Assetto Corsa seeks to be the most authentic racer on the market. It focuses solely on capturing the feel of sitting in the cockpit. Its developer Kunos Simulazioni has been creating sim racers since 2006’s netKar Pro. So, the Italian studio knows a thing or two about this challenging genre. Driving games are a niche genre, and this is amplified even further when the word “simulator” is thrown into the mix. Released in 2014, Assetto Corsa is arguably the company’s most accomplished project. But, is it worth checking out?
Be the Driver
When it comes purely to the act of driving, Assetto Corsa is the best sim racer on the market. Shipping with a respectable lineup of cars and just under 20 tracks, Assetto Corsa focuses on quantity over quality in the areas that truly matter. None of the vehicles control the same way, with each requiring dozen-upon-dozens of hours to learn, let alone master.
The same extends to the tracks. Memorizing a map’s layout is crucial for standing any hope of securing a podium finish. You cannot learn Assetto Corsa’s tracks on the fly. You must prepare to spend a significant amount of hours driving solo in the practice mode. Once you gain familiarity, you can jump into the Career Mode. Although, it may be more rewarding to just opt for a single race.
While there is an impressive collection of vehicles, players should not just flip-flop from one car to the next. Unlike arcade racers or a sim like Project Cars, Assetto Corsa’s lineup provides something to suit everyone’s fancy, rather than just making up the numbers.
Overall, the cars are divided into nine different genres, although any area can be further split into different classes. Along with vehicles designed specifically for a race type (Supra MKIV Drift), each genre contains a handful of cars intended to familiarize beginners with the controls. For example, the 2 Eleven is a great starting option. Beginners should outright ignore supercars until much later down the line. Deciphering which cars are prone to understeering or have poor traction becomes vital.
Although Assetto Corsa is not a graphical powerhouse, the cars are nevertheless universally striking, which extends to the detailed cockpit view. As a sim, the point of the experience is to provide users with as much control as possible. To this end, Assetto Corsa provides a robust set of tuning options that you can tweak prior to an event.
In a race, players need to monitor various aspects of their vehicle, although there is the option to slightly reduce the realism. This may be useful in the beginning, but should be quickly eliminated for those seeking to jump into the multiplayer.
While a brilliant simulator, Assetto Corsa is a deeply flawed game. For a title seeking to celebrate the art of racing, the campaign offers very little in the way of fanfare. Along with standard races that allow for up to 15 A.I. opponents, Assetto Corsa’s Career mainly offers drifts, drags, and time trials. Putting aside practice mode, players will primarily spend their time in Career, Special Events, or multiplayer.
Spanning at least 30 hours, Career is disappointing. If forced to find a positive, the campaign succeeds in gradually introducing users to the more challenging vehicles. Unfortunately, this is literally the only sense of progression found in this slog of a mode. It feels closer to a string of quick matches than an interconnected campaign. Once you complete a race, the results unceremoniously pop on the screen before sending you back to the menu. Game modes feel like an afterthought in Assetto Corsa.
Despite offering more of the same, Special Events are a slight improvement because the user can decide the order to tackle any available races. It’s nothing major, but this difference makes Special Events feel less indifferent than the Career.
The A.I. is also a mixed bag, mainly because opponents appear to be operating in a far more forgiving universe. Even on the lowest difficulty, a single mistake is enough to guarantee a lower finish, especially if Assetto Corsa’s overly punishing penalty system is turned on. Conversely, the A.I.’s mechanical driving is a frustrating match for the realistic controls imposed on the user.
If playing on PC, the multiplayer is fine but – unsurprisingly – comes with a rather high entry barrier. Learning to drive with other users takes time and effort, as there are various rules that need to be followed to ensure a fair match. There are multiple servers dedicated to different classes, and it is generally recommended to use a racing wheel. Unfortunately, finding an online match on consoles is far from an easy task.
Assetto Corsa does not seek to be welcoming or even fun, prioritizing realism above all else. Kunos Simulazioni has undeniably crafted a stellar sim experience. Consequently, you should consider Assetto Corsa only if you seek a game experience outside of traditionally satisfying racers. If this sounds like your type of thing, then Assetto Corsa might just be your new favorite game.