Six years ago, I took my first laps at Assetto Corsa. I bought the game in early access and found it to be fantastic, despite all the existing difficulty in usability, which I’ll talk about later. As time passed, the graphics engine was updated to Unreal and 505 Games took over publishing. Blancpain GT touring category was also added into the game, and with it, the cake was finished. Last year, Assetto Corsa Competizione popped up on the market aiming to take on other great racing simulators like iRacing and rFactor and managed to take a bite out of eSports. Now the challenge is even bigger, the icing on that cake: conquering the console market.
Kunos Simulazioni continues to nail it by adding in improvements that were asked by the community as well as the target market of racing games, and growing it even further. And it really seems like Kunos Simulazioni is up to the task of facing down the competition with a quality racer like Assetto Corsa Competizione, which is increasingly rare to see nowadays.
In comparison to the previous version of the Assetto Corsa, Competizione greatly improves the usability experience, making it easier for you to start racing right away, something that the original game was lacking. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of technical information to sift through which can get in the way of more casual players.
The game’s focused on the Blancpain GT touring category and it has you racing on some of the tracks from the tournament such as Zolder, Monza, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Paul Ricard, Misano World Circuit, Spa Francorchamps, Hungaroring, Nurburgring, and Barcelona. While other racing games boast about the abundance of cars, Competizione is much more contained, limiting its options to open cockpit vehicles and also the famous prototypes, and it’s where it goes a step above.
Last week, 505 Games held an online press event for Assetto Corsa Competizione where the devs revealed how they used custom technical data for all the cars in the game, dedicating a whole single department in the studio specifically for this aspect of gameplay alone. With fewer vehicles on play, it’s easier to focus on their individual driving experience, making it especially satisfying and unique to each car. It was also revealed that professional racers from the circuit have also provided input for the game.
Competizione‘s goal to carve its space in eSports is a lofty and expensive one for its development studio, but if well executed can the franchise on the same level of other excellent simulators like iRacing and rFactor. That’s especially true during the current pandemic that the world’s been going through for the last few months, forcing people to stay at home and play more games online, such as racers. Curiously enough, even some real-life sporting events started to take place virtually this year due to COVID-19. Such was the case of the traditional Le Mans race, where famous drivers such as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso, among others stepped into virtual cockpits and put the pedal to the metal.
Listening to its audience and crafting their game based on their feedback is a lofty goal that Kunos Simulazioni is taking to heart with Assetto Corsa Competizione, and the resulting product certainly shows that that’s an avenue worth taking due to the success that it’s been having among the eSports crowd.
A great dilemma with racing games has always the balance between having good graphics and quality gameplay so that they can rival their competitors. It’s like water and oil and I have never understood why that’s the case with that particular genre. With the arrival of Unreal, though, that conundrum seems to have gotten less complex, improving the overall experience in racers quite a lot, which is exactly the case of Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Two other major issues that I’ve encountered in Kunos Simulazioni games appear between the multiplayer versus single player experiences. It’s clear that Competizione is focused on multiplayer, but it’s essential for them to care for the single player portion as well, even more so in the console space. It brings up the issue of crafting a believable AI for opponents. Finding a balance such as having believably aggressive racers on the track and an exciting race is vital to providing a fun time playing solo.
Kunos has to decide whether they want to add in AI that simply follows a predetermined path through the course but without any emotion, or add in some aggressiveness to them, of course not going overboard, turning Competizione into Carmageddon. After spending some time playing the PC version of the game that’s been out for over a year, it’s clear that Kunos has dedicated precious time to this issue in the game, however it can still be improved in the upcoming console port, hopefully going beyond merely adding in an opponent aggressiveness toggle to the game.
Assetto Corsa Competizione‘s console version’s greatest challenge will be to improve the game’s usability and turn it into a fun experience that can satisfy casual and more hardcore racers who don’t own a powerful enough computer that can run the game, whose option to play racing games is on the current consoles. In that regard, for what I got to see of Competizione so far, it looks very promising.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is now available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as the PC on Steam.