Assetto Corsa Review: Your Italian Racing Simulator
If you love driving or even racing cars, but like most of us have a limited budget, the next best thing to heading to the local track is hopping into a racing simulator, as it’s far less expensive and much safer. Available on the PC for two years and now just recently launched on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Assetto Corsa is one such simulator, and one that any simracing enthusiast should strongly consider. It isn’t without its flaws, but for true fans of the genre, those may be obscured by its rather prominent qualities.
Assetto Corsa – Your Racing Simulator
Developed by Kunos Simulazioni
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Price: $29.99 (PC), $49.99 (PS4, Xbox 1)
Launch Date: Dec 2014 (PC), Aug 2016 (PS4, Xbox 1)
Developer: Kunos Simulazioni
Publisher: Kunos Simulazioni (PC), 505 Games (PS4, Xbox 1)
Works In and Out of the Sim: How to save fuel while driving
Assetto Corsa, which is Italian for “racing trim,” is a racing simulator developed by a small Italian group called Kunos Simulazioni, whose headquarters are located right at the Vallelunga circuit facilities in Italy. You may have noticed a pattern already: this is a very Italian video game, and as we’ll find out later, this is actually noticeable when playing it. As a racing simulator, Assetto Corsa has a lot of tough competition on PC, ranging from iRacing and rFactor2 to Automobilista and RaceRoom Racing Experience, but no real rivals on the console platforms, where none of the available racing games offer realistic handling physics. I’ll cover all of the areas that matter in a game of this type, focusing primarily on the PC version (as it is the superior one) and marking important differences with the console version when necessary.
Assetto Corsa is one of the prettiest racing games available on PC, especially with the right post-processing settings. At night or day, the amount of detail is nothing short of stunning and the available photo mode makes it easy to capture wallpaper-worthy screenshots. Furthermore, the game supports the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, allowing users to become fully immersed in the race car. On the downside, Assetto Corsa lacks a weather system, so if you were expecting rain-enhanced eye-candy, you may prefer to look at Project CARS instead.
Despite its lovely visuals and surprisingly good performance on PC, on console the game suffers from the PS4’s and Xbox One’s underpowered hardware. Compromises had to be made to allow the game to run at 60 frames per second (a must for racing games), which has caused it to fall behind the likes of Forza when it comes to looking pretty. In addition, the inability to create custom post-processing filters or to use the Oculus Rift on console is further proof that the PC version is the definitive edition if you care about visuals.
The quality of the sound in Assetto Corsa varies from car to car. Some, like the Shelby Cobra 427 S/C, delight your ears with crackles and pops and snarls, while others leave you feeling underwhelmed, though one has to remember that not every car sounds exciting in the real world. Some cars also share a noticeable stand-in sample for the transmission, and others sound too electronic, especially at high revs and with external cameras. It’s a shame because when Assetto Corsa gets the sound right, it gets it really right; it just happens less often than you’d hope.
Ever since Assetto Corsa was first launched in Early Access on Steam in early 2014, its primary selling point (and the main reason many were willing to forgive its flaws) was its physics and handling model. Suspension geometry, tire wear and temperature, aerodynamics, and much more are all precisely modeled to offer the most realistic driving experience possible short of the real thing. There are perhaps one or two other racing games on the market with more complex physics engines than Assetto Corsa, but none come close to its driving feel. Thanks to its handling and excellent force feedback, which does a good job of communicating weight transfer and fine details even on low-grade consumer wheels, Assetto Corsa has a knack for making you feel as though you were truly behind the wheel of the virtual car, egging you on to put in lap after lap around the track.
Because of this, Assetto Corsa is technically in a class of its own on the console platforms, as no other game offered on PS4 or Xbox One are true simulators. However, as with any simulator, players ought to strongly consider purchasing a force-feedback racing wheel to properly enjoy the driving.
