With the original release of Assetto Corsa Competizione in 2019, and the eventual transition to consoles in 2020, developers Kunos Simulazioni and 505 Games put a heavily simulation-focused racing package into the wild, one whose audience is clear and whose foundation for eSports competition is undeniable. With an upgraded version heading to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles, there’s even more of a reason to jump in, with a needed hefty upgrade to performance and presentation, but the new upgrade doesn’t change much in terms of content. If you’re looking for an expertly focused simulation racer, this is one of the most minutely detailed packages on the market, but the game still lacks much of a substantial structure or much of a learning curve that will likely turn off those who aren’t already in the know, especially given its lack of complete consistency.
The only officially licensed GT Series game, Assetto Corsa Competizione, alongside its predecessor Assetto Corsa, is a simulation racer through and through. While many games in the genre balance arcadiness and simulation, often with a lean more toward the arcade, Competizione chooses its simulation direction and fully commits. What that means is that you’re in charge of virtually every aspect of your car’s performance, both before and during a race. If you’re not prepared with the right tires for a rainy day on the track, for example, you’re going to be sliding all over the place. There’s a suite of tweaks and overhauls you can make to your car’s performance, and while there are presets as a starting point, they’re not going to get you to the top of the podium on their own. In most races, it’s all about the turns. Optimizing your cars to get a max speed in the quickest time possible is great, but if you can’t handle the tight, precise turns, you’re quickly going to not only fall into the back of the pack but probably going to spin out into the grass or into the wall, even if you can avoid collisions with other racers.
"If you’re looking for an expertly focused simulation racer, this is one of the most minutely detailed packages on the market, but the game still lacks much of a substantial structure or much of a learning curve that will likely turn off those who aren’t already in the know, especially given its lack of complete consistency."
What’s disappointing is that while there is a great amount of customization and car tweaking you can do, Competizione isn’t so good at teaching you how to play. This is a game where there’s no substitution for knowing exactly what needs to be fixed at the right time, and it provides little guidance and little room for error from the get-go. Somewhat realistic damage will dynamically affect how well your car can drive, and if you can’t make it back to pit road, you’ll have to restart. You can turn on a racing line, too, though it doesn’t help nearly as much as it does in other simulation racers. This is a game that clearly has its primary player base in mind, targeting only those who already know so much about the cars and the tracks at play. However, it means that there isn’t so much of a learning curve as there is a learning wall. You have to get to a point of understanding each of the game’s minute mechanics in order to even approach the podium, especially with AI who are aggressive and rarely make the types of catastrophic mistakes it’s so easy to make on your own.
What’s more is that in true GT Series fashion, races are marathons of endurance and consistency. Races are completed by time rather than laps, and they can range anywhere from five minutes to multiple hours. These are tests on your ability to stay focused for extended periods of time more than anything else. Making precise turns doesn’t get any easier in the sixtieth minute than it was in the first, and there’s no ability to rewind or checkpoint within a race like in other, less hardcore simulation racers. You’ll also have a list of requirements to achieve by the end of a race to qualify, including things like pitting during the designated pit window, switching racers, and changing out your tires. These are great things to have to maintain the realism of the game, but they don’t ultimately add much to gameplay and make the game feel as though it’s artificially limiting itself to appeal only to those seeking the unabashed full simulation.
If the simulation experience were one-to-one with reality, it would of course be an easy sell to racing fans, but there are a few inconsistencies that make the hardcore realism and lack of virtually any form of support feel unjustified. For one, it often feels like the strict, precise timing you have at certain points is inconsistent with that of the AI, especially with things like pitting. It often feels like your pit road speed limit of 50 KM/hour limit is slower than that of those you’re up against, and the time it takes for the game to recognize you’re in your pit zone can be back breaking. Even if it’s only a couple of seconds for the game to realize, these races are often won or lost by single digit seconds, and it puts the odds against you in an unfair way. Penalties and AI aggression, too, can be thoroughly inconsistent as to who gets punished and when. I’ve had minor taps that give me full control locks and effectively lose me the race, while enemy racers can completely spin you out with barely a slap on the wrist. Pair this with some physics on the turns that feel ever so slightly unpredictable, and it makes for an unnerving potential to have to restart a race for something that’s out of your control.
"Like its races, Assetto Corsa Competizione is a long, arduous race to the top, and it’s only for those who are ready to make small tweaks at every stage on their marathon road to victory."
Even with the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of the game, the content hasn’t changed, though the graphics and performance have seen a decent upgrade. I encountered few hitches along the way on Xbox Series X, including an upgrade to a consistent 60 FPS, and environments have much improved textures and great dynamic weather effects, both on the track and on the car. Unfortunately, even with the upgrade to the new consoles, Competizione doesn’t provide much in the way of structure or out-of-race content to provide an entryway to the experience. As in the original launch, there are only the Career mode and various online and offline modes to create races through Championships or other one-off events. The Career mode, too, is less of a career and more of a string of races in sequence. There’s no plot or progression to speak of, and as long as you finish a race, you’re on to the next one with hardly a recognition of a win or a chastisement of a last place finish. This means that there’s no in-game incentive to actually improve at the gameplay. There are no rewards along the way, nor are there any new pieces of content to unlock merely through playing. It’s disappointing for a game with this many courses and cars, since it’s easy to envision this type of system working smoothly.
It’s admirable when a game fully buys into its own concept, sparing few expenses to create as authentic an experience as possible. Assetto Corsa Competizione does that on its way to being as hardcore of a simulation racer as there is on the market today. It puts you in charge of virtually every aspect of your car and your races to ensure that success or failure is entirely on your shoulders. It looks and plays better on the new consoles, but where it falls short is where it lacks the consistency that a game like this needs in order to fully emulate reality and the content or structure to satisfy those who aren’t motivated solely by the prospect of becoming the best. Like its races, Assetto Corsa Competizione is a long, arduous race to the top, and it’s only for those who are ready to make small tweaks at every stage on their marathon road to victory.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
A full suite of reality-simulating car options; Great for a very specific crowd; Improved performance on the new consoles.
Inconsistent in certain areas; Lack of satisfying structure; Inaccessible to the uninitiated.