Assetto Corsa Competizione is an amazing hardcore racing experience, but only the brave and kitted out should apply
- Developer: Kunos Simulazioni
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Release date: 22nd February 2022
- Genre: Sim Racing
- Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S, Microsoft Windows
- Reviewed on: PS5
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Assetto Corsa Competizione PS5 Review
Assetto Corsa Competizione is an unashamedly hardcore racing game experience. It holds nothing back in trying to deliver the best sim racing experience on a console. Where other games try to cram in as many different car classes as possible, though, Assetto Corsa Competizione is laser-focused on a very specific type of racing.
GT3 may not be the most popular in terms of spectator numbers, especially the very specific Blancpain GT Endurance Series that features here, but amongst drivers, it’s known for offering some incredible racing in some of the finest pedigree race cars on the planet. GT3 takes what are already highly developed luxury cars and fits them with finely tuned engines, grippy racing slicks, refined aero packages giving massive downforce, and huge brakes to bring everything to a stop.
Assetto Corsa Competizione features excellent handling and tyre physics alongside some of the most in-depth car tuning for GT3/GT4 cars you can find outside of the real world. If you are serious about your racing then this is most certainly the franchise for you.
The new-gen upgrade finally brings Assetto Corsa Competizione in line with the experience on PC, with updated visuals, faster loading times and a huge bump to the number of cars on track.
The car model details are very good, but not exceptional, though it’s only noticeable when the cars are stationary. While you are on track with the world whizzing by, it is beautiful. Crisp, detailed environments and good track textures fully enhance the visual experience. Thundering through the woods at Zolder, seeing the deep tyre marks on the weathered chicane rumble strips, really highlights how impressive Assetto Corsa Competizione can be. The lighting, in particular, enhances the visual experience. This is most noticeable in how well the game captures wet track surfaces, standing water puddles and the bright reflections of the sky in them.
The graphical prowess of the game is mostly brilliant, but every once in a while it reminds you of its flaws. Unfortunately, there are still some glitches tarnishing the experience. When adjusting the viewpoint when driving from the bonnet cam, I pulled the Field of View (FOV) back to where I like it and part of the bonnet disappeared, showing the track underneath. Another visual oddity was when driving from a third-person view the car gained speed there would be three or four “ghosts” of my car stretching out behind it. I believe the objective of the visual was meant to impart a feeling of speed, but either way, it was highly distracting and very off-putting to see the soul of a car stretched out behind it the faster you went.
With a huge depth of tuning options, there is also a lot of text to read. I found some of the lettering to be very small, and I sometimes struggled to focus when clicking a setting up or down a notch or two. It could have benefited with a bit more work on the UI to make the whole process just a little bit easier, rather than having to get closer to the screen than necessary.
Audio-wise, the game is again excellent but occasionally falters. Having superb renditions of throaty combustion engines roaring through the countryside never fails to be enjoyable, and there were very distinct differences between car brands. If your car started to lose grip while cornering, there were also very realistic tyre straining noises that were great audio cues as to how close to the edge you were.
As much as I appreciated the authenticity of the audio, it did also make some of the cars sound like rust buckets. The Audis tinkered around at every bump as though someone had forgotten to empty the soft drink cans from the interior. Having not been inside a real GT car at pace, I can only speculate as to what it actually sounds like, but it would be disappointing if my old clapped out Hillman Avenger ran quieter than a GT3 car!
I’d also appreciate a little more enthusiasm from my race engineer, whose monotone monologue of everything, both good and bad, made me feel like I’d dragged him out of bed rather than him wanting to be there helping me.
The driving experience
I mostly played Assetto Corsa Competizione with a controller, and there were a few things that perplexed me. Make no mistake, if you have a decent wheel and pedal setup, Assetto Corsa Competizione offers some of the best feedback and driving feel of any game on console. The physical feedback, such as slight nuances like the weight of the steering changing as you approach the limit of grip, are essential for driving fast and at the limit. All of those sensations, however, are lost on controller users.
