Racing is a sport of thrills. The high speeds and expensive cars fill people with the kind of excitement and adrenaline that the sport is fueled by. If a racing game is going to compete in that market, it needs to do a good job of simulating those kinds of thrills on the screen. Assetto Corsa Competizone does an admirable job, and it gets some things right. But the experience feels dated, and as a result, it holds the entire game back from greatness.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first; this is a game for enthusiasts only. Those looking for a fun, relaxed racing experience need not apply. Assetto Corsa Competizone builds its experience around simulating an unforgiving, high skill approach to racing, and if you are unfamiliar with or disinterested in that kind of racing, there is little on offer for you here. The game has little in the way of a tutorial, and nothing in the way of an introduction or primer as to the kind of racing this is.
It assumes right out of the gate that you are familiar with this kind of racing and its intricacies. That’s not inherently bad, mind you; knowing your audience is important, and there’s nothing wrong with catering to a specific niche. But it is worth mentioning, because if you aren’t already aware of and interested in European GT racing, this game is not going to introduce you very well.
With that said, let’s talk about the actual experience of the simulation, since that is what the game is going for. Right away, the game makes a rough impression. The entire production of the game feels dated. There’s little to impress here from a visual perspective. The cars look decent enough, but the environments and other visual effects are severely lacking. The racing genre is often on the forefront of graphics these days, which only makes this game’s stale visuals look even worse by comparison.
Environments are flat and uninteresting, and the minimal attention to lighting means that everything looks more or less the same, regardless of visibility conditions. Heavy rain and fog simply apply a grey filter to the whole screen, resulting in little of the challenge that those conditions should bring to a race. And weather effects on the whole look fairly poor, particularly the rain effects. When racing in third person view, the rain effects leave a kind of artifact trail of your car in your wake. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be some kind of reflection, or if its simply a result of bad particle effects, but regardless of the reason it makes the game look cheap and dated.
“Those looking for a fun, relaxed racing experience need not apply. ACC builds its experience around simulating an unforgiving, high skill approach to racing, and if you are unfamiliar with or disinterested in that kind of racing, there is little on offer for you here.”
Driving in cockpit view, a popular choice for simulations like this, isn’t great either. The cockpit view is very cluttered, and can make it hard to see the track ahead of you. Combined with the game’s lack of tutorial, the experience quickly becomes overwhelming if you are a newcomer. Meanwhile, the driving animations are bizarre, making it look like your driver is seizing up every time you make a turn. The arms twist and contort around the wheel in unnatural ways, and they always seem to turn 90 degrees, even for the smallest adjustment. The whole thing looks ridiculous. It makes driving in third person objectively the easier approach, which isn’t a good thing in a simulation, where immersion is often half the point.
Still, visuals aren’t everything. Does the game overcome its production issues on the actual track? Yes and no. Once you get the hang of it, the driving is mostly solid. The steering sometimes feels a bit off; slight corrections can send you veering wildly off course, while other times your car reacts sluggishly to large turns.
Being a simulation game, it’s all about gunning it on the straightaways, and tightly controlling your breaks to make winding, hairpin turns. you do get the hang of it, the racing becomes much easier, and there is some fun to be had. There’s always a certain satisfaction in overcoming a high skill ceiling like that, and I did manage to have some fun with the game once I got the hang of it. But that opened the door to another set of problems later on. Once you get the hang of the mechanics, the racing can actually become trivially easy. I quickly went from finishing every race at or near last, to finishing every race in first place. You can adjust the difficulty up or down, but in my experience things didn’t really change that much.
“Once you get the hang of the mechanics, the racing can actually become trivially easy. I quickly went from finishing every race at or near last, to finishing every race in first place.”
The game isn’t flowing with things to do, either. There’s two main modes, a Championship mode and a Career mode. Both of them are fairly straightforward, with the Career mode simply serving as a longer version of the Championship mode. In both, you run through a series of courses, vying for the best position. The career mode adds in placements, team sponsorships, and things like that. It’s fairly standard. There’s also a quick play mode, where you can choose from a variety of different tracks and race types, as well as weather conditions, time of day, and other variables. A rotation challenge mode offers up a handful of different challenges that you can attempt. And of course, an online mode allows you to test your mettle against players around the world.
Assetto Corsa Competizone is a strange experience, a game trying to be a hardcore simulation, but without the production value to truly pull it off. And while the simulation is there to an extent, it’s surprisingly easy to master once you finally do so. Combined with the poor visuals and lack of content, it results in a game with remarkably little to offer to its target audience as well. I suppose hardcore enthusiasts of European GT can probably get some decent enjoyment out of this game. It’s not bad; I had fun with it. But casual racers need not apply, and even for enthusiasts, there are likely better ways to get your realistic racing fix out there.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Solid driving mechanics are fun when mastered; The cars look decent.
Poor production values and lack of content make the game feel barebones.
Assetto Corsa Competizone has something to offer for strong enthusiasts of the sport. Even then, there’s little here that isn’t done better in other games.