The golden era of racing games had long gone in my opinion. The fond memories of playing Most Wanted and evading the cops again and again just to face the next guy on the blacklist had faded to the forgotten parts of my brain. Most Wanted to be one of the few games that managed to make a seemingly stale and monotonous grind interesting.
It is hard to say how the developers managed to do it, but they had found a way to tame the thrill of the chase through the countless hours of grinding from #15 to #1.
It was hard to find a game that could replicate that thrill. None of the games I tried had such a simple but gripping storyline and none of them could make me play through an endless number of races that seemed to be no different from one other.
Out of the many games that I tried, the only ones that came close to it in terms of gameplay were the F1 games, but even their lengthy races quickly became monotonous. F1 might be an extremely exciting sport to watch, but staying extremely focused for 20 minutes on end can take the strength out of you as if few other activities can.
Having completely shunned the racing game world for a couple of years, I stumbled upon Assetto Corsa in a Steam Sale. The description emphasized how it was as close to driving a real car as it could get whereas the reviews seemed to bear the same sentiment. Despite being resentful, I decided to give the game a try.
A few months later, I have no regrets in having purchased the game and the subsequent DLC that I bought to fuel the passion. Let us take a look at what it is that makes Assetto Corsa so irresistible to so many players who try it.
Assetto Corsa: The Pleasures
Before we head on any further, I should point out that the game is not for everyone. Nor is it anything like the arcade racing games of 2007. This is a complete simulation of the track and has a small but dedicated fanbase who can be more competitive than even the most hardcore DOTA players can.
Since Assetto Corsa has no semblance of a story or a plot and the career is essentially just a bunch of events strewn together, it can be hard to understand how the game stands out from the plethora of other racing games running rampant in the market.
However, the driving is where Assetto Corsa shines. The first time that I played the game was using a PlayStation 3 controller, and even with that, I could easily see how responsive the car was.
Instead of behaving as if other “sim-arcade racers” which were essentially just arcade games in which your car would lose control if you went over the kerb, Assetto Corsa had an actual method to its madness.
The developers over at Kunos Simulations try to analyze the cars and their data as much as they can before they implement their virtual versions into the game. Every single detail on the car is accurate to the millimeter, and the thrill of handling a machine that behaves like an actual Ferrari cannot be put into words.
Being primarily a Formula 1 fan, I quickly tried out some of the cars that came with the stock game and bought some of the DLCs that had F1 cars in them. I was surprised to see how different it felt to the F1 series by Codemasters.
Everything from the noise of the engine to the grunt of the gearbox seemed perfectly imitated. The camera angles that you could utilize were not only on point but also customizable to fit the personal liking of the user.
Taking the cars to the track, it was immediately clear how each individual car behaved almost completely different from the other one. Each car of a different year was another obstacle to overcome.
Whether it was managing the Locking system of the brakes in Ferrari F2004 or trying to come to grips with the MGK unit of the 2017 edition, each car felt unique and personalized. Playing from the cockpit view made you feel the thrill of speed as you approached a corner and braked hard to hit the apex before accelerating away into the next chicane.
The quality I found in F1 was replicated everywhere else. From the tiny Front Wheel Drive Abarth to the shiniest Mercedes, the personality of the car could be accessed by anyone.
The different systems present within each individual car such as the ABS and the Traction Control made me think which car I wanted to take out into the track before each race, and the tire compounds made me open up google and research the positives and negatives of each different compound.
Tracks and Graphics
When I was done playing around with the cars, I decided to take a look at the tracks. Each of the tracks available in the game is laser scanned to ensure that they are as accurate as they can. The graphics might not be the best, but they are definitely good enough to satisfy the thirst for the reality that many players seem to have.
The detail is where the game shines; every single roadside specimen is as accurate as it could have been. After racing around Imola, Germany a few times, I decided to watch some of the laps on YouTube by actual racers to see where I stacked up.
I was quite surprised to see that not only had they got the kerbs, lines and the boards around the track right, they had also placed the extra terrain such as the trees and the hotels in the same place where they are in real life.
Of course, having a massive modding community makes the game way more fun than it could have been otherwise. There are mods for everything from Luxury Sedans to LMP1 Classification Cars to Rally Cross to entire Mountain Roads made for the community by the community.
Even though the cars in the mods are not licensed by their companies and they will not behave 100 percent accurately, the cars are incredibly well detailed and manage to replicate the feeling of the vanilla cars close enough for them to be enjoyable. For this reason, you can easily find modded races of all different sorts from Rallying down the mountain to Go Karts and Formula races.
With entire websites dedicated to releasing and updating mods for the game, it is quite easy to see how a racing enthusiast may never get tired of the game.
Before we move on to the not so fun parts of the game, the DLC model of the game requires considerable admiration. The DLCs seem like standard pay to play additions to the game consistent with AAA releases in the world today but a deeper glance makes you realize how difficult it was to develop them and the amount of money that the developers must have invested into the game for the extra content to be made available to the user.
The themes of the DLCs varies along with their content. Some of the DLCS have extra tracks and layouts whereas some of them only have cars. Each of the new cars is designed in the same way as their previous counterparts, ensuring that the quality control is kept consistent throughout the game.
The screeching noise of the burning rubber still raises your heartbeat as the laps roll by one after one, and the user has long forgotten how he has probably spent twice the price of the initial game on DLCs.
Assetto Corsa: The Pains
Lack of Community
With only a few thousand players playing the game every night, it can be quite hard to find the kind of racing that you prefer doing. The community is incredibly spread out due to the fact that there is such a huge amount of content, both stock and user-generated in the game.
If you like GT Racing on Spa Francorchamps or the Nurburgring, then you will be fine. However, if you like to race LMP 1 Cars on a Leman’s track with a full 24-car grid, then you may be running into some problems.
The AI of the game is incredibly well written, and it almost behaves exactly as if a human racer would. This helps alleviate some of the negatives of the game being so hardcore and thus not attracting the kind of player base that it needs to be the complete racing simulator.
Absence of Regulations
The game may have been able to get a plethora of licensed cars, but it was unable to get specific regulations and rule set that so many motorsports seem to employ in the modern era.
A prime example of this is the absence of DRS zones in Formula races. DRS allows players to open the Rear Wing of their car and reduce the drag moving through their car. In actual races, there are two zones in a track where the use of this technology is allowed.
However, no such rules exist inside of the game, which causes almost every server to disable features such as pit regulations, tire compound limitations, and DRS.
The advent of rule sets for disciplines such as GT2, GT3, and F1 will definitely help the game take off more towards the competitive side and allow players to compete against one another with even more immersion than the game already has.
The developers are still in full swing and continue to churn out new content for Assetto Corsa. Even though the game has a small player base, it is incredibly loyal and dedicated which is why the game could still be alive and running like a well-oiled machine for many years to come.