Assetto Corsa Competizione is simply a sublime celebration of GT racing

With its sole focus on GT Series racing, Assetto Corsa Competizione reduces the scope of the original Assetto Corsa, but delivers the kind of focus that hardcore racing fans will love, assuming that they have the skills to match their passion. This is a proper racing simulator, and played with a controller on PS5 it can be brutal — but if you stick with it, the reward is worth it.

Right from the outset (where the career mode walks you through several trial racers under the Lamborghini Youngsters program) Assetto Corsa Competizione is incredibly unforgiving. 

You can expect races to be longer than they are in most games (even on their shortest variant) and there are none of the softer features of games like Forza Motorsport or GRID. You can’t turn back time and rewind to the last corner here, and if you spin just once, you’re likely to end up at the back of the pack with little chance of recovery. In a ten to twenty minute race, being punished for a single mistake (often caused by an AI opponent nudging you) is a problem for many, and it certainly was for me.

There are other problems too, some of which go against the level of realism that Assetto Corsa Competizione strives for. For example, when you pit (which is mandatory) the game seems unfairly punishing towards the player — it takes several seconds for the game to “realise” that you’re in the pit, the time taken to turn off the engine is excruciating and then the locked 30 seconds that it takes to undertake the pit stop feels arduous. I have pitted in first place perhaps ten or fifteen times now, and only two or three times have I then gone on to win the race despite not making a single mistake.

Another issue is the chase camera options — which all break the sense of immersion completely. A choice of two cockpit views and two “bonnet cams” make for superb racing immersion, but in any chase view, the camera swings wildly and makes the car feel as if it is sat a couple of inches above the road. This breaks the fine turning balance and feel of Assetto Corsa Competizione completely.

Having come to this review so late) I have the benefit of looking at other reviews. A lot of those seem to come out at around 6 or 7 out of ten, and let me be clear right now — they are simply wrong. Having been lucky enough to drive a couple of Porsche 911’s and R8’s in my time, and having spent several hours on a racetack in a Lamborghini Gallardo, I can confirm that there is simply no other racing game that comes as close to realism as Assetto Corsa Competizione. 

There are some problems (most of which I’ve just listed) but none of these relate to how the cars actually feel to drive, and how they perfectly translate the state of the road surface through a controller so unbelievably well. At this point, I should mention that I’m playing on a PlayStation 5, and the alignment between the DualSense controller and Assetto Corsa Competizione is nothing short of miraculous.

I don’t know how they’ve done it, but somehow 505 Games has managed to link the visuals (excluding when in the chase cam) on screen to the audio and the DualSense feedback impeccably well. Let me give you an example; driving my Honda NSX at night in the rain, I accelerate across the apex of a left-hand corner that sweeps right — I see the nose lift slightly, I hear the engine change tone as the revs climb, I feel the weight shift to the rear wheels and as I turn in, I know that the car is drifting wide. By this point — 20 or 30 hours in — I know that if I let off the accelerator slightly (but not completely, because I need the outside rear wheel to drive the car back in) I can sort the drift out. You do not get that in console racing games, you just don’t.

And this really is Assetto Corsa Competizione’s greatest strength and the feature that makes it most daunting to many (including me.) It has taken me hours and hours to reach the point where I can consistently control those moments. It takes real fine movements on the left stick and very gentle persuasion of both brake and accelerator pedals. It takes time not only to understand the game, but also the cars within it — the NSX feels very different to the R8, or the 911.

If you want a very serious, genuinely astounding racing simulator on console, then I don’t think you can do better than Assetto Corsa Competizione on PlayStation 5 specifically. The DualSense controller is a genuine gamechanger here, and if you don’t have a wheel setup, then it offers the next best thing. However, the cost that you need to be aware of before you head into Assetto Corsa Competizione is that it is brutally unforgiving (even though the in-race tutorials and prompts are pleasingly supportive). 

You will race for fifteen minutes and then lose a race because of a minor issue on a corner that you’ve successfully navigated seven or eight laps in a row previously, and you will want to throw your pad out of the window. Those lows are easily matched however by the highs, and alongside games like the original Gran Turismo and Colin McRae Rally, some of my most memorable racing-game moments have come in Assetto Corsa Competizione whilst racing wing to wing against the extremely competent AI.    

Whilst it may seem to be reserved for genuine enthusiasts only, I’d like to see more people push through the learning peak (it’s not a curve) that Assetto Corsa Competizione presents, because behind it, there is a glorious vista that any car or racing fanatic will absolutely adore. For some of the high moments alone, Assetto Corsa Competizione is now firmly cemented in my mind as a benchmark for future racing games to surpass.

Assetto Corsa Competizione is available on PC, Xbox and Playstation.

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