Assetto Corsa Competizione Review – New Engine, Same Racing Stripes

Assetto Corsa Competizione Review

Back in 2014, Italian Racing Sim Developer, Kunos Simulozoni released their first game: Assetto Corsa for the PC. Assetto Corsa translated means Race Setup. An apt name as the bulk of the Assetto Corsa ended up hot-lapping and tweaking the car setup searching for the optimal time. Kunos’s own in-house game engine powers Assetto Corsa and played a big part in the game’s ascendance into one of the top PC Racing Sims.

Assetto Corsa jumped out of the gate with highly detailed models for high profile car manufacturers. Their stable of cars now includes Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren as well as Audi, Chevrolet, Mercedes, Nissan, & Toyota. The sounds of each car were artistically captured to add to their visceral curb appeal.

Finally, the Force Feedback (FFB) used to convey each car’s physics was a big hit with the racing community. FFB is an art, not science in that it is trying to capture real-world sensations and convey them to the player in a restricted manner through FFB steering wheels and pedals. How well that translation is done is up to how the player subjectively perceives the FFB. Much like listening to music or reacting to a movie or a book, no two players will react the same way and discussions of FFB is a major and passionate topic on forums between racing sim enthusiasts. Assetto Corsa struck a major chord with players and is often listed as number one in terms of a racing simulation experience.

Where Assetto Corsa stumbled was in the experience wrapped around the driving. AI racing wasn’t optimal and finding multiplayer fields in terms of availability and talent matchup remains a challenge even now. Limitations of the game engine prevented full simulation of weather and day/night cycles. So Assetto Corsa remains an excellent driving simulator but not so much a racing one.

Buckle Up, It’s Going to Be a Long Ride

This brings us to today where Kunos has now released their second entry, Assetto Corsa Competizione or ACC for short. This game focuses on one specific racing league – Blancpain GT Series racing. This series is comprised of two types of racing – GT Sprint Races and GT Series Endurance Cup. Sprint Races consist of two one-hour races while the Endurance series range from three to twenty-four hours.

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The GT series is restricted to eighteen car manufacturers and ten tracks – albeit they are the officially licensed ones. That official licensing carries a lot of weight with the fans. So the challenge for Kunos with restricted content – especially when compared to Assetto Corsa – is to differentiate themselves from other sims that offer similar. How well did they do? Let’s see.

Given the dynamics of these races, Kunos could not reuse their in-house game engine. They needed a game engine that handles weather and day/night cycles so they went with Unreal Engine 4. A decision which has addressed some issues but at the cost of new limitations. On the plus side graphically, this is the best-looking racing simulation on the PC to date. The game is capable of producing breath-taking moments – especially at sunset or sunrise with the sun’s rays filtering through foliage and lighting the night sky up in glorious reds and oranges. The car models are also gorgeous and sound great. Generally, weather effects are good – wet road surfaces and the environment looks great. Raindrops on windshields look very realistic but break down midrange into disappointing pixel mists.

Switching Game Engines Is No Easy Feat

Switching game engines is a big endeavor and it is no surprise that some new issues have arisen. Anti-aliasing issues can make car console instrumentation difficult to read. Trailing shadows behind cars once they are up to speed has also been reported. VR support was working in earlier Alpha builds but is broken with this first official release. Also, there is no true Triple Screen support – a limitation of the Unreal 4 Engine. The best one can do is stretch the image. Less than ideal for HUD and informational message box placements.

The Unreal engine does support the latest and hottest graphics trend – ray tracing. It’s doubtful how much use one will get out of the feature, even if you have one of the top end video cards that support it because even on comparable graphics settings in Assetto Corsa there is a frame rate hit. ACC needs a beefier PC to run than Assetto Corsa does.

Once again, Kunos has created a racing sim where the core of the gameplay is the game’s strength. It’s quite a blast to get behind the wheel of a GT3 car and take it out on a circuit either to practice or race. This is the strength of a Kunos sim and ACC lives up to that pedigree. Unfortunately, and maybe fatally for this installment, it’s the experience around the driving where Kunos has yet to deliver a complete racing experience.

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There are five game modes offered: Championship, Career, Special Events, Single Player, and Multiplayer. They all feel like afterthoughts. Matchmaking for multiplayer is spotty. The racing Penalty System is weak. There is no save feature in endurance events. To do a thirty-minute race, it ends up taking ninety minutes as you cannot skip or customize the two qualifying events. All these deficiencies are exacerbated by any lack of user-friendliness or feedback.

There are some game breaking issues here too – you cannot change AI levels between races or even seasons. ACC does not give proper heads up when driver changes are required in endurance races. Another biggie is the game fails to load car setups and pit strategies. Also, resetting a race does not work properly.

Hopefully, some of these issues will be addressed in subsequent patches but the current state of the game feels undercooked. The game is presented as providing a full GT3 experience but it does not. The competition in Assetto Corsa Competizione is sorely lacking. Assetto Corsa Competizione provides a satisfying driving experience but like it’s predecessor – Assetto Corsa, it leaves the driver a bit wanting at times.

***PC code provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Good driving model and FFB 
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Officially licensed game for the Blancpain GT series 

The Bad

  • Shallow Career and Championship modes 
  • Requires a beefier PC to run smoothly 
  • Limitations of the Unreal game engine