The gaming industry is fast moving. Some games appear and disappear after only a year. Other titles come to stay. The racing simulation Assetto Corsa belongs to the latter category and is still at the top after six years.
Sim-Racing is booming in 2020, with more and more professional racers and aspiring drivers getting behind the wheel to put their foot down on the virtual images of Nürburgring or Silverstone. iRacing and rFactor 2 are among the best Sim-racing games on the market, but one inconspicuous name almost towers above the top dogs: Assetto Corsa from Italian development studio Kunos Simulazioni.
Assetto Corsa: From a Bumpy Start to the Sim-Racing Heights
Since 2006, the Kunos Simulazioni development studio in the Italian capital Rome has been working on racing simulations for the PC, but none of their early works really stood out. Until the year 2014.
Or rather 2013, because in November of that year Assetto Corsa was added to Steam's Early Access program. Based on the years of experience the team has gained with titles such as netKar Pro and Ferrari Virtual Academy, the Italians did not just create another basic racing simulation.
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The focus of Assetto Corsa is split between an ultra-realistic driving experience (this is also offered by other sim-racing games) and extensive modifiability. Assetto Corsa, which roughly translates to Racing Setup, owes part of its success to the lively modding community.
What is Assetto Corsa?
Assetto Corsa is a racing simulation that was released in December 2014 as a finished game for the PC. The console implementation for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One came almost two years later - in August 2016. Unlike the PC version, those were not too well received by fans and critics.
The reason for this is quickly identified. If you think of console racing games, then you think of controllers, an affectionate career mode, split screen racing and the like. AC doesn't have all that. The controller part especially was a major obstacle.
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Assetto Corsa is a hardcore simulation and playfully outshines pretty much everything even on consoles. If you play it with a steering wheel. With a controller the racer is completely unplayable and that doesn't go down well at all on consoles.
PC gamers, on the other hand, don't care, because the sim racing genre has always been at home here. Still, for both PC and console, if you play AC with a steering wheel, it offers - even from today's point of view - perhaps the best driving physics, the best force feedback and one of the best sound effects the Sim-Racing genre has to offer.
And yes, we deliberately differentiate here between Sim Racing and racing games or racing simulation, because there are actually a lot of differences between the sub-genres (even if it may not look like that from the outside).
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Assetto Corsa may not offer the largest pool of vehicles in the genre and the racer can't hold a candle to the competition in terms of track selection either. On the track, however, the racing game, together with iRacing and rFactor 2, is enthroned at the top of the podium and this is mainly due to the community.
Assetto Corsa as a Modding Playground
So how do you keep a game alive that can't keep up with current racing simulations in terms of content and graphics? After all, the Italian developers themselves launched the successor, Assetto Corsa Competizione, about two years ago. The answer: with unique community and modding functions.
Assetto Corsa has one of the most beginner-friendly and at the same time most comprehensive editors available. The result is a wealth of sensational racing cars and tracks from every era of motorsport. They are (at least some of them) so good that the developers have included them in the game as official content.
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A 1360 HP Koenigsegg One:1? A RallyLegends mod including rally race cars and tracks? Or spectacular weather and sound effects? Thanks to the modding community, AC has all that. There are so many good Assetto Corsa mods that it's hard to pick out even a top 20.
Assetto Corsa: the Uncrowned Sim-Racing King
There are now many Sim-Racing titles on the market, and they all differ from each other to a greater or lesser extent. Some prefer the driving experience of iRacing, others the possibilities of rFactor 2 and others swear by the diversity of Project Car 2, but Assetto Corsa, thanks to its community, keeps up well with most of them to this day.
Well-known Sim-Racing vlogger Danny Lee agreed following some laps in the Ferrari SF70H:
What I didn't expect was to be blown away by the passion and love that went into the SF70H and other cars in the AC garage. Here's a lap of the Red Bull Ring that shows that Assetto Corsa is without a doubt the best sim to showcase the audio-visual gaming experience that has ignited the love for motorsport in all of us.
No matter which racing simulation you prefer, Assetto Corsa had a major impact on the genre around six years ago and provided a number of innovations that are still valid today. It may not be the best Sim-Racing game on the market, but it is without a doubt one of the most influential.