Usually, there are two general types of driving games to choose from – either hardcore simulation, along the likes of Gran Turismo and Project CARS; or arcade, like Split/Second and Ridge Racer. On occasion, there’s a game that does very well in both categories, like Microsoft’s acclaimed Forza series, but otherwise, it’s a pretty fair division between the two types of audiences.
Assetto Corsa, which established its brand on PC before making its way to consoles this week, is definitely something more on the sim side. 505 Games’ release is attempting to capture the market usually dominated by more established hits, like Gran Turismo and Project CARS, before the lines of Forza Horizon 3 comes roaring down the pike later this month. It’s good timing, but, unfortunately, the core game leaves something to be desired.
That’s not to say that Assetto Corsa doesn’t understand its racing – after all, there’s a good reason that the game built a fairly strong audience on the PC front. The gameplay is definitely something up a technical racer’s alley, whether it comes to handling your vehicle around turns, maintaining a proper speed, or tinkering with little settings on each of the cars to signify your ride however you see fit. If you’re a car junkie, you’ll spend hours on end seeing what the little tinkers do for you, and maintaining enough stance with the gameplay to keep going for a while.
But, see, that’s it – Assetto Corsa is all about technical set-up. The game itself doesn’t really measure up to the car aesthetic model, and that’s a big problem. The modes you get to choose from don’t really have a lot to offer. The career mode often feels meaningless, mainly because you don’t get to reap many rewards from a first place victory – if you can get a first place victory, at that, as the AI can be all over the place. What’s more, the game’s online component feels bare-bones, especially compared to masterful efforts like Forza Horizon 2 and Project CARS. It’s just…barely there, and that’s something that will turn a few players off.
Also, like some Codemasters releases in the past, Assetto Corsa slams the door in the face of rookie drivers, and that’s going to turn off a large chunk of the racing crowd. There are no tutorials to speak of here, meaning younger and less-advanced drivers will have to jump in with both feet on a practice lap, starting over and over and over again to register a lap time as they veer off the road. It’s a shame that 505 couldn’t have thrown in better education to go with the advanced car model, so the rest of the audience can enjoy the game as much as the die-hards. It’s like being given the keys to a fancy car, but having instructions in an entirely different language.
What’s worse, the presentation just can’t keep up. While some of the racing courses look great, Assetto Corsa has a number of inconsistencies with frame rate, details, car models and car views. The inside-the-car view is downright ugly, as if you’ve been compressed when you should be feeling wide open. And the drop in performance is inexcusable, especially when Forza Horizon 2 – a two year old game for chrissakes, performs way better. Had the team provided the same level of polish as other racing games of this breed, we’d be getting somewhere. Alas, stuck in neutral.
The audio is lacking as well, with only car engine noises to entertain you over the course of a race. The music is kinda meh when it comes to selection – not even any good racing tunes to speak of – and there’s hardly much else here. You’d think that 505 Games would’ve gone for a full driving experience, instead of one that’s cut off in so many areas.
And before you go, “Well, maybe you’re not skilled enough to play Assetto Corsa, Robert,” hear me out. There is a way to balance a certain level of difficulty within a game, but still provide a great, guiding experience to bring people into it. Case into point: DiRT Rally from Deep Silver. The game is tough as nails, but wildly fun to play, and it actually teaches you a thing or two about the world of rally racing, whereas Assetto Corsa simply exists to frustrate, rather than exhilarate.
I have a hard time recommending a game like Assetto Corsa. If you’re a racing jockey seeking a fresh challenge, you’ll definitely get one here, though the replayability definitely leaves something to be desired, thanks to the lack of any significant modes. The presentation doesn’t really do the game any favors either, simply spinning its wheels. And the lack of any sort of training for a game like this is just plain inexcusable.
The higher class of racing fan may come to appreciate Assetto Corsa, but to the rest of the driving crowd, it’ll simply feel like Ass.