Assetto Corsa Competizione

Assetto Corsa Competizione

Written by Dave Gamble on 6/11/2019 for RIFT  
More On: Assetto Corsa Competizione

The racing simulation market is becoming gratifyingly large - there are general purpose sims, such as Project Cars 2, Assetto Corsa, and rFactor 2, and there are tightly focused sims like DiRT 2.0 and F1 2019 for players looking for a more tailored experience. Every now and then, there is a crossover. Case in point: Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC), which is a new version of Assetto Corsa with a laser-like focus on the venerable and highly popular Blancpain GT series. More specifically, it is the European version of the series, so one can expect to be racing on world famous circuits such as Monza, Spa, Silverstone, and more. There are many appealing facets to the GT3 racing series, one of which is a slight commonality with American NASCAR racing: the cars are recognizable as commonly available, albeit expensive, high-performance street cars. This aspect is appealing to wannabe racers that want to maintain even the slightest scintilla of belief that they too could someday drive one of these cars. Well, to be honest, that’s what appeals to me - I’m just projecting the same dream onto the rest of you.

I bring up the topic of a crowded market of high-quality racing sims that covers pretty much every racing genre (with the possible exception of drag racing, but racing without turning is really just, well…. boring) because there are some very serious flaws in ACC. I don’t want to dive right into those flaws, though, because there is a great deal to like about ACC - Kunos has apparently bought into the contemporaneous release strategy of “get it out there; we will fix it with updates,” which is rife with risk. Consider rFactor2: it had a terrible release and to this very day continues to fight to regain credibility. To be fair, the problems with version 1.0 are mostly going to affect VR and/or TrackIR users, who make up a percentage of potential buyers. What that percentage is, I don’t know, but I am one of them.

So, setting that aside, how good is ACC? Again, that depends. Being tightly focused on a single series has its strengths, and it has its weaknesses. Compared to PC2 and rFactor 2, ACC is comparatively bereft of tracks, having slightly less than  a dozen. Compared to the lengthy track list of PC2 and a virtually unlimited number of mod tracks for rFactor2, it looks pretty weak. On the other hand, with such a relatively low number of tracks, there was time to do a really good job on them. The are, in a word, gorgeous. They are all also reportedly laser scanned, which makes a tremendous contribution to the feel of the track, assuming the use of a good force feedback wheel.

The same holds true of the cars; they are highly detailed and I have yet to find one that isn’t a compelling mix between realistic tactile feel and a nearly insurmountable desire to spin out of turns. Note that the latter observation is not a negative - these are heavy, powerful cars and take more than a little finesse and skill to master. If you just jump in and head for the track, you will very likely find yourself in the gravel within half a lap. Once you slow down and get a feel for them, though, they come alive in your hands. I found the force feedback to be on par with my favorite FF title (rFactor2), but force feedback is one of those things that are primarily just a matter of taste. I have never driven a GT3 car, but I have driven a Porsche Carrera GTS 4 on a racetrack, which admittedly isn’t much to go on, but rF2 (and now ACC) are the closest I have come to that feel. Note that I am using a Fanatec wheel, which also contributes to the excellent feel and might have something to do with how natural it all feels. YMMV. Also note that the out-of-the-box settings did require some tweaking to get rid of an annoying rumble. In a direct comparison, though, rFactor2 is still better in that it goes beyond just providing bumps and steering resistance. Hitting a kerb in ACC sends a shock through the wheel to your hands, but rF2 goes further and adds a modicum of steering influence as well. It’s very subtle, but with ACC you know that you hit a bump, while the supple nature of rF2 not only tells you that you hit a bump but that the spot would contain a small puddle if it was raining. It’s sublime, whereas ACC is merely adequate.

Look and feel are, of course, hugely important, but one should not discount the effect that sounds have when it comes to high performance driving. Hands down, ACC has the best and most varied sounds I have ever experienced in a racing sim. Obviously there are engine noises, transmission whine, wind effects, tire noise, and the rest, but there are also a lot of mechanical bumps, knocks, clanks, and sundry mysterious clatters contributing to the cacophony.

