Lotus 49 Grand Prix, hoping your tires stay the course as you pump the throttle on a corner exit after a heavy dose of braking. Sadly Assetto Corsa doesn't have a huge stable of vehicles and tracks and does not feature real-time weather simulation, there are track variants which add predetermined weather effects to a specific race type but dynamic weather would have added to the overall experience.

The games soundtrack is also impressive, each and every vehicle within Assetto sound distinctive, no two motors are the same, Kunos certainly did their homework on the audio front, differences when inside the drivers seat to outside the car alter levels and tones, hearing vehicles rubbing and coming together, comes across as you would expect.

One other thing I noticed during my playthrough ties directly to the controls, when you select automatic transmission the game seemed to have an unnecessary delay before downshifting through the gears, it was a hindrance and regularly cost me during races.

Diving into Assetto Corsa I thought tackling the Career Mode would allow me to shape a broad, more structured opinion of the overall racing experience, I've had decent success over the years in Forza and Gran Turismo and naturally assumed that small amount of racing ability would translate into Assetto.

Boy was I wrong.

The AI I was pitted against were on an entirely different level to me, I was Bart Simpson in the Soap Box Derby, they were Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1. Even while racing on the lower difficulty levels I found myself constantly off track, perfection is required right from the outset and the margin of error between competing and a potato is very, very slim. I was left in the dust by overly aggressive AI more often than not, mainly due to them smashing into me as if it were destruction derby, seriously it was like Death Race out there. What made matters worse than during these slamfests I seemed to be the only one ever spinning out, AI vehicles were indestructible. 

Being successful in Career Mode would take hours upon hours of practice, I managed to almost make it to the third tier and even then it was a complete struggle. Luckily I had more success in the other single player variants, known as "Special Events", which is a freeplay mode take off on Career. Options include Time Attack, Quick Races, Hotlap and Drift Mode. That same God like AI is present in Quick Races so I'd recommend giving that a miss, Hotlap is you trying to set the fastest lap on a specific course.

Drift is interesting, it doesn't tackle the mode as admirably as the Need for Speed series but I had fun doing hand brake burnouts and just generally throwing cars around, I never managed to crack the Gold tier in scoring though, not even close. Time Attack tasks you with sprinting through multiple checkpoints to ensure a timer doesn't reach zero, this mode was very enjoyable and certainly the easiest of all the "Special Events", even if I did completely butcher a few runs.

Sadly at time of writing I wasn't able to try out the Online Mode, which allows up to 16 different racers to compete for glory, and see if people struggled to handle these cars as much as I did.

Assetto Corsa does a lot of things well and provides a level of realism we haven't seen in driving simulators, however under the games hood lies a few dents and cracks which takes away from the overall game experience.

2.5 out of 5

+ High Levels of Realism
+ True to Life Handling
- Small Car Selection
- Overly Aggressive AI