As of writing this review, there are 124 cars available in Assetto Corsa, with more being added regularly as either free content or paid DLC. The cars are created with technical data provided directly by the manufacturers, which means that in the fashion of simulators, the car list sacrifices quantity for quality. You’ll get many more cars to play with in Forza and Gran Turismo, but none crafted with as much attention to detail and realism as those in Assetto Corsa. For instance, the game fully models LaFerrari’s KERS system, the Pagani Huayra’s active aerodynamics, or the 2015 Ferrari F1 car’s ridiculously complex electronics. Once, McLaren altered the rear wing behavior of the real P1 hypercar through a software update, and shortly after Kunos did the same for the in-game McLaren P1; that’s just one example of the virtual cars’ fidelity to their real-life counterparts.
Car List (DLC not included)
- 2008 Abarth 500 EsseEsse (2 variants)
- 1964 Abarth 595 SS (3 variants)
- 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde
- 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde Launch Edition 2014
- 2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio
- 2012 Audi R8 V10 Plus
- 2014 Audi S1 quattro
- 1980 Audi Sport Quattro (2 variants)
- 2011 BMW 1M (2 variants)
- 1985 BMW M3 E30 (3 variants)
- 1992 BMW M3 E30 Group A (2 variants)
- 2008 BMW M3 E92 (3 variants)
- 2008 BMW M3 GT2
- 2010 BMW Z4 E89 (3 variants)
- 2012 BMW Z4 GT3
- 2013 Corvette Corvette C7 Stingray
- 1975 Ferrari 312T
- 2011 Ferrari 458 GT2
- 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia (2 variants)
- 2012 Ferrari 599XX EVO
- 1987 Ferrari F40 (2 variants)
- 2013 Ferrari LaFerrari
- 2015 Ford Mustang GT
- 2011 KTM X-Bow R
- 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV
- 2007 Lotus 2 Eleven
- 2009 Lotus 2 Eleven GT4
- 1967 Lotus 49
- 1986 Lotus 98T
- 2008 Lotus Elise SC (3 variants)
- 2012 Lotus Evora GTC
- 2012 Lotus Evora GTE
- 2012 Lotus Evora GTE Carbon Edition
- 2012 Lotus Evora GX
- 2014 Lotus Evora S (2 variants)
- 2005 Lotus Exige 240R (2 variants)
- 2006 Lotus Exige S (2 variants)
- 2009 Lotus Exige Scura
- 2012 Lotus Exige V6 Cup
- 2010 Lotus Exos T125 (2 variants)
- 2016 Maserati Levante S
- 2011 McLaren MP4-12C
- 2012 McLaren MP4-12C GT3
- 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
- 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
- 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO
- 2012 Pagani Huayra
- 2009 Pagani Zonda R
- 1987 RUF CTR “Yellowbird”
- 2011 Scuderia Glickenhaus P4/5 Competizione
- 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C
- 2010 Tatuus FA010
- 2014 Toyota GT86
Every track featured in the game, with the exception of Zandvoort, is recreated down to the smallest bump, crack, and camber change thanks to laser-scanning technology, even including the famed, 13-mile Nurburgring Nordschleife. Even more so than with the cars, the price for this quality is a relatively small track list, though it is still growing. That attention to detail is what separates Assetto Corsa from most other racing titles and adds yet another element of realism and immersion to the driving.
Track list (DLC not included)
- Black Cat County (fictional)
- Drift skid pad
- Drag strip (200m, 400m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m)
- Monza Historic (3 configurations)
- Nurburgring (4 configurations)
- Silverstone (3 configurations)
- Trento Bondone Hillclimb
- Vallelunga (3 configurations)
As with all other racing titles, the multiplayer can suffer from bad drivers or intentional wreckers. That being said, the networking code is solid and the multiplayer experience can be excellent if you choose to join an organized league. Unless you’re willing to shell out lots of money for iRacing on the PC, Assetto Corsa is almost as competitive as it gets in this category, though it does suffer from clunky pit stops and a notable lack of spectator system. Unfortunately, you cannot set up your own server on the consoles (though this may change in the future). Still, as shown in the video above, it is quite possible to join a random server and have a good time.
AI and Career Mode
The AI in Assetto Corsa is ever-improving through patches but can still best be described as “serviceable.” It exists and can be used to set up decently fun offline races, but it combines a tendency to carelessly crash into the player with (oddly) over-caution. It’s too easy to block the AI while ahead, yet if it gets off the racing line, it will do everything in its power to return to it regardless of the consequences, even if that means spinning you out in a fashion that would get anyone banned for life at a real-life track.