At this point in our review, it’s all looking pretty good for ACC, and perhaps someday in the future it really will be. As of version 1.0.0, though… it might be best to adopt a wait and see strategy. There are fundamental problems that one would not, and should not, expect for a full release (as opposed to Early Access), and they affect pretty much every part of the package. In no particular order:

  • No mouse support for UI while using VR. You have to use a keyboard or game controller, which is antithetical to VR.
  • VR is horribly slow, and compounds that issue by being ugly. Kunos can insist that my machine is below spec, and they are correct, but the exact same PC works just fine in VR with iRacing, Project Cars 2, and rFactor 2, all of which are direct competitors with ACC. Blaming the Unreal engine is not going to solve these problems.
  • Non-VR performance is good, but suffers from periodic stutters.
  • After giving up VR in disgust, I consoled myself by dragging out my old TrackIR 5, thinking it would be at least a partial substitute for VR. It was not. It isn’t even implemented!! TrackIR 5 was released in 2009.It is supported by literally 100s of games, and every racing sim I can think of.
  • Resigning myself to being dependent on the in-game traffic indicators, which to be fair are very good, I started a career. This involved a lengthy animated scene, which I could not skip, and a mandatory “tutorial” that I did not need and could not skip. It also appears that there is no ‘save’ functionality in place yet. Seriously, that’s PC Gaming 101.
  • Having tired of jumping through hoops to start a career, I started a single race. I was very quickly disappointed in the AI. I started in last place (my plan being to gain spaces through attrition) but made my way up into the top 5 as the entire line of AI opponents formed a single-file line into the first turn. I just casually drove past them without any indication that the AI cars were even aware that the race had started. They never did get all that aggressive with their driving, despite cranking up the Aggressiveness slider in the settings. It took PC2 five major updates to get reasonably good AI performance, so there is a precedent here, but to date there is no evidence that the AI will be improved. Perhaps they are hoping for a strong multiplayer audience. There did appear to be some type of iRacing-esque Safety Rating being tracked in Single Player - that would be interesting if true. I would certainly prefer to race against others with the same lack of skill that I possess, and gauging that on offline play, which is what I do most often, seems helpful.
  • This is a minor quibble, but with all of the attention and effort that went into creating beautiful tracks, it all falls apart when the billboards and adverts all display things like “Fanatec” and the game’s logo. If they couldn’t get licensing or whatever for the actual adverts, they could have made up some fictional ones. It just looks tacky.
  • If you are going to create a single-series title, you pretty much have to develop the depth of that series to make up for the lack of width that you would have in a generic sim. This includes implementing the racing rules. I don’t really care about not having a personal agent or an R&D group, but the rules need to be there. At this stage, there are very few penalties for errant driving. That said, the racing formats (sprint vs. endurance, timed races) are in place.
  • There is no visible damage model; plow full speed into a concrete wall and your car isn’t going to drive very well, but it will still look brand new.

I could not find a way to remove all of the screen clutter. I don’t want or need HUD data - I just want the unfettered view of racing that I would have in an actual car. I would note that there are screenshots out there that indicate that it is possible, so maybe the settings are just well hidden.

At this point, my personal opinion is that they should not have released the game in this state. The foundations are in place, but the rest of the house needs a lot more work. Market pressures, revenue needs, and numerous other factors probably played a role in deciding to go with a full release, but the downstream costs could result in a dismal future for ACC.

First impressions are lasting impressions, and in this case the first impression here is that it was rushed to market long before it was ready. If it was up to me, I would have much preferred to have written a ‘Preview’ article because we don’t assign a grade as we do with a review. I can see great potential for ACC, but I cannot assign a grade based on what a game should have been, or might become. At this point in its development, I simply cannot recommend Assetto Corsa Competizione as a buy, although it is well worth keeping an eye on.

Assetto Corsa Competizione may someday be a top-notch racing simulator, but then again it might not. As of version 1.0, ACC is a study of the potential costs of releasing a product too soon. There is a lot of potential on display, but there is also a great deal left to be either fixed or finished. The current state of the VR implementation is very sub-par, and the most common form of head tracking, TrackIR, has not been implemented at all. Adopt a wait and see strategy for now - eventually/hopefully continued updates will fix the most egregious problems.

Rating: 6.5 Below Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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