With the newest iteration of Gran Turismo soon to hit the PS4 and a duo of Forza Motorsport titles currently available on the Xbox One, those who like their racers to have a healthy dose of realism already have their bases covered, and that’s even before considering the multiplatform Project CARS.
Assetto Corsa by Kunos Simulazioni, which has been available on PC for some time now, aims to push the envelope of realism even further for console owners, bringing some of the most accurately recreated real world cars and tracks and a driving model that’s about as faithful as you can get to the table. Unfortunately though, for most, the game they’re attached to will just be as dull as dishwater.
It’s not through a lack of content that those looking for a worthwhile single player experience will quickly tire of Assetto Corsa’s offerings – with a Career mode spanning over 150 events and a separate Special Event mode with over a hundred more, there’s plenty to get stuck into – but it’s rather the dire way it’s presented and the total lack of a feel of progression that makes it all just feel rather pointless. Split into groups of four to eight events, each stage of the career mode requires you perform adequately enough to proceed to the next, but there’s little impetus to do so. You make your way through bog standard menus, fiddling with the rather barebones options on offer to get the experience suited to your needs as best as you can, but after completing any event you rarely feel like you’ve achieved anything despite its grave difficulty level – thanks mainly to the total lack of fanfare and the only option being to quit back to the career menu unless you want to try again.
If there was something to make trudging through Assetto Corsa’s career or special event modes worthwhile, such as unlockable cars or tracks, or even some kind of leaderboard system so that you could compare your progress against others, then they would maybe just scrape by as being a decent waste of your time. Instead, unless you’re a stickler for achievements or trophies there’s no reason whatsoever to subject yourself to them – with everything unlocked right from the outset, you may as well create any event you desire from the wide range of cars and tracks available in the exhibition-like Drive mode. You can arrange your own races and drift events, try to beat the clock in time attack and hot lap events, or even engage in full race weekend. And of course, there’s also the option to play online, which is where the competition really heats up, but it’s hampered by a disappointing lack of options and some serious performance issues.
Playing the Xbox One version for this review, screen tearing occurs with a frightening regularity across all modes, and whilst the framerate is never so bad as to deeply affect the gameplay, it never feels like the smooth experience that Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport so diligently strive to provide. I could understand if the visuals were pushing what the Xbox One was capable of, but, in all honesty, they’re not particularly special.
Playing online also throws up a further, more alarming issue; a serious case of stuttering. All the races I entered into online were plagued by this strange concern which made it really unfulfilling to play, and whilst there could have been network issues at work it doesn’t bode well for the game’s online presence. If the stuttering is cleared up after launch however, then the online mode is clearly where many players will be spending most of their time despite its lacklustre offerings.
It’s a real shame that Assetto Corsa is stuck with uninspiring modes and presentation issues as the actual act of driving is engrossing and rewarding – at least for serious racing fans anyway. The cars handle brilliantly and they truly feel like they have a connection to the road, offering a great deal of audio and visual feedback. And surprisingly, whilst it’s obviously best played with a steering wheel, the controls are even spot on with a pad. There’s even a wealth of car setup options available, meaning that countless hours can be had tinkering with settings as you strive to beat your best lap times.
Unfortunately though, for many players this just won’t be enough to warrant a purchase, and it also doesn’t help the game is not welcoming to newcomers entering the world of serious racing sims at all. There’s a total lack of tutorials and explanation of menu options, and worse still is that the crutch for many a player – the suggested racing line – is not even dynamic, making it absolutely useless.
To say that Assetto Corsa is a disappointment is a bit of an understatement. The recent DiRT Rally by Codemasters proved that a sim could still be a good game – challenging and authentic, yet fun, with a career that feels engrossing and rewarding – but Assetto Corsa just feels dull and pointless in comparison, and that’s before you consider the numerous technical issues. No doubt there’ll still be a contingent of racing fanatics that can eke some real enjoyment out of it thanks to its solid driving model, but the overwhelming majority of wannabe racers out there are best sticking to the likes of Forza.