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Assetto Corsa Tech Preview Review... Preview


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Well it's about time this came out! I hear nobody say, because most of you probably forgot I was even going to be writing a review for the Assetto Corsa technology preview since I said I'd have one done "tomorrow" almost a month ago, well here it is, sort of. 


I feel like I should say sorry for this in a way, I sort of promised it would be a video review only to turn around and smack a primitive text based solution into your face way after any interest in the program being reviewed died. 


The promised article does exist. 


But you can't see it. 


Nobody can ever see it.


It was around the point of recording the voice over for the video review that I became aware of the sheer horror that is the sound of my own voice, as a result I don't like any of my audio in the video. I decided it was best to lock the video away and hope that eventually someone with the voice of a radio god would volunteer to read my script for me, thus completing the video. Since this probably isn't the strange parallel universe where that eventuality actually happens within 10 years of the time where it is still relevant and acceptable to post a review for the product in question, I figured I might as well supply people with some content, even if it is in the form of lousy, high effort, low tech, words. 


Over View


This is a game that I've been banging on about for a while and it's been gradually generating quite a bit of hype throughout it's development so far, I first found out about it through a mystery friend, who saw it on a site after tolerating (I assume) my endless moaning about how there are no modern racing titles that include classic F1 cars, I probably said something to the effect of  "my life would be complete if I could just have a game with a realistic Lotus 49."


My friend linked me to an "unedited in game screenshot" of, you guessed it, a Lotus 49. One locked door and a few damp socks later, I had fallen in love with Assetto Corsa!



Oh god! Excuse me again!



The Finished Product promises BMWs, Paganis, Ferraris among other luxury and racing cars!


Put aside the disturbing mental image of a dude milking himself into dirty foot apparel and what do you have? Well to start you have Kunos Simulazioni; A small Italian software development team based out of Vallelunga, their sole aim is to create driving simulations that are as accurate to real life as they are able to make them. They already saw moderate success among sim racing fans with their former title Netkar Pro, and as you can see from various pictures, this new project has been quite ambitious.


Obviously when they announced and eventually released the Technology Preview, I was all over it like ants at a picnic. Of course this only a preview of the final product, so the opportunity to rub my ant carcass all over the quadruple chocolate cookie dough mega cake that will be the finished sim has not yet been presented. The way Kunos have worded things suggests that what you are about to read about isn't even a slice of the delicious cake. It's a benchmark, the developers claim it's not representative of the final game or even a demo of the final game. It's the uncooked sloppy mix of our hypothetical and improbable ant engulfed picnic cake.


However even as a gloopy mix, Assetto Corsa still has me running a 24 hour cream factory, here's why:



Menu & User Interface


Usually I take very little interest in the menu and user interface of games so long as there is nothing horrendously wrong with them, and Assetto Corsa is much the same as any other game. The Menu is clean and attractive, all the settings you would expect to see for Graphics and Control setup are there and are as painless to use as they should be. In my often forceful and violent opinion (IMOFVO for short) game menus should all be simple and easy to navigate, it's easy to foul up user interface by being artsy and original and more often than not, games that take the fancy menu approach tend to just be confusing and a massive distraction from the bit people actually care about: the game.


I will however mention something quite neat that appears once you have the sim loaded up and the car sitting in the pit lane. A modular HUD interface! It's hard to describe this feature without resorting to more of my usual subtle masturbation references, but to prevent this review turning into the preliminary article for an autopsy paper trying to understand how it's possible for a man to die from severe friction burns I will refrain from making further comments of such a nature [lie]. Unlike any other simulation or driving game I have played previously, Assetto Corsa allows players to drag and drop modules ranging from Car telemetry data to lap times into their heads up display on the fly. It's as simple as hovering the mouse over the right hand side of the screen at any time in game, clicking the module you want, and dragging it into the screen, you can move it where you want and getting rid of it if you change your mind is just as easy. In my eyes this is one of those in game features where you can't imagine how anyone would ever want to do it another way after trying it out. That, Apple fans, is innovation!




Moving on from the endorphin releasing greatness of the HUD, there are a few more appreciated menu features Assetto Corsa coughs up, the slow motion button, for example, is a very appreciated feature! Assetto Corsa allows replays to be slowed down to a maximum of 12 times the normal playback speed. This is really great for capturing the bounce of the suspension as you clip an apex, or making your not so glamorous single second loss of control look like a very deliberate and very professional 12 second drift... almost. In my case the slow motion feature merely makes my slow driving look stationary, and whilst that particular button will probably only become useful when you want to look at the massive multi-player crash that got you banned from a server when the full game is released, it's nice to know that the feature will be there!  




