Assetto Corsa (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 03.10.2016

Review for Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4

The origins of racing simulators can be traced all the way back to the eighties, with titles such as Indianapolis 500: The Simulation and even Pole Position providing impressive fleeting moments of 'convincing' realism for their time. It's only much more recently that those extreme hardware limitations have been lifted to the point where ultra-realistic racing simulators are not just dreams of the future, but actually entirely feasible. In this sense, it's a golden age for the genre. Plug in your driving wheels!

Assetto Corsa is one such title that aspires to be at the absolute cutting edge of sim racing. Despite Kunos Simulazioni being a small-scale team of only thirty, their game takes the simulation aspect of their creation extremely seriously. It features an undeniably impressive physics engine, and even simulated tyre wear, which puts the game at the forefront of racing simulation. On top of this, eleven of its twelve tracks were laser-scanned so that every last crack of the road is present and can be felt in the game. On a purely theoretical level, it's hard not to be impressed by the attention to detail and the dedication it takes to achieve this high degree of realism.

The game has been PC-only since it first appeared in Early Access form in 2013. It was added to consistently during that time, and officially released in October 2014 to critical acclaim. It's among a trio of hardcore sim racers (others including rFactor 2 and the subscription-based iRacing) that seem to have contributed to the PC becoming the obvious platform of choice for the genre.

This is not surprising given the numerous advantages, such as having a more extensive choice of driving wheel and stick, better wheel customisation settings inside and outside of the software, as well as much better overall performance and a larger online community. While it seems unlikely that any hardcore fan of racing sims would pick a console version over a PC-based one, it's still somewhat surprising that Assetto Corsa is the very first to make the transition over to console.

Image for

Although the PS4 and Xbox One definitely aren't as capable as many high-end PCs, pleasingly, the central pillars that made Assetto Corsa so brilliant on PC, like the physics engine, are well preserved and in no significant way compromised by being 'downgraded' to generally less powerful hardware. While those elements have been treated with care, though, there are also some issues that make it impossible to say that it's a 'carbon copy' of the PC version in every way that matters.

There's also the issue of the different expectations of a console audience. One has to assume that Kunos and 505 intend to attract fans of Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. However, they don't appear to have been very flexible or understanding of the console racing landscape, which plays host to a much larger range of driving games. This is reflected in the slightly confusing way the game is packaged.

For example, the career mode, a staple for any single-player racer on console, is a dull experience that doesn't teach you anything of note, nor about where to find the joy and value within Assetto Corsa. It could be removed altogether without much loss since, bizarrely, the special events mode - a collection of hot laps, time trials, quick races and drift events presented in bite-size form - seems to be a far better way to absorb the game and start learning. It certainly offers players a far greater variety of course and vehicle, without bombarding or overwhelming them.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4

Even that 'in and out' mode sends a somewhat mixed message about how best to consume Assetto Corsa, though. The reality is that if you can respect as much as you appreciate the simulation aspect of the game, it's entirely possible to get a hundred fulfilling hours of playtime in one car, on one track in time trial. That's exactly where the essence, worth and the pure joy of Assetto Corsa can be found, when you're fully absorbed in a track you have memorised, shaving seconds off the lap time, perfecting that one troublesome corner, and, most importantly, pushing yourself to the known limits of your car and driving capabilities. As long as that respect and appreciation stays intact, this game can be an absolute joy. Crucially, when the player runs over that line and ruins their race, they must be capable of seeing it as an unforgiving but valuable lesson, otherwise it's likely that the frustration will mount all too easily and players will give up.

The worry is, with such a wider audience, many console racing fans might never slip into the right gear to actually appreciate the title, considering the patience and dedication it requires, and the odd packing of the content. Fans more accustomed to casual racing games and the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo certainly have their own set of expectations, which mostly don't get accommodated here. For example, most would expect a career mode where a car can be purchased and upgraded, as well as custom liveries, none of which are available. Again, this is not territory that particularly concerns Kunos, given the mandate of its sim.

In terms of racing difficulty, Assetto Corsa offers the standard range of assists, such as a racing and braking line, to make things more manageable. To put it bluntly, however, making use of these in many ways totally defeats the point of the game to the extent that it's not worth purchasing. It should be noted that some reviews of the console version actually criticise the fact that a small clip of the kerb can send the player spinning out instantly, as if they're testing an arcade racer. The idea that racing simulation can somehow adapt itself for that type of audience, whilst keeping its core principles intact, seems somewhat farcical.

Image for

Perhaps, then, that indicates something about the general expectations imposed on console racers when they seek a wider audience, and indicates why Assetto Corsa was doomed to fail in communicating its 'pure sim' ethos to these newer customers. There aren't many games that want to be as rigid as this on console, in fairness.

With that said, the actual core requirements to enjoy the game could have been made a lot clearer, with a career mode that wasn't mostly extrapolated from a slightly disjoined and early build from the PC version. Given the delays to the game's release, it's disappointing that 505 and Kunos didn't think to flesh out this area of the game, with the wider console audience in mind. The course selections are particularly dull, and on top of this, the AI seems to be overly aggressive, with a lot of moments when the player seems to be respecting everybody's position, yet still gets bombarded off the track. This leads to a lot of unnecessary frustration early on, just as you're coming to terms with the many facets of keeping the car under control.

However, once the player is up to scratch, familiar with their preferred car and the course they intend to race (which could require a lot of time and patience), racing sims are always best experienced online with other human drivers. Unfortunately, this is where the game should excel, but in reality fails before it even gets started. There are no private lobbies in Assetto Corsa on consoles, which is thoroughly disappointing. Without the option to play only amongst your specific friends, you're condemned to playing with the somewhat clueless (or at least unprepared) in public lobbies.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4

There is a decent community of serious racers out there on console servers, but there are also drastically higher percentages of casual players who don't seem to have appreciated the steep learning curve required for this game. For this reason, the PC version is superior, as its community is comprised of people who are more sim-attuned and dedicated to playing the game the way its makers intended.

