In the realm of console racing games, the word “simulator” has been tossed around pretty casually over the years, thanks mostly to the almighty franchise that started it all, the one which refers to itself as the “real driving simulator”, the one we call Gran Turismo, blessed be its name.
It was all – as most true racing nuts know – a bunch of exhaust fumes though, as Gran Turismo as well as all of its rivals were lighting up the forums with heated debates over video games that were just that… games. A simulator is not a video game, its primary focus is to provide as real of an experience as possible by using complex physics and a whole bunch of other digital trickery, often at the expense of a lot of the other cushy parts of video games we love so much.
Assetto Corsa is a simulator, and unlike video games that masquerade around as simulators, Assetto Corsa seems to do just the opposite.
It’s at this point that I’d like to mention that this isn’t my first rodeo with Assetto Corsa. I have been playing Assetto Corsa here and there for a very long time, as it’s the first (and only) Steam Early Access title that I ever bought in to. This means that I got to see it go through a lot of the different phases of development as it slowly grew into the final product we have today. When I heard it was coming to console I was intrigued, because I was interested to see how they would convert a pretty clunky bunch of modes and interfaces into a full-priced title that could go up against the like of Gran Turismo, Forza and Project CARS.
Thing is, they didn’t really pull it off – and that’s a little sad.
Now I need to say this pretty loud and clear, Assetto Corsa is the probably the most realistic driving simulator available on any console. Its ability to deliver an incredibly solid driving experience when completely rigged up is not the problem and it really doesn’t hurt that it has some of the most desirable cars ever built in its stable. The problem, as mentioned before is that this is not a game – but a simulator with a few modes bolted on so that it can pretend to be a game, and anyone walking into it hoping for the next great console racer is going to be very sad.
Assetto Corsa is designed to simulate track driving and racing, and for driving simulation you really need a wheel and pedals setup or you’re going to have a pretty bad time. Some games have done a great job of translating the driving experience over to the controller, but this is not one of those games and the more I tried to tweak the settings to get a better experience, the more frustrated I got.
Without any form of 1 to 1 steering method the game just doesn’t feel fun to play, and the only other way to get around that is to crank on as much stability assistance as possible, and if you’re doing that… then why are you playing this hardcore simulator in the first place? Most upsetting is that on the PS4 version, there is no way to make use of the DS4’s tilt controls, which worked wonders for Project CARS. While that’s not as good as a wheel, it offers that all important 1 to 1 input method that makes for smooth and satisfying steering and doesn’t leave your car’s nose darting all over the track.