While not my favorite YouTube personality by any stretch of the imagination, racing game vlogger BlackPanthaa has toned down his over-the-top antics for a rather calm and informative preview video of Assetto Corsa on the Playstation 4. Coming in at seven minutes in length, virtually every question a sim racer could possibly have in regards to the upcoming console release by Kunos Simulazioni is answered in great detail, though in some situations it may not be what PC owners of Assetto Corsa want to hear.
First up, let’s talk about the positives. The heads up display, an element of Assetto Corsa that has been completely re-designed for the console version of the game, is downright fucking sexy. Kunos appear to have taken a bit of inspiration from the semi-futuristic vibe of the Forza Motorsport series, but their own interpretation of this particular aesthetic is just as impressive. No longer do the various HUD elements feel like an Open Source project, but instead they bring the overall package together and proudly proclaim “This is Assetto Corsa!” The gauge cluster has received a much-needed revamp, the leaderboard is no longer an intrusive bar at the bottom of your screen, and even the overall information box displaying basic race info has been neatly re-organized into something more aesthetically pleasing.
Not only has the Heads Up Display seen a major face lift for the console release, but the entire menu layout has been re-built from the ground up. Blending the familiar interfaces of FIFA and DriveClub, the main menu and pre-race setup screens feature bold artwork and easy-to-read text, a far cry from the minimalist PC version where tabs, drop-down menus, and ugly yellow text reign supreme.
Unfortunately, the initial good vibes of the re-designed interface soon give way to a pretty worrying list of negatives. About a minute in, Black Panthaa notes that the version of Assetto Corsa on display in the video is pre-alpha, and that “there will be some bugs.”
This game was released in October of 2014 for the PC. Since graduating from Steam’s Early Access program, there have been three major DLC expansion packs (dubbed “Dream Packs”), and a substantial amount of free bonus content. The team at Kunos Simulazioni have made it very clear that Assetto Corsa on PC is in the post-release phase, and only a few short weeks ago outlined a very DLC-heavy plan for 2016.
So, how does Assetto Corsa go from a $60 Version 1.4 on PC, to labelled as “pre-alpha” on consoles, when Kunos themselves are advertising Assetto Corsa as the exact same experience regardless of the platform you play it on? How does porting the retail PC version of Assetto Corsa onto the PS4 and Xbox One suddenly give it the “pre-alpha” label, when the raw footage actually makes the console “pre-alpha” version look superior?
Kunos took a game that they themselves deemed finished, ported it to the PS4, and then had the audacity to call it “unfinished” during preview video, even though it actually looks better on the PS4 than the PC version that’s been on the market for fifteen months. Oops.
We now move forward into the actual gameplay. Black Panthaa shoots through half of the field immediately after the drop of the green flag, and going into Eau Rouge, crashes his car because he’s forced to swerve in an effort to avoid a group of AI cars randomly brake checking. This has been a problem with the artificial intelligence’s behavior for over a year, and it seems like it hasn’t received any attention. And despite lacking even the most basic set of skills to keep his car on the track, anytime Panthaa is around an AI opponent, he seems to overtake them with ease. He further contradicts himself by claiming the AI is so challenging, he has to push just to keep up with the rear end of the field. In the video, he demonstrates quite the opposite.
Panthaa also teases viewers about a “variety of multiplayer options and event types”, but fails to elaborate any further. With the Career Mode in the PC version of Assetto Corsa amounting to little more than “do these random themed races”, it’s hard to call this a variety of any sort when games like Forza Motorsport 6 exist and have an incredibly large following. Of course, once Panthaa mentions he got to try the game at a preview event, just like everybody else, suddenly the rumors of Panthaa being little more than a viral marketer begin to flare up again.
With each passing day, hardcore sim racers are growing increasingly frustrated over the total shift in ideology behind the development of Assetto Corsa. What was once hailed as one of the best PC racing simulators to come along in a very long time has now progressed into such a drastically different direction, PC owners of Assetto Corsa are now playing a product Kunos are daring to label “pre-alpha” when demonstrated on next-generation consoles.