Those of us with a passion for cars, or motor racing, have a tough job of physically involving ourselves. Realistically, you’re not going to be a racing driver if you don’t come from money; likewise, you’re not going to get a chance to drive a sports car unless you’ve got dosh, or have a close affiliation with someone that does. How infuriating. Well, it’s not all doom and gloom, and technology has come to the rescue. Racing games have been around for sometime. But they’re games, nothing like the real thing! Sure, console wheels have been around to, but the games and wheels, well, they’ve always felt rather silly. In the past ten years though, things have changed. Brands such as Logitech have released wheels with simulator like feeling to the masses, and this with the significant development in coding, driving feedback and physics, has created a revolution to say the least. Out of nowhere, there is now a vibrant community of bedroom dwelling, virtual sim racers.
Although not cheap, a standard but effective Logitech G29 wheel and pedals come in around £220. If you’ve got a console, or even a gaming PC, you’re set. Sure you could pay to have a 3 lap track experience in a supercar for £100, but once those laps are up, they’re up. This is an investment. As you could guess, I am a proud owner of a Logitech G29 and Playstation 4. I’ve always been a fan of Gran Turismo, and rather sadly, the Formula 1 games too. But they’ve never quite done it for me, and I can never take it as seriously as I sometimes want to. They’re games after all!
At the start of the pandemic, racing drivers flocked to their bedrooms, streaming themselves silly across the internet. Watching a stream by a certain Mr Norris, I came across a game I had heard of but had never even considered purchasing. Put together by a pair of developers you’ve probably never encountered, Kunos Simulazoni and 505 games, Assetto Corsa is a console game fundamentally made for wheels and pedals.
So it’s a proper driving simulator then, don’t most racing games call themselves that? Yeah they do, and rather misleadingly. The developers of Assetto have really focused on the driving physics; unlike Gran Turismo, Forza and the lot, everything else is rather basic. The menu for instance, feels like you’re playing an arcade rather then an ultra slick modern game. Instead of having to work your way through and collect cars, all 178 vehicles are available straight out of the box! None of this faffing around spending endless hours trying to save to get the cars you want to drive. The cars on offer? Well the sort any car geek would get excited about, mainly race cars and supercars, with a few classics to draw comparisons with and appreciate automotive evolution. The tracks? It’s worth bearing in mind that Assetto is very much an Italian creation. Therefore, most of the 16 tracks are in Italy. Not a problem when the likes of Imola and Mugello feature. Although, whilst the Nurburgring, Brands Hatch and Spa all appear, one essential track is missing to the otherwise perfect list, and that’s Suzuka. For that you’ll have to buy the GT3 variation of the game, known as Assetto Corsa Competizione. Some rather clever business there, I’ll give them that.
Loading up and starting the game wasn’t all plain sailing, initially the steering felt extremely sensitive. A quick browse online though, and it was easy to find a setup for the wheel that felt more natural. However, with only 4 force feedback settings to adjust I have to say I was disappointed. The PC version I confirm has more settings to play with. A good half an hour and I was hooked. The game really encourages you to be meticulous and is extremely unforgiving. Especially with stability control off, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. It really does feel like a simulator and encourages you to take it seriously and as a result really improves your driving.
Setting up the car can be quite intimidating at first, compared to more console friendly games. However, on each setting a well written brief description of what you’re changing is there to guide you; before long you’ll be seriously nerding out about spring rates and differential settings, good luck finding girlfriends! The Ai are extremely competitive. Thankfully their aggression can be adjusted by percentage. Unfortunately, their actual level can’t be, and only has 6 difficulties. I don’t really get why they can’t be adjusted by percentage like other games. But oh well, it’s not a game after all!
So with such a focus on driving physics, what are the draw backs? I’ve already mentioned a few, but the biggest of them all has to be that you can’t drive in the rain! Crazy, I know. But I guess they’ve focused on the physics of driving in the dry? I mean, you can adjust the ambient temperature, time of day, whether it’s a clear sky or overcast, but you can’t make it rain! Or night-time for that matter. To be fair, I guess it doesn’t rain much in Italy, not really an excuse though.
It does seem that Assetto is made more for PC then console. On PC you can download an unlimited amount of cars from third parties but also have a greater number of packs from the developers themselves. Sometimes the game can glitch but nothing serious to report here, could just be my second hand PlayStation. You can play online against others, but I’m yet to properly try this out. And finally, there is a mode specifically for drifting! Although again, I’m yet to properly tuck into this.
To conclude then, I guess I’ll need to write a follow up article as truly this is a first impressions piece, more time needed with the Italian amusement. Similarly, I need to properly investigate the online playing on the more serious competizione variation. From what I’ve heard, there’s quite the community to compete with. Enough said, my motoring thoughts on the game? I mean simulator, well I think highly of you Assetto, so that’s an impressive 8/10 from me. Congratulazioni!
By James Drujon
All pictures are sourced from and belong to: Assetto Corsa (https://www.assettocorsa.net/home-ac/)