In the same vein, the career in Assetto Corsa is a mere afterthought. It’s essentially a series of repetitive events that do a mediocre job of giving the player a sense of achievement and progression, which also suffers from poor balancing. While some events may be far too easy to beat, others may be downright impossible even on the same difficulty setting. In other words, if you want to play a racing game for the offline AI and career, give this one a pass.
Pricing and DLC
Assetto Corsa is a competitively priced game. On PC, the base game costs $29.99 and all DLCs offer great value for the money. The game costs $49.99 on console but comes with more base content and is available with a $19.99 Season Pass that comes with all existing and future DLC. Below is a list of the available DLC on PC and the included tracks and cars.
Dream Pack 1 ($9.99)
- Nurburgring Nordschleife (4 configurations)
- 1993 Alfa Romeo 155 V6 Ti
- 2013 Alfa Romeo 4C
- 1968 Alfa Romeo GTA
- 2014 BMW M235i Racing
- 2014 Chevrolet C7.R GTE
- 1996 McLaren F1 GTR
- 2013 McLaren P1
- 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5 EVO II
- 1989 Mercedes-Benz C9 Le Mans
- 2014 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3
Dream Pack 2 ($7.99)
- Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (2 configurations)
- 2012 Audi R8 LMS Ultra
- 2014 BMW M4 Coupe
- 2014 BMW M4 Coupe Akrapovic Edition
- 1964 Ford GT40 Mk1
- 1985 Lamborhini Countach 500 Quattro Valvole (2 variants)
- 2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3
- 2011 RUF RT12 R (2 variants)
- 2015 Scuderia Glickenhaus SCG003
Dream Pack 3 ($7.99)
- Brands Hatch (2 configurations)
- 2008 Abarth 500 Assetto Corse
- 1968 Ford Escort RS1600
- 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera (2 variants)
- 2014 Lamborghini Huracan LP 620-2 Super Trofeo
- 1962 Lotus 25
- 1972 Lotus 72D
- 2015 McLaren 650S GT3
- 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Japanese Pack ($4.99)
- 2015 Mazda MX-5 Cup
- 2015 Mazda MX-5
- 2012 Mazda RX-7 (2 variants)
- 2009 Nissan 370Z NISMO
- 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 V-Spec
- 1983 Toyota AE86 (3 variants)
- 1993 Toyota Supra MKIV (3 variants)
Red Pack ($9.99)
- Red Bull Ring circuit
- 2016 Ferrari 488 GT3
- 2013 Ferrari F138
- 2015 Ferrari SF15-T
- 2015 Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce
- 1954 Maserati 250F 6C
- 1957 Maserati 250F T2 12C
- 2016 Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4
Tripl3 Pack ($2.99)
- 2015 Ferrari 488 GTB
- 2015 Ferrari FXX-K
- 2013 Praga R1
Assetto Corsa is by far the most popular modding platform among racing games at present. Thanks to this, players either bored or unsatisfied with the cars and tracks already available from Kunos Simulazioni can look to the modding community for hundreds, possibly thousands of other options. Of course, the downside here is that modding is impossible on the consoles. Again, you’ll want to play Assetto Corsa on PC if you want the definitive experience.
I mentioned that Assetto Corsa was a very Italian game and this is true for more reasons than the developer being Italian or the name of the game itself. Like Ferrari cars, Assetto Corsa is a cut above everything else when the stars align, but can feel quite unpolished compared to the regular, perhaps less exciting competition. The barebones career, the lack of fanfare for winning a race, and various other details betray that when the developers made this game, they were really only thinking about things like handling and tire models, and not much else. Everything that doesn’t contribute to the driving feel is a mere afterthought, to the point that Assetto Corsa can be described less as a video game and more as a hotlap simulator. And given that it’s meant to be a simulator, perhaps that’s fine; but it’s also meant to be a game, and games should be fun.
In conclusion, only the most ardent simracers would be able to justify spending hours playing Assetto Corsa. However, if you do consider yourself an enthusiast or wish to become one, the game deserves a place at the top of your wishlist. When it comes to driving feel, no other title comes close.
Assetto Corsa is available through Steam, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, GameStop, and various other retailers and digital distributors.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.