The most recent update package released for Assetto Corsa – the version 1.5 patch – brought with it a fairly substantial change to the game’s underlying tire model. As the 4Chan GT3 league that I have previously participated in from time to time is now planning a third championship, hoping to move on from the trusty yet dated isiMotor engine to the new frontier in Assetto Corsa, I thought to myself that it was time to start seriously practicing within the new environment. Word around the virtual garage area painted a very optimistic picture of the simulator, stating that online capabilities and the overall netcode has been drastically improved compared to when we previously dropped Assetto Corsa in favor of Stock Car Extreme. An Assetto Corsa league for the 4Chan group has been in the planning stages for over a year, but only now have organizers been confident enough in the online functionality to make a serious push to get things off the ground.
I was excited to turn laps in the new build of Assetto Corsa, but that excitement quickly turned to disappointment once I made it out onto the track. Recent changes to the tire model have completely robbed the game of any enjoyment for myself. I’ve obviously heard the rumors from a few different sources – some good drivers, some not – that Assetto Corsa had been simplified for the console audience, but I never expected it to be this blatant. A friend of mine owns a retail copy of Project CARS, we’ve played it for a giggle at his place, and I’d honestly say Assetto Corsa’s quality has somehow managed to sink below the Slightly Mad Studios offering. Last year I called Assetto Corsa the most authentic driving simulator for the PC. A year later, everything has changed. This is really bad.
There is not a single hard compound tire on the planet that will take over three laps to build an adequate amount of heat, but this seems to be the norm for Assetto Corsa’s GT3 cars. Our practice server is currently set to Silverstone – a track with a bunch of flat corners that immediately put stress on the tires – and it would take anywhere from two to four laps to generate proper operating temperatures. In real life, GT3 cars are so heavy that they’re able to build the correct heat within a single lap at maximum. This was just all kinds of wrong, and I wonder how Stefano was able to boast that they’ve refined the way tires generate heat. It obviously isn’t working.
The cars I tested out at Silverstone were the Glickenhaus SCG 003, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and the McLaren 650S (the screenshots here are from the time James spent on-track because I am a pleb). Now admittedly, I’m not very good at Silverstone because it’s not a track I drive all that often, but any potential success was immediately hindered by the adjustments made to the physics engine – whatever they were. All three cars are virtually impossible to spin out, even with bogus setup changes designed to maximize the obvious shortcomings in the refined car physics.
You can be in first gear, coming out of a tight hairpin, and put the throttle to the floor with no repercussions whatsoever. A lot of sim racers talk about this phenomenon when discussing the flaws in Project CARS, but now the same thing is happening within Assetto Corsa. No matter what I tried with the setup, I couldn’t get these cars to stop exhibiting blatant understeer tendencies. The only way I could force the car into an oversteer situation, was to set the brake balance to the rear of the car and enter the corner like a genuine retard. It feels as if Kunos not only introduced a hidden traction control feature, but the hand of god steps in to prevent the car from rotating too much through a corner. I first noticed the hidden traction control-like feeling in the BMW M235i when it came bundled with the first Dream Pack DLC, but now it seems to have been ported across the rest of the cars in Assetto Corsa.
When I first purchased Assetto Corsa and sunk many hours into the simulator, the game honestly felt incredible. I had no problem stating that publicly. Even though I was aware of the meme spread by some of our resident trolls which states “Assetto Corsa has no simulation value”, I personally felt that the cars I’ve driven in real life – cars also available in Assetto Corsa – were as close as a modern simulation developer could get to reality. Version 1.5.X, as well as the miscellaneous other changes have been made behind the scenes, have made me reconsider my stance on this product.
In terms of fairness and objectivity, the times I were able to post on the league’s practice leaderboard weren’t as competitive as they could have been, but there is a genuine reason for this. I tried my hand at real world racing before I dove into the virtual environment of sim racing. I am only familiar with how real cars feel, and my driving style in simulators is based around applying real world techniques to my toy steering wheel. I have not been bred to exploit the physics flaws of each individual simulator as James has been. I needed the cars in Assetto Corsa to drive in a somewhat realistic fashion to take advantage of my skill set, and Assetto Corsa simply feels backwards. In my opinion, it’s as if Kunos purposely tweaked underlying elements of the physics engine to accommodate an audience who would otherwise grow frustrate with a hardcore racing simulator. This may help to ease newcomers into the title on the Xbox One and Playstation 4, but Assetto Corsa was designed to be a highly authentic simulation, developed at a real race track with the input of real drivers. Now, real drivers such as myself are left scratching their heads.