Many years ago, in the times of the Apple IIe green screen, I played a game called Test Drive. That was close to 30 years ago. To this day, I continue to try to play as many racing arcade and especially, simulation games I can get my hands on. You name one, I’ve tried most of them. Once we got a computer that could handle it, my first real love was World Circuit by Microprose. It was a game meant to emulate the Formula 1 season, and it still has a cult following, with folks even coding to add the teams of the current year.
However, as my PC’s strength waned, I turned to consoles and Sony’s Gran Turismo came to light. From there I went to XBox 360 and Forza 3, and now I’m on to Gran Turismo 6, the most recent of Sony’s offerings for the PS3.
However, during a Steam Early Access sale, I got my hands on this new simulator called Assetto Corsa. The name is interesting, as directly translated means “Racing Setup,” so let’s hope the game offers the same feeling.
The opening screen is very simple. Buttons on the left are all expandable, and contain things like Drive, Career, Replay, and Settings, to name a couple. Selecting any of these will get you more options presented on the main portion of the screen where you can then select your requirements and be off. Career mode is not available at this time in the pre-release.
The Settings selection offers full customization of your controller of choice, although this game was meant to be played with a wheel and pedals. You can also load profiles of certain wheel types in this menu. My wheel was listed, which made this an overall excellent experience. After marching through the sometimes awkward configuration wizard, my Thrustmaster F430FF was ready to provide input.
Setting up a Race or Time Attack can get a little confusing with all of the available options. There are three pre-made driver difficulties in the Realism section, but you can manually change any of the settings within that menu. Additionally, you can change what time of day you’d like to race which is definitely a good feature, and one most simulators have now. There will be changing conditions in the release edition, as well.
Once those selections have been made you can select what cars you want to race against and how many. Before you get into the race there is a final summary screen which gives you a total breakdown of what you have selected, who you are racing and the like. Once you look over those settings, you can hit the checkered flag and you’ll be loaded up into the race menu.
Once in the race prep screen you’ll see a new menu to the left side of the screen. It houses a few options. The important one is at the top; Drive. However, the others are related to the setup of the cars. Of which you can adjust everything. Spring rates, camber, differential settings, and tire pressures.
As the title says; Racing Setup. At this stage of the game, I was more interested in the feel of the cars on the track and the “ability” of the game to hold my attention. Let’s see what you get when you select Drive.
Driving In Assetto Corsa
I’ve only raced a car on a closed circuit once. I’ve been involved in many karting races over the years however. And that is the one thing about this game that will get you every time. The driving is so realistic, it’s almost sickening. You need to be paying attention at all times. This game treats you like I’ve always wanted to be treated. While MMORPG’s and FPS’ gather folks attention for hours at a time, this game demands it is your one and only concentration.
There are no stereo settings, and with that no music, because as any real race driver can attest, that is a distraction from the task at hand. And that task at hand is driving a simulated car around a simulated track. If you thought you could answer a text on a straight or look at your TV for breaking news during this violent thrashing of your senses, you are sadly mistaken. I have never been so engrossed in a game before that I felt I couldn’t do anything until it the task I was performing was over.
And let me preface the next statement with this; Assetto Corsa needs a wheel and pedals to enjoy it proper. This game has set a new bar for me in a simulation game; total and complete immersion is what it takes.
The feeling of the tires breaking traction is evident through the wheel (if it has Force Feedback of course), and the punishment for hitting a kerb is disrupting the balance of the car, and possibly your hands on the wheel. If you are blessed with a wheel with an H-shifter and a clutch, I can only imagine what that immersion is like, as I only tested with my paddle shifters on my 430FF.
Add to the mix where the developers have baked in support for triple monitors so you can also see to the front left/right of the car and you have a real challenger. But there’s more. They are going to support Oculus Rift in this game, which if you haven’t heard, is as close to virtual reality as we’ve been with currently available technology. As you move your head, you can look around the car and thus, outside next to and in front of you at any angle.
Assetto Corsa Data Output
For a few years now, we’ve seen more of this data output from games. Especially in FPS, where the game tracks the number of bullets fired, where the bullets hit the enemy and how many times you reloaded. Well Assetto Corsa’s team is going next level with this game as you can access the data and use it “…either via UDP, shared memory, Python or C + + plug-in.”
As it is, the number of plugins available is impressive and they provide real time information about the car, track, and other drivers. I’m curious to see what outside developers will create for use with this game.
Dream Pack 1
Since I originally purchased this game from Steam, there have been many updates applied to this game. However, none have been better than Dream Pack 1. While you have to pay extra for this pack, the laser scanned Nurburgring Nordschleife is worth the extra price alone. If I were to tell you that there were more cars to be had in the Dream Pack, and they had reached an agreement with Automobili Lamborghini for future releases, would you be more impressed?
The Dream Pack adds the Chevrolet Corvette C5R, the Nissan NISMO GTR GT3, the Alfa Romeo 4C, legendary 155 Ti V6, and the 1966 GTA, to name but a few. Ten cars in total were released in this pack to add to the existing vehicles, bringing the total to 49 cars.
I have already spent hours playing the Nordschleife, and expect to spend hours more. While most definitely the hardest course to master in the game, it is most certainly the most rewarding to learn. The 24 hour version and the “Tourist” version are available.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t trying to love this game. Since I bought Gran Turismo 6 in December on launch, I’ve been enthralled with that. However, on a whim and during that Steam Early Access sale, I took the leap. Now my PS3 sits idle in the living room while I’m enjoying a true driving simulator.
The available settings on the cars are enough to keep the most intense “car nuts” happy, and the immersion during the driving itself is enough to keep the racers involved. The car list for the pre release is enough to keep me interested with GT6 and 400 cars in the other room, so that says something right there.
Again, this game isn’t going to be for your casual player. You can play it casually, as in pick it up for 20 minutes and throw a race together, but its not a simulator for the feint of heart. There’s a reason its named “Race Setup” as that’s what you need, both the hardware and the frame of mind.