A concoction of viscerally astonishing game design and excessively niche focus, Assetto Corsa Competizione needlessly waters down its own excellence.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is an incredibly authentic simulation, pushing Unreal Engine 4 to its limits to produce one of the most visually and mechanically realistic racing experiences that will make even high-end gaming rigs break a sweat. Beyond that, though, there's really not that much else to what amounts to a relatively barebones game. Outside of multiplayer races, Assetto Corsa Competizione is a dry, somewhat impenetrable racing sim that won't hold the attention of many outside of the genre's core audience. Even then, the most dedicated among the racing sim crowd may find Competizione a bit drab after a while, as it's backed itself into the alluring but excessively niche corner of GT3 endurance racing, a move that inherently eliminates the variety that fans of the first series entry have come to expect.
Assetto Corsa Competizione features a dozen cars from the instantly recognizable GT3 class and a quality handful of Europe's top racing venues, all realized with photo-realistic accuracy. It's hard to overstate how beautiful of a visual achievement Competizione is for Italian developer Kunos Simulazioni. As the sun sets on a endurance event and a light shower begins to coat the tarmac, a staggered procession of Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and other iconic supercars flying around world-famous tracks like Nürburgring is a downright sexy sight to behold from the driver's seat. Knowing that, it's a bit unfortunate that only top-of-the-line gaming rigs are currently able to properly render the visual splendor that Kunos has crafted, and the game looks decent at best on most other PCs despite competent optimization.
Beneath its sleekly polished surface, Competizione is still the authentic simulation experience that put the Assetto Corsa series on the map in 2014. As it is with any racing sim worth its salt, a force feedback-enabled wheel is the only way to go in Kunos' latest entry. Taming the nimble beasts of the GT3 series is a tactile wonder, and the assortment of sensations that come from taking precarious corners, riding out the curb, and slipping back onto the track at top speed can bring vicarious enthusiasts closer to the real experience of professional driving than just about anything else out there. For players unable or unwilling to drop a large sum of money on driving peripherals, though, Competizione gives little thought to gamepads or keyboard and mouse, so non-racing wheel players will have a disproportionately frustrating time trying to finish races, let alone hone lap times.
On that note, Competizione is all about lap consistency due to its exclusive focus upon the Blancpain GT Series, whose endurance and sprint races receive the only staging. Mastering individual cars is still key to performing competently, but raw proficiency and intimate knowledge of each track add up to be far more important in the potentially hours-long races that make up the Blancpain GT Series schedule. As such, perfecting lap times and becoming as consistent as possible on every curve on every track form the only path to victory in Competizione. That's not a flaw in an of itself, and striving towards improvement in these long form races makes for an obsessive type of fun for the game's first dozen or so hours. However, players looking for the more immediate gratification and exponentially wider selection of cars found in the first Assetto Corsa - or literally any other racer - will likely get fatigued by Competizione's single-minded approach.
It would seem as though this potential for burnout (no pun intended) would be offset by the game's career mode, which puts players into the seat of a Lamborghini Youngster Programme driver on the road to Blancpain fame. Featuring a patently awkward, licensed mentorship by racing legend Mirko Bortolotti. In spite of Competizione's refrain that consistency is key, its career mode is hypocritically erratic in structure and comes across as entirely half-baked when wordlessly forcing players to return to the main menu after every event, whether they've succeeded or failed. It does an okay job as a tutorial, successfully getting players accustomed to the cars and tracks in and on which they'll spend a lot of time, but it wholly fails to sufficiently explain any of the competition's rules beyond a monotone voice (presumably that of a disinterested Bortolotti) that retroactively informs the player that they've incurred a penalty.
Luckily, multiplayer provides a much better experience than the career. It still seems more highly prone to grate on all but the most die-hard of endurance racing fans much faster than that of the still-strong playerbase of the first Assetto Corsa, but witnessing other human drivers' variable lap-to-lap struggles and feats of racing excellence is oddly comforting. Using a matchmaking system that separates thoughtful drivers from the outright reckless and malicious rabble, Kunos is doing a fine job so far of maintaining a space for serious sim enthusiasts without fully casting out those who may still be learning or - let's face it - simply aren't using as expensive of input devices.
All in all, Assetto Corsa Competizione has the skeleton of an exceptional racing simulation, but Kunos' efforts to flesh out the breathtaking engine and tight mechanics are ultimately paper-thin. Having spent a considerable amount of time in early access, this shouldn't be incredibly surprising, but its nonetheless disappointing. It's fun to play around in the punishingly precise world of the Blancpain GT Series for a little while, but the innate repetition of endurance racing may ultimately make for a dead online community in what could have been a sim as lively as it is pure.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is now available on PC. Screen Rant was provided a PC code for this review.