Assetto Corsa Competizione (PC) Preview

By Tomas Barry 26.09.2018

Review for Assetto Corsa Competizione on PC

When it comes to sim racing, Kunos Simulazioni represents the cream of the crop. It has produced many successful titles, such as 2006's netKar Pro and 2010's Ferrari Virtual Academy, that led the pack during a formative time for the genre. However, their crowning jewel in the modern sim-racing age is undeniably Assetto Corsa, released back in 2014. Although other sim-racing titles, such as iRacing, perhaps have it beaten in terms of accessible online infrastructure, Assetto Corsa is widely regarded as the best sim around in terms of pure driving fundamentals. It's a title with excellent physics and handling models, highly detailed force-feedback, and impressively in-depth tyre wear. On PC, it continues to flourish to this day, thanks to a dedicated community and an abundance of track and car mods extending the fun. It's hardly a surprise, then, that Kunos has beaten out the competition for the Blancpain GT Series licence.

The Blancpain GT Series is a highly popular racing competition for GT3-spec cars, comprising two separate championships - the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup. The former was established in 2011, and essentially serves as the GT3-version of Le Mans, whilst the latter was created in 2013 to replace the annexed FIA GT Series. Although the league continues to be tinkered with, it frequents tracks from far and wide and it is, by far, one of the most exciting racing series around, making it the perfect focus for Kunos's newest project. Better still, it features an absolute wealth of manufacturers. Almost everyone is present, from Porsche, to Lexus, to Lamborghini. Of course, all of this is music to the ears of sim-racing fans; what won't be, however, is that for the meantime, Assetto Corsa Competizione is only available in very bare, Early Access form.

That will remain the case for some time. Kunos Simulazioni and 505 Games have opted to release content and new elements for their title incrementally, via a slow but steady schedule. Each month, they will be adding a new car and a new track, as well as implementing different elements of the new Rating System, and introducing other features, such as VR support and enhanced multiplayer. The release schedule is available on the website, running from September through to February, and concluding will the full release in the first quarter of 2019. Essentially, then, those who invest now are agreeing to be drip-fed the experience. On the plus side, though, grabbing it now at a mere £23 means you will own the entire game (and all the content) upon its official release.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa Competizione on PC

The price point should make up for the limited content and functionality in the present. Although it is slim-pickings for now, this staggered approach seems quite wise overall. It shows that the developer is receptive to the input of the sim-racing community, and affords it the breathing space to properly implement tweaks and changes based upon that feedback. This ensures that Assetto Corsa Competizione can achieve the highest possible standards of infrastructure, and for the driving experience at large. Plenty of titles stay in Early Access form forever, as though it's purgatory - or somewhere worse - so Kunos deserves some praise for being open and up-front about its planned schedule and the reasons behind it. Laying out just the essentials, in skeleton form, also indicates it's very confident in its project.

While some may have preferred the follow-up to Assetto Corsa to be as broad as the original in terms of its vehicle emphasis, Kunos Simulazioni asserts that a specialised focus will enable it to properly develop an even greater level of detail, realism, and authenticity. This assertion only makes Assetto Corsa Competizione a more enticing prospect. The jury is out on whether it can accomplish these goals, at least until some of the more important aspects of the title are implemented. What can be said, however, is that Competizione, which is not a fully-fledged sequel but rather a tangent, builds upon Assetto Corsa's core strengths and lays out the foundations for the inevitable full-blown sequel. The title implements some of the most frequently requested features amongst the AC community. Some of these can be sampled in the September build, but others cannot as yet.

Starting with the fundamentals, the initial release provides just the one car, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and the one track, the Grand Prix track of the Nürburgring. This, at least, means players can meticulously examine the force-feedback, and get to know the handling and behaviour of the car intimately. During the preview stage, several hundred laps were put in, using a Logitech G29 wheel and Fanatec Clubsport V3 pedals, and the first impressions are extremely positive. It may take a few sessions to calibrate the pedals to the driver's liking, find the appropriate steering range for your wheel, and dial in the perfect field of view, but once these things are adjusted, the driving experience really does shine. There's an enhanced sense of weight balance within the force-feedback, and the physics have gained a notch or two in terms of realism. The former makes things more intuitive and situations easier to interpret, although the latter means that driving on the edge is a more substantial challenge.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa Competizione on PC