The other glaring issue with Assetto Corsa on console is its glitch-ridden live stats reporting, which, to this day, has still not been fixed. Firstly, why do they have to be so different from the PC version? Secondly, it just seems crazy to have access to amazingly thorough telemetry details, but not be able to know for sure what position you're in during a race. It's ridiculous when concentration can be broken because of a distracting double-take glance at the race position, and this problem definitely undermines the game in an embarrassing way. Considering the delays, this seems to suggest a rushed game.

Almost all of that is forgiven, though, when you're tearing down Silverstone at 160mph. The selection of cars is a little bare in comparison to other racers, and it's obviously quite Italian-influenced, but it definitely covers the spectrum of classes adequately. Each of these cars feels incredibly distinct, and it takes a good amount of adjustment to get used to each vehicle's quirks. Thanks to the physics engine, there's a convincing and meaningful impression of the car's weight and pull. The contrast between a Ferrari 458, which tears down straights like a juggernaut, but needs the gentlest and most cautious handling for corners, and an Abarth 500, which weaves through turns like a breeze and by comparison feels like a pebble, stands out like no other racing game on console.

Image for

The selection of tracks is very Euro-centric, missing out on a good volume of traditional staples for racing fans, like Laguna Seca or Road America. This actually seems to work in its favour in many ways, though, since the Euro-centric focus adds a sense of character to the game. There's enough variety, and plenty of the classics, such as Nurburgring, Monza, Silverstone and Spa available. The twelve tracks have 27 configurations in total. Despite games like Project CARS having Assetto Corsa clearly beaten in most elements of choice, again, it's hard to say how much that matters when the latter is so determined to be a sim. You definitely can't memorise all those tracks, and it's difficult to have a masterful grasp of more than one or two cars at a time.

Another aspect of Assetto Corsa that helps the fundamentals of the gameplay really shine is its excellent audio. It's not just the impressively replicated and distinct roar that every engine exhibits, but also the small details, like trapped gravel rattling on the underside of the car for a few seconds when rejoining the track on an over-run corner. Though the player may not necessarily appreciate this detail, while getting attuned to the revs of the engine for the perfect gearshift or listening out for the first squeak of wheel-slip, it's surprising how attached and reliant one becomes to them. The quality of the audio definitely reinforces the intensity of the experience as a whole, and makes for an even more engrossing race when playing with headphones or good speakers.

To get the best out of the game, it should go without saying that a driving wheel setup is paramount. It was tested with a Logitech G29 wheel and stick for this review, and performed extremely well. Assetto Corsa does a much better job of implying the weight of the car than its competitors, and the force feedback from the G29 provides a remarkable feeling of the laser-scanned roads, each and every crack. Input lag was negligible, though it's worth noting it will perform better on a monitor than a television.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4

Whilst testing the latter, there were a few cases where it felt like the lag was at least partly responsible for a botched lap. Although it's not feasible to totally eliminate lag, every microsecond counts and it is a big sticking point for hardcore racing fans, since a large amount of input lag puts the player in an impossible situation. If the driver can only feel the car start to slide out after it's started, and it then it takes more time for your input to take effect, then that essentially means he or she has to predict the future and react to it beforehand in order to stay in control.

In-game customisation options for a driving wheel include general force feedback, as well as kerb, road, slip and understeer. Different brands of wheels may require slightly different tunings, but the box settings were adequate and only required minor adjustments.

While a driving wheel is definitely preferable, the performance of the controller is also very good. It seems highly optimised, with no discernible drawbacks that would put a player at a disadvantage, except a slight twitchiness from the analogue stick. This is something that the player can learn to suppress in very little time, or can do so by modifying the sensitivity. The vibration feedback on the pad seems very detailed and does an admirable job of replicating the more powerful feedback provided from driving wheels. Something that definitely helps keep things sensible is the factory settings for ABS and traction control, which ensures the cars are experienced as their makers intended.

Image for

Assetto Corsa on PS4 and Xbox One is a game that retains its class, but perhaps not its composure. Though the hyper-realistic physics engine has been perfectly preserved, and the thrill of sim racing can now be experienced on console without much dilution, there is still a lot to pick fault with here. In particular, the lack of private sessions online, the shoddy stat glitches (which still remain), and the confusing way the game is presented through its single-player modes are all very difficult to overlook. These issues certainly don't help to promote the game's stern and sim-heavy ethos. There's also DLC that's been on the PC for a long time that is absent here, which seems aggravating, considering it will presumably turn up later at a price. Particularly given the two delays of release, this raises some eyebrows.

In many ways, this release still seems like it's in Early Access. The core components are solid, but a lot of the other elements still seem a bit raw. What's so surprising is that the game didn't require creation from the ground up, as it's just a port of sorts, so surely there was time to address the glaring glitches, and consider the slightly contradictory presentation of the content, particularly the lifeless career mode.

Screenshot for Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

In conclusion, ignoring the stat glitches, lack of private lobbies and the somewhat questionable way the game is packaged, what's underneath the hood is seriously impressive. Any dedicated racing nuts who feel like testing themselves at the wheel on console should look no further. While there are other console games, such as Project CARS, with more cars and more courses, claiming also to be serious racers, Assetto Corsa undeniably owns the genre on console now, due to its uncompromising and unwavering dedication to realism. For now, there's nothing better for that on console. It's just a shame that it lacks the polish and omits some major draws, such as private online lobbies, which stop it from being considered a classic.

Developer

Kunos Simulazioni

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie

There are 1 members online at the moment.