This was hugely disappointing. With the haptic feedback and variable resistance triggers of the PS5 controller, I was hoping the developers would have used this functionality to help controller gamers close the gap to the sensations wheel users rely on. On MotoGP21, for example, you can feel with the left trigger how the front wheel of a bike is coping while under braking. You feel the tire squirm, you feel the increasing bite of the brake as it increases power and efficiency, and you feel the front wheel snap and everything goes light if you press and hold the brake for too long and too far. You get none of that in Assetto Corsa Competizione. I did feel things happening in the controller, but it all seems very erratic and didn’t convey what the game was trying to tell me.
Even if you know and can feel what the car beneath you is doing, the game doesn’t help you in understanding how to improve or rectify the settings. For example, when I took the Audi GT3 cars for a spin, I found that they had loads of front end grip and oversteer tremendously, so were therefore very easy to unsettle. I couldn’t figure out if this was a car setup issue that I needed to change or a controller issue. To confuse the picture even further, I jumped into the new BMW M4 GT3 with the same setup, and it was as solid as a rock. I pulled away from the pack and was throwing the car around with ease. Driver style, car setting or controller setting, I am at a loss to explain why that was.
Without that physical feedback, I found it hard to know whether this was just me being too harsh on the controller, or maybe it was a tuning problem; rear-end suspension, wing, tire pressure? Despite trying various settings and changes I couldn’t solve the problem and got no help from my engineer either.
Grab a wheel and pedals and this all changes. Cars have an impressively weighty feel, and the sensations you get from the FFB let you know intuitively how what you’re doing is affecting the car. The level of simulation is remarkable and as real to the real thing as you can get from the comfort of your home. If you play with a controller, though, you will struggle to appreciate just how accurate the game is.
The ability to tweak the viewpoint to suit your gameplay style is immensely gratifying. No longer are you having to put up with awkward camera angles, as if you can desire it, you can play from it. This is particularly helpful if you use a wheel, as you can set the field of view to properly scale your driving position. One of the best settings I found is the “look to the horizon” option. This view follows the steering input and turns the camera towards and further up the track, rather than directly in front of the car. This felt like a very natural way to race, and even on the controller, it improved my experience dramatically.
For many, especially those who’ve upgraded from base PS4 hardware, this new-gen update fixes everything that was wrong with Assetto Corsa Competizione in the past. The screen tearing and jitters that used to pop up are gone, and it’s now a silky smooth experience. We also get 30 cars in races – it’s almost impossible to overstate just how much better this is. Having so many more cars allows for more frequent battles throughout the whole field, and even running midfield feels more exciting because of it.
The career mode is alright, offering fully licensed Blancpain GT cars to hurl around the track, but where Assetto Corsa Competizione shines is when you take it online. Much like iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione has a safety rating (SA) that determines the drivers you’ll come up against. Fall off the track a lot and cause collisions and you’ll find yourself in lobbies of similar drivers. Keep it clean, and you’ll be playing with people who take their racing more seriously. I found most people to be courteous but they still raced hard. It’s a significant step up from the typical console racing lobby where people are as happy to use you as a brake as they are to carefully set up a passing manoeuvre.
This is still a niche game, though. Assetto Corsa Competizione doesn’t have an endless list of gameplay options, career events and vehicle classes. This is all about racing in its purest form. Assetto Corsa Competizione is for those who find fun in shaving tenths of their lap times, tweaking their tuning setup, perfecting their car control and running consistent laps. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll have a great time with Assetto Corsa Competizione. For the masses, however, there isn’t enough depth to keep people coming back. Coupled with lacklustre handling if you use a controller, this will remain a game that has limited appeal.
With very welcome 30 player lobbies for multiplayer and an effective fair-play system, Assetto Corsa Competizione is the best sim racing experience on console, however, it also has one of the steepest learning curves. If you put in the effort, it rewards you with an incredible experience, especially if you play the game with a wheel, but it’s harder to recommend if you intend to use a gamepad.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is not about the flashy visuals or over the top engine noises of its contemporaries, it’s all about the detail of what’s under the hood. If you care to peek under there and tinker, you’ll find the dedication the developers have put into creating the most realistic car racing game is astonishing, but it’s not for everyone.