Still one of the most popular racing games, if Steam Charts are anything to go by, Assetto Corsa Competizione is at the peak of its powers.
Earlier this year, the British GT DLC pack was released on PC, completing a stellar Season Pass. There has been the official British GT esports series, there’s the upcoming GT World Challenge Esports Series and the revolutionary Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series where real drivers, on race weekends, race in the game for Teams’ Championship points.
Aside from the tentpole esports events, there is a thriving community, sharing set-up tips and driving advice. Heck, we’ve even got in on the action, with wet weather, steering lock and tyre pressure guides plus a suite of track advice and car selection videos to eke out that extra tenth of a second.
You could say we’ve gone overboard a bit, but if that’s what the sim community is playing, that’s what we’ll be writing about.
Except, all throughout our ACC content, one thing seems to be absent – the console version.
For a game, sorry ‘simulation platform’, that is currently atop the throne of the PC racing fraternity, it was viewed as an odd move to port the game over to the PS4 and Xbox One. I mean, aren’t us console owners too busy playing Need for Speed or FIFA to care about the pinnacle of motorsport replication?
2016’s release of Assetto Corsa proved that a console audience is up for a challenge. Personally, I played countless hours online with friends in lobbies and we had a great time. The career was more than a bit iffy, but you could enjoy cutting laps around the Nordschleife in an Alfa Romeo MiTo or thrashing a Lotus Exos single-seater around Zandvoort, revelling in the superlative handling model.
It speaks volumes about the longevity of that game that 2021’s Ferrari Esports Series is using that original game.
Plus, remember in the 1990s? Racing games were hard. TOCA 2 Touring Cars was solid, still is today, but I still adored it as a ten-year-old on the OG PlayStation.
So, it makes sense for the acclaimed Assetto Corsa Competizione to make the console switch. Especially when it plays surprisingly well with a controller and even using a cheap, old, wheel like a Logitech G29 delivers some of the best feedback around.
What didn’t make much sense to me, however, was the timing of its release. It came out on the last-gen hardware in June 2020, just as the world was gearing up for the next-gen hardware of PS5 and Xbox Series X. This seems stranger still when you consider that on PC, ACC is one of the more hardware intensive racing experiences.
The game just didn’t work very well on the then nearly seven-year-old devices. 30 frames per second is one thing, but at launch, it wasn’t even a stable 30. There were times, especially at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps where the game was unplayable. Then, the online flat out didn’t work for a time. The pre-order Intercontinental GT Pack wasn’t available in time for launch, and it also felt a bit strange having a £11.99 / $14.99 add-on right from the off.
Plus, the game generally lacked detail in the visuals, or rather, elements would pop in noticeably and aggressively. Sure, when it was just you on track, in a GT3 car, cutting some laps, Competizione really was like nothing else. But the wrapper around it was structured like me trying to make a house of cards after a couple of whiskeys.
But now is the time to revisit it thanks to the backwards compatibility on PS5 and Xbox Series X.
To be clear, this isn’t a fancy ‘next-gen upgrade’ or ‘Smart Delivery’. There hasn’t been a native upgrade. The DualSense haptics are not supported, nor are the loading times especially breath-taking and the visuals aren’t up to top-notch personal computer levels. But simply playing the base PS4 or Xbox One version of ACC on new hardware is transformative. The visuals look crisper and the action is a smooth 60 frames per second.
In simple terms, the potential of the console version has now been reached. A great game was always in there; it was just masked by a lack of horsepower.
Not only that, but yesterday, the British GT DLC arrived for console owners, completing the Season Pass and meaning the ‘lesser’ versions are now content comparable with the PC version. That first lap around Oulton Park with this physics engine and force feedback settings – oh goodness, I almost got emotional. Once I’d spent 20 minutes mapping the buttons, that is…
So, a stable and smooth frame rate, enhanced visuals and all the juicy GT3 content you could dream of, what’s not to like?
Well, still quite a bit sadly. For one, replays are still very choppy. The Cinema HUD – which is so complicated to use we created a guide – available on PC to take pictures is also absent. This seems like a more impactful oversight on console because these days we live in an age of powerful Create buttons and sharing options. I love a good photo mode, something that F1 2020, DIRT 5 and Gran Turismo all ‘get’.
But perhaps the biggest omission, now that the online doesn’t hard crash the game these days, is the option of private lobbies. Odd, really, because the first Assetto Corsa was updated to feature these. But in Competizione, you need to hire a server if you want to play with friends. Now, that’s often the norm in the PC realm, but on console, it’s a barrier to entry. Sorry, not good enough.
And while there are a great number of guides, advice videos and expert forum posts online, I don’t think there’s enough explanation in the game as to how the SA rating works. I mean, CC, CN and TR, what the heck does that mean?! Sure, I could Google it, but at the very least, explain in the game.
Strangely with Assetto Corsa these idiosyncrasies are part of the charm, but only for those who dedicate inordinate amounts of time to it. One for the cognoscenti.
Despite all of that, now that there’s more headroom from a hardware power perspective and all the excellent downloadable content has arrived, if you’re lucky enough to own a PS5 or Xbox Series X and previously purchased ACC, now is the time to boot it up again.
If, however, you’re still on the fence, a full-flavour next-gen release is coming later this year. And after re-visiting the current version, I for one cannot wait.