Assetto Corsa: Competizione
Are you in it for the long haul? Assetto Corsa Competizione hopes so.
The Blancpain GT racing series may or may not be on your radar. Unlike its cousins Formula One and MotoGP, it’s not a motorsport you’ll stumble upon on a Sunday afternoon; you have to seek it out. Assetto Corsa is a similar prospect, never likely nor intended to pull in Forza- sized crowds, instead bickering with Project Cars 2 for niche accolades like, ‘Who’s got the best racing wheel support?’ and, ‘Which game models tyre temperature better?’ It makes sense, then, that the developer of Assetto Corsa is the one making the official game of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series. Newly released in Early Access, Assetto Corsa Competizione’s offering at the moment is barebones: One car, one track, and some AI drivers for company. It’s enough to give a glimpse of what’s to come, which is the kind of structured solo championship racing the original Assetto Corsa never really managed. But it is a glimpse: Unless you want to help Kunos Simulazione develop the game by giving feedback, taking a Lambo around the Nürburgring is going to hold limited interest.
That’s not to say the fundamentals aren’t in place. With a force feedback wheel, Competizione offers one of the more convincing trackside adventures in all of race simming. The physical model shares DNA with the original Assetto Corsa, which means the line between being in and out of control of your vehicle is woolier and scarier than it is in the responsive Project Cars 2. Any degree of oversteer or traction loss is terrifying in its Blancpain cars, not because the wheel snaps around like a bronco, but because you’re never sure when you might’ve lost the back end for good.
Is it better or worse than other racing sims? Ask a Blancpain GT driver. What I can say is that it offers enough challenge for you to own every fast sector and overtake, and enough feedback for you to understand why you’re now in the gravel trap, swearing at supercars buzzing past. Whether you locked up the brakes, lost traction, unbalanced the car or short-shifted, the haptic and audio feedback is there to teach you why it happened.
While we’re on audio, plaudits should go to your race engineer, who delivers information over race radio with authentic levels of awkwardness and detachment. He is the highlight of a great sound mix that includes convincing gravel rattling in your wheelhouses, trackside PA systems blaring out music and frightening thuds when contact’s made.
Any degree of oversteer or traction loss is terrifying in its Blancpain cars
Visually it occupies that same rarefied air of the original AC and of Project Cars, where every headlamp’s reflection has been lovingly realized, every sponsor logo is clear and driver arm animations sell the heft and hardship of coercing a GT car through corners. The in-helmet view is the best I’ve ever seen of its type, perfectly nailing the G-force effect.
Your cunning doesn’t get much of a workout from the AI, though. They’re as pacy as the difficulty slider dictates, but they’re rarely seen jostling for position. This being endurance racing, perhaps it’s an attempt at authenticity, but at this stage they feel… well, artificial.
That’s the story for those with a racing wheel: Robust if limited sim racing with a crunchy learning curve. For gamepad racers, and the few people still using their keyboards, it’s a rougher experience. Those control methods have yet to be implemented with great finesse, so tapping the left analog stick one way results in great sawing actions on the steering wheel that destabilize the car and effectively impose an ‘Inebriated’ mode, a bit like Nico and Roman’s drives home after an evening of beers and bowling in GTA IV.
This being Early Access, success or failure is an ongoing narrative for Competizione. Only the truly dedicated need bother getting in on the ground floor now, but anyone with a soft spot for an official racing licence, however esoteric, will be rewarded by Competizione’s authenticity. It feels similar enough to its predecessor that you wonder whether this might have made more sense as an expansion, but as the roadmap’s ticked off and multiplayer racing is introduced, there should be enough here to sustain a small but dedicated community.