Let's talk about racing games for a moment. The racing game genre has had it's ups, and downs over the years. It's had it's highs, and lows within the realm of popularity and sales for various reasons. In it's high times gamers got to revel in the glory of the sub-genre known as simulators while playing games like "Gran Turismo". A series which mostly hit the nail on the head when it came to realism, and plentiful in-game offerings. On the flip side of the same coin we have had arcade style racers like 'Project Gotham Racing', and "Super Mario Kart" which offered a different take on the racing genre, but in a manner relevant to a more casual crowd. For the most part racing games have fallen into one of a handful of sub-categories including that of simulators, arcade racers, and even indie racers. Each of which has appealed to a different type of gamer demographic. As a gamer myself I have enjoyed games like 'Gran Turismo', and 'Project Gotham Racing', but never really invested a lot of time into said games. I'm not what you'd call a racing fan, and only found enjoyment when the races weren't so true to life that I found myself stumbling along trying to grasp an understanding of pro circuit driving. I feel that while games like 'Gran Turismo' are attractive they are geared towards a very faithful audience. An audience that understands the fundamentals of racing, and the basics of driving. An audience who appreciates such technology, and science. None of which I'm really accustom to.
When it comes to "Assetto Corsa" on the Playstation 4 it delves into familiar yet unfamiliar territory the likes of which reminds me of a more humble yet rich version of "Driveclub", or the previously mentioned "Gran Turismo". The graphics that accompany the several modes of play, and the many sports style cars that inhabit the tracks therein are so realistically portrayed that it's hard not to sense the realism once you pop the game into your PS4's disc drive. All of the elements of pro level, and novice level racing are included alongside this fancy facade as well. Sometimes in a shades of grey style of standards. You'll find plenty of name brand vehicles to choose from including Chevrolet, Audi, BMW, Lamborghini, and even some F1 racers among others. The game tries it's best to pit these unique sports cars against each other on universally friendly tracks, but in doing so sometimes misses the mark by making the seemingly possible impossible to the more casual gamer.
Early on in your novice "Career" mode playthrough, for example you'll be put in the driver seat of some drift style racers which feature a brake handling system that is definitely not cohesive with the tracks laid out before you. The sharp curves will make braking a trial, and more often than not in the single events or races you will be left trailing behind, because your computer opponents will never falter in their efforts to make it past the finish line on the final lap. Sure, the game offers a plethora of tweaks, and pre-race options geared towards making some innate racing capabilities easier to deal with, but it becomes apparent from the start that the selection of cars made available aren't on equal grounds. I kind of felt at a loss due to the extreme curves on the early race tracks, and the lack of a proper braking system on the early novice racing vehicles found within the "Career" mode.
For those of you curious as to what exactly "Assetto Corsa" offers beyond it's pro appeal, the glitz, and the glamour you will be happy to know that there is a decent selection of noteworthy cars available from launch as well as three main menus (Drive Event, Drive, Career) of accompanying modes which are further divided by race types (time trial, drift, hot lap), and even further into 16 person online lobbies with specific styles of cars kept in mind. What you won't find is cars locked behind in-game currency, or even a storage shed for your unlocked cars. Assetto Corsa is in all respects a racing simulator that is about as pure as such a racing simulator can get. It is all about the cars, and the race at hand. I'd dare to say that in it's realism it beats 'Gran Turismo' at it's own game, and brings to the seasoned racing gamer a photo-realistic set of challenges more than worthy of such an experience. While it wasn't exactly my cup of tea due to my limitations of understanding I did find my limited playthrough interesting enough.
If attention to detail, and realism is what you seek in your racing simulator you will definitely find that here in "Assetto Corsa". In saying that though I do realize that the game's realism also kind of cripples the experience for those gamers looking to enjoy a casual racing game. This is a racing simulator, and as difficult as it may be for gamers like me it does what it does well. Outside of the worldwide track selection, the impressive library of modern-day racing vehicles, and the tweakable options related to things like car handling and track conditions "Asseto Corsa" sets the standards for what a faithful modern-day racing simulator should be. It goes above, and beyond to make you feel as if you are the race car driver driving against all odds in a racing career that could set the stage for your future fame.
The game itself offers much more than just those basic, and fundamental features though. Much more than that. Along with the modes of racing you can also save replays, manipulate replay POVs (Point of Views), change AI difficulty (Easy - Alien), and even participate in specialized racing events within the offline modes of play. The special events in particular feature a designated car, an extreme track, and extreme conditions to overcome for top leaderboard standings. There are even weekend events set aside for the weekends within the "Drive" main menu listings. For those of you looking to get practice in on any track with a car of choice, and racing conditions of choice you can do that as well through the "Drive" menu listing of "Practice". You can even practice the "Hot Lap (Single Lap)", "Drift", and "Time Trial" sub-modes to your hearts content. Just keep in mind that some modes of play whether offline, or online keep track of your earned points, or times. In the racing situations that tally up points you'll find that point earnings coincide with lap times, and racing perfection. In drift, for example performing a proper drift on the drift racing course will bank you points according to the severity of the drift you were able to pull off. On the negative side failing to maintain lane will cost you huge point penalties. The experience throughout "Assetto Corsa" is definitely all about the challenge no matter the mode of choice.
The Verdict ...
I think "Assetto Corsa" is a top notch racing simulator. It's a game that will definitely appeal to the more faithful racing fans. Not so much the casual crowd though. The game looks gorgeous, and the hard hitting soundtrack definitely compliments the on-track action. The selection of cars may not be the biggest, but there are plenty to choose from, and even some that you'll find you can purchase from the PSN store if you so desire. The fact that the game has plenty of offline modes to get in practice with, and online lobbies built towards gamers who prefer specific types of cars speaks volumes on the behalf of this game's quality. I'd say if you are up for a proper racing challenge, and a racing simulator that is faithful to it's sources you'll likely not be disappointed with this one.