When it comes to simulation racing games, Assetto Corsa is up there among the best. Previously available on PC only, this ridiculously authentic racing experience is now available on PlayStation 4 and XBOX One.
A racing sim takes pride of place in the CarAdvice office, and our advertising operations manager Jin Tee is unbeatable. So when we received an invitation to the launch of the new console version - and taking into account the fact that my sim racing talents swing more toward Mario Kart than Assetto Corsa - I took Jin along to get his informed opinion on the new offering.
We hit The Nerd Cave in Surry Hills, Sydney, to enjoy playing not only Assetto Corsa, but a host of other arcade-style games. Because we weren't driving real cars, we even got to enjoy a cheeky beer to kick off the afternoon. As you would expect, that indulgence did not make our simulated driving skills any sharper!
Jin, you are our in-house gaming expert, and you’ve spent quite a lot of time playing Assetto Corsa. No surprise, you hold the office lap record. Playing it now on the console, what are the standout differences?
The console and PC versions are very similar! Probably the most obvious difference is the quality of the graphics. They are better on the PC, simply because of hardware. Our production team recently reclaimed the PC that was running our racing simulator, so we now have a PS4 hooked up, which was perfect because the console version of Assetto Corsa has just dropped and we got our hands on a copy at the launch.
The only problem is that the steering wheel we have, the Logitech G27, isn’t supported by Assetto Corsa. I don’t know if there will be support for it in the future, but as of now it’s restricted to the licensed PS4/Xbox steering wheels that include a variety of Thrustmaster, Fanatec and Logitech units.
Playing the game with the hand controller really doesn’t do it justice. At the launch, they had a racing rig with a PS4 hooked up to a Thrustmaster 599XX Evo 30. I had it to myself for a good hour after the event started to clear out - it was very reminiscent of the PC. I may have even broken a sweat.
So the steering wheel is the way to go if you want to get the most out of this game.
Yeah, it’s a racing sim - if you want the best immersion, you’ll want a racing rig. It’s not like Need for Speed or Midnight Club.
(laughs) You need to have some precision with this game, you won’t really get that from a controller. Not to say that you can’t do it, and master it.
You actually get that real sensation of being behind the wheel of the race car. It’s sensitive to every input…
If you run over ripple strips, you’ll feel the feedback come through the steering wheel. If the rear wheels start to slide, you’ll feel that too. It really helps you know what the car is doing.
The launch of Assetto Corsa on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was held at a really funky little hole in the wall called The Nerd Cave, as an avid gamer what did you think when you walked in? Had you heard of it?
No, never! The whole concept is pretty cool, almost like a gym, in a sense, but for gamers.
You pay an entry fee for a finite amount of time and have access to everything. Almost like an Internet café but with arcade games. A massive mix of everything, from Time Crisis, to air hockey, to board games… there were slot cars at the launch event too. They're a blast from the past and we had a lot of fun with them.
The dance one! That was so hard…
Dance Dance Revolution. We... did not do very well on that one at all. Remember, we saw someone at the end of the day that was killing it... not us!
There was a gaming lounge at the top where the Assetto Corsa consoles were set up. Four couches, four big screens. There were PCs downstairs for general gaming and LAN parties. They’ve got a range of board games and even figurine painting. They often hold events. So there really is something for everyone.
It’s a real gaming community space and it’s great that there’s a space for like-minded gamers to gather and connect.
LAN parties? I’ve just learned something new. That’s one type of party I’m yet to attend... so, back to Assetto Corsa. Tell me about the cars?
There’s a limited selection of cars compared to most games, but enough variety to keep you interested. From classics, to production cars, to supercars and Formula 1 cars. The selection includes Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Huracan, Audi R8 Ultra, Fiat 500 Abarth Assetto Corse, McLaren 650 GT3, Mercedes AMG GT3, Lotus 98T and more. It may not be the longest list, but I'm not complaining. There's a good range.
I would definitely get my hands on the Japanese DLC ('downloadable content') package for the cars - 2015 Mazda MX-5, Mazda MX-5 CUP, Mazda RX-7 Spirit R, Toyota Supra MK IV, Toyota AE86 Trueno, Nissan 370Z NISMO, Nissan GT-R R34 Skyline V-Spec - awesome.
And how could you not go for the Red DLC package, with the Ferrari SF-15T, Ferrari F138, Ferrari 488 GT3, Maserati 250F 6C, Maserati 250F T2 12C, Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 and Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce.
It was also recently announced that Porsche is partnering up with Assetto Corsa to release two DLC packages later later this year.
What are your favourite tracks?
I personally love the Nordschleife, the Nurburgring is my thing on any sim game. I love the challenge of putting a 7-8 minute lap together while staying on the track the whole lap. I’d love to see Bathurst or Tsukuba, if I could choose two tracks to add.
What about the different playing modes?
The offline modes include special events, drive and career mode. You can do a practice session, a quick race where you don’t need to do a qualifying race, a full weekend racing experience, a hotlap which is a time trial, time attack is where you race against the clock – which is my favourite – and a drift mode where the aim is to slide around as much of the track as you can. I think if you can get the hang of drift mode, you’ll really start to have some fun.
Career mode will start you racing in the Novice series race events. Completing the race events and goals progress you onto faster cars and harder races.
I haven’t spent much time in multiplayer yet, I just can’t do it with a PS4 controller.
What do you think of the graphics and the overall experience?
Personally I thought the graphics were decent. If you were an avid graphics nerd and did a side-by-side comparison of console vs PC, then you’d likely notice the difference. But the experience and the physics of the game was just as good as the PC. The game does a great job of translating the sense of driving with a steering wheel on both platforms.
Some of the cars sound pretty close to the real thing! I enjoyed listening to the races.
I think they’ve done a brilliant job. I’ve played a few racing games and generally this is where they mostly lack. In Assetto Corsa, each car has a unique sound. You get a lot of mechanical noises - turbo, intake, blow-off valve, exhaust over-run.
The level of detail you can go into with the vehicles, how you can tune them, how important do you think that is?
I had a look at it, and there are a lot of options – it’s pretty full on. You can really tune your car in incredible detail. You can adjust camber angles, spring rates, gear ratios, dif lock settings, tyre pressure, front and rear brake bias and so much more. So if you’re trying to shave down your personal best time on the your favourite track for example, you can really refine your car to suit the track.
What is your favourite car to tackle Nordschleife?
We’ve been using the Nissan GTR R35, the Le Mans version, in the office competition. It’s not slow and it can corner, so even the likes of Tony Crawford can get around turn one...
Do you think even I’d beat Tony?
(laughs) Yeah I think you could. But in terms of my favourite car for the Ring… probably an E46 M3. Although I’m not biased towards any car really.
Whatever takes your fancy on the day?