First things first, Assetto Corsa Competizione is a video game in packaging only. In reality once you’ve cracked open your new purchase, you’ll find one of the single most difficult and realistic racing simulators ever.
Right from the intro, Assetto Corsa Competizione proudly states that this experience is not plug and play. So, if you’re the kind of person who likes a leisurely Sunday drive to the shops with grandma, this may not be the game for you. It’s fast, terrifyingly accurate, brutally honest and unforgiving. It is not for the faint of heart.
Owning this game should come with a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology, because you’ll possibly need it to master control of your vehicle. It’s actually quite daunting at first glance. Where some sim racers at least hand you some tools to learn and grow with the experience, Assetto Corsa Competitizione rips off the training wheels and throws you right into the face of one of the steepest learning curves that we’ve ever experienced. It’s the vehicular equivalent of Dark Souls. Although if we’re honest, Dark Souls may be more forgiving.
It’s also very clear early on that this game is suited to those with a racing steering wheel controller setup. The game doesn’t seem to have been optimised for regular controllers, despite some customisation sliders being available, which may lessen the experience for anyone without a full setup. Mind you, it could be an excellent opportunity for someone to make the upgrade to a full driving kit at home.
The level of customisation in this game is next level ridiculous. From setting a button for the manual control of window wipers to the extremely detailed aerodynamic adjustments you can make prior to making a track run, you’ll spend just as much time in pitlane as you will on the course. It’s this superb attention to detail which is the shining light of the entire experience.
The cars are faithfully built and gorgeously detailed. When you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were inside a space shuttle, with the sheer number of race real dials, knobs and buttons available to you. In place of a regular HUD, you have real-time data being fed to you in what appears at first to be dozens of lines of The Matrix-like code. Again, it’s an overwhelming experience to be thrown into. You will need to learn the language of your specific car to understand where to look and what it’s saying to you. And, true to form, each of the cars is uniquely laid out inside, so all of the data is located in different viewpoints. It’s safe to say that once you find the car that works for you, you won’t be changing.
Remember, these are GT cars, which are second only to F1 cars when it comes to how crazy they are. GT cars are insanely fast in a straight line, although you will find that a lot of the tracks you race on, including Nürburgring, Zandvoort or Misano, have more curves than a scenic railway. You’ll be fighting the urge to have your foot firmly planted on the ground as you desperately command your car to do your bidding. The sense of speed is all over the place, and you don’t get a feel for it until you begin heavy braking into a corner and realise that you’re going much too fast to turn what seems to be more like a cruise ship than a finely-tuned speed machine.
“Sim games often claim to ‘put you in the shoes’ of a real-life so-and-so, but Assetto Corsa Competizione is one of the few to actually achieve it.”
The sound shifts dramatically between the different views. Inside the car you’ll hear the full force of the engine and road noise, whereas the view from behind has these sounds dampened and the screech of the brakes cranked up to 11. Regardless of your view point, you’ll hear every bump in the road, or every piece of gravel within 100 metres of your position over the top of every other sound in the game. Not only does the game penalise you for going slightly off the track, the sound comes across like nails down a chalkboard and can distract you enough to provide a sharp warning for further infractions. It’s a punishing lesson that forces a more careful approach.
Driving in different conditions, as you’ll need to during a 24-hour event, is intimidating. You’ll need to deal with weather effects, changing light, and pitch black night time. On their own, in one event, they are a pain to manage. Thrown together in one race and the stamina required to survive, let alone win, becomes incredibly daunting. Luckily the AI in the race struggles as much as you do, and actively tries to avoid rather than bump you. The same can’t or won’t be said for the online multiplayer crew who will not show you anywhere near that level of consideration. It’s a vicious experience, mainly because of the game itself and not necessarily the intention of your opponents.
Overall Assetto Corsa Competizione is a game that’s purely for players with the desire to expand their library of racing simulations. Sim games often claim to ‘put you in the shoes’ of a real-life so-and-so, but Assetto Corsa Competizione is one of the few to actually achieve it. The massively steep learning curve and near essential equipment upgrades should be specifically noted for anyone considering this title. If you’re willing to make the leap, or already have the setup, you’ll find an intensely deep experience that will break you the moment you give it an inch.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.