Kunos has provided three preset setups to choose from, which is great news for those who are overwhelmed by creating them from scratch. Each one changes the handling and the finer details of the car's behaviour significantly. The safe preset provides the most stability, with just a tad of understeer. It's a sensible baseline to work out from, and it helps both experienced and amateur drivers get to grips with the new depths of Assetto Corsa Competizione's handling and force-feedback. Then there's the aggressive setup, which was eventually moved onto. This requires considerable precision and really highlights how realistically demanding the driving experience here is. While much faster using this setup, that's with spinning quite a lot where other titles, such as iRacing, the original Assetto Corsa, and rFactor 2 might have been a little more forgiving. Drivers will need to discover a new level of meticulous consistency.

The last setup is the rain preset, which is, unsurprisingly, essential for wet conditions. Yes, that's right. Wet weather racing is available in Assetto Corsa Competizione! This is one of the most highly anticipated features that the existing community wanted to see. For the moment, there aren't many places where sim-racers can satisfy this craving. The original Assetto Corsa has a mod for it, which is quite good but not fantastic. Likewise, rFactor2 and Project Cars 2 have it, but they are not perfect, either. Current sim racing franchises are certainly vying for position in this domain, making it a prominent feature of new titles and future updates. Assetto Corsa Competizione, without question, leads the pack now. Racing in wet conditions is an intense but deeply rewarding challenge, which feels infinitely more authentic than its competitors.

It's a constant battle for the driver, requiring them to be extra calculating. Accommodating for the reduced grip, being mindful of puddles - which may cause aquaplaning - and dealing with the spray from other cars that causes reduced visibility, is exhilarating and terrifying, in equal measure. It's likely that only the seriously GT3 sim racing connoisseurs will be able to master the craft of racing in the wet in Assetto Corsa Competizione, with no assist and entirely manual settings. Thankfully, for the rest of mortals out there, it's a still a blast following suit and just trying to make it through. Dynamic weather will be available down the line, but for now players can choose between light, medium, and heavy rain, as well as storm conditions.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa Competizione on PC

Racing in the rain looks incredible, and really shows off the benefits of the Unreal 4 Engine, which Kunos has switched over to this time around, with few drawbacks. It's especially impressive in the dark, which can be done now since day to night cycles, another highly requested feature, has also been added. Hot-lapping the Nürburgring GP with the rain lashing down, as the sun tucks away and day transitions into night, headlights illuminating the spray, brake lights reflecting in puddles, and rain droplets endlessly careening down the windshield, is a major highlight moment for any sim racer. After clocking twenty laps or so, in an entirely immersed zen-like state of consistency, a realisation hits that things seldom come together quite as well as they have done here. Of course, there's plenty more of the title to analyse, particularly on the multiplayer and infrastructure side of things, but this early sample certainly should get gamers very excited for what's to come from Assetto Corsa Competizione, and sim racing, in general.

The new Rating System is also present, which is a desperately needed equivalent of iRacing's Safety Rating and iRating parameters. However, only certain elements of it, namely Track Competence, Consistency, and Car Control, are available in the first build. They provide some very useful dynamic feedback, and the system also tasks the drivers with evolving objectives across events, such as clocking so many clean laps and maintaining the current pace. Some might think this slightly invasive or distracting, but it has the makings of becoming a seriously useful and informative tool, which could help improve one's standards of driving significantly. It will be interesting to see how these elements work, when all aspects of the Rating System are in place.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa Competizione on PC

Final Thoughts

The first build of Assetto Corsa Competizione may be bare, but for now it excels in terms of its fundamentals. The nuances of the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 show themselves very well through the handling model and the finer details from the force feedback. Hopefully, as more cars are rolled out, it can be confirmed that focusing on one race series has indeed enabled Kunos Simulazioni to produce an even more accurate and authentic driving experience. The addition of wet racing is fantastic, and adds a whole new layer to the sim. It could well set the new standard for others to aspire towards. Day and night cycles are also a welcome addition, bringing even more depth and detail to the experience. There's neither enough of the Rating System implemented, nor other infrastructure to really comment on that side of things yet but, overall, it all looks very promising.

Developer

Kunos Simulazioni

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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