Hands up everyone who's driven a Lotus Elise. Now, Hands up everyone who has driven around Autodromo dell'Umbria in Magione, Italy. My guess is that not many people have done one or both of those things. This is bad for the honesty of the review but good for me. It's good for me because I could just lie and even though you know I (probably) have no idea what it's like to drive this car around that track, you (probably) haven't got a better clue with which to call my bluff either! That leads on to the review honesty bit of our conundrum, I don't want to be the twat who just pretends to know about how these things should feel, so I'm just not going to talk about them. Instead I'm going to compare how it feels in general in comparison to other racing titles and how I would expect it to feel in comparison to a Ford Fiesta, which I have driven. Accurate!


Compared to other racing sims, the tactile experience obtained through Assetto Corsa is closest to iRacing and Live For Speed, it's grippy and responsive. Unlike some racing titles, the wheel controller on the desk feels directly connected to the front wheels of the car in game, everything is immediate and it feels like the car in game is responding to actual physical changes like a real car rather than the computer just crunching some numbers and flinging the car sideways because that's what the calculations said should happen. The really great thing about Assetto Corsa that makes me believe it is of a good standard in terms of realism is the ease of driving the car in game. I don't find it difficult to drive in reality, so I'd expect that when driving at road speeds in the game the sensation is much the same, with Assetto Corsa that feels correct, the sense of speed is good at 50 mph, braking and turning into corners feels natural. Unless you're absolutely forcing your right foot through the floor the car rarely catches you off guard.


This has changed the way you approach the sim, instead of fighting to keep the car on the track I find myself fighting to go round faster, in Assetto Corsa the cliff of personal limitation is a steep one and it's all the more shocking since you have to really try to reach it.


The game is surprisingly still quite playable with an xbox controller, which is good news for those who can't afford a racing wheel, and in addition there are a large number of modifiable realism settings that can cater to all skill levels! 




Without a doubt, the visual spectacle that was presented in the Assetto Corsa screenshots when it was first in development was what caused my hasty decision to start a dairy farm, and the technology preview does not detract from the images, it's all there: Depth of field, Motion blur, HDR environments, High quality textures and superb model detail.




This is close to the best looking racing title I've ever played, it wipes out console titles such as Gran Turisomo and Forza in the visual department and there is absolutely no point in making any comparison between Assetto Corsa and one of the other PC sims, it's in a league of it's own when it comes to knock out looks!




Granted I can't run the game on very high settings on my system (Intel Core i7 3770K @ 3.9GHz | 4GB DDR3 RAM | ATI Sapphire HD7770 Vapor-X) but that's why this tech benchmark was created; to allow Kunos to collect as much player pc data as they could in order to improve the performance of the final game!






I can't honestly say that the audio experience offered by Assetto Corsa is particularly fantastic, but this could merely be due to the fact that my ears have been spoilt by the engulfing sound offered by Simbin's new title “Race Room Racing Experience” which whilst being a mouth full to say (most people seem to just use R3E now) offers some seriously fantastic game sounds. Assetto Corsa has all the makings of a good audio experience, with enticing sounds such as gravel clattering around in the wheel arches upon returning to smooth tarmac from the various traps set around the circuit, and the sound of tyres about to loose all grasp of the road surface, but the sim has yet to offer the atmospheric bustle of a pitlane crowd, or the echoing sound of the car as it powers around corners in the distance or just the ambience of being outside.


Whilst I have been assured from several sources that the Lotus Elise does indeed sound “that crappy” in reality, I can't help but think there is much improvement to be had in the audio department that would add just a little bit more to the already intensely immersive gameplay.




Assetto Corsa is shaping up to be everything that it has advertised: A beautiful, Accurate and Imersive driving simulator. It's very hard to fault this game and considering it's still in the process of being made, that's a big deal! While other games have a history of being released and needing instentanious patches and updates, mentioning no names (F1 2010 AND 2011!!! FUCK YOU CODEMASTERS, FUCK YOU), Assetto Corsa looks like it could be released tomorrow and still blow half the current PC racing titles clean out of the water! This isn't even a slice compared to the cake!


So what's the point of a review for a game that isn't even out yet? Interest! Currently Kunos are trying to get their game onto steam via greenlight! If this game seems even vaguely interesting to you, you should help them out and up vote it here:




If you're really interested, you can either purchase Netkar Pro 1.3 and try the Tech Preview with it, or wait until the public demo is released!








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