“Assetto Corsa is the new benchmark for console racing games, truly a masterpiece, the real driving simulation. 95/100” – IGN Italia
I’ve done my best to keep coverage regarding the console version of Assetto Corsa to a minimum. Personally I didn’t believe there was much more to say about this game after the 4,000+ word saga went up earlier in the week here on PRC.net, detailing the several mistakes Kunos Simulazioni made when attempting to succeed in the console market. We knew when it was first announced that the end result would be embarrassing, and not only were we eventually proven correct, our predictions were actually surpassed. It wasn’t just this unfinished, buggy mess of code with a competent driving model underneath; virtually no effort was made to accommodate the basic desires of veteran console racers, and the post-release DLC plan was shady to say the least. There’s a reason the official forums have been set ablaze with complaints, and it’s not because Career Mode doesn’t last for 300 hours; Assetto Corsa on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One simply isn’t a very good racing game. Part of the blame lies with Kunos Simulazioni for refusing to listen to any sort of criticism throughout the development of the PC version, and part of the blame falls on 505 Games, who traditionally haven’t been a very good publisher.
But what disgusts me about all of this, is how there’s been a systematic campaign to outright lie to sim racers who may be on the fence about this title. And both Kunos and 505 Games would have actually gotten away with it had they not been so blatant.
Financially, there are a lot of us in the world of sim racing that don’t need to rely on mainstream reviews to evaluate a title for us. Most of us make enough money at our day jobs that dropping anywhere from $30 to $60 on a new video game we’re interested in isn’t much of a decision at all, and that really boils down to the fact that racing simulators are a bit of an old man’s hobby. You don’t see a whole lot of younger kids playing these games, so the ritual of little Johnny meticulously combing through IGN or GameSpot to determine what video game he should receive as a reward for a stellar report card doesn’t occur nearly as much here as it does in the first person shooter or sports category. Don’t laugh, we’ve all been there.
But not everyone is granted that luxury. Some are university students with a restricted amount of disposable income, others may have to budget their entertainment costs to afford the numerous extra-curricular activities of a romantic relationship, and there are a few people among us who simply don’t have the time to go out and thoroughly dig through each new video game landing on the shelves of Wal-Mart. For these four groups of people, video game reviews are essential to determining where and how their money is spent.
Unfortunately, reviewers in the past have broken the trust of gamers on more than a few occasions. No Man’s Sky, a game which has been blasted across gaming communities far and wide for failing to live up to the hype, was given a 99/100 by IGN Sweden, even after the author described game-crippling technical issues and blatant false advertising on the part of the developers. Gone Home, a first person lesbian walking simulator that could be completed in under a minute, was given numerous Game of the Year awards by left-wing nutters. On the contrary, former Gamespot editor Jeff Gerstmann was actually fired for giving a less than satisfactory review of a UbiSoft Xbox 360 game, after the developer had paid a substantial amount to run a prolonged advertising campaign on the popular video game news outlet. So this isn’t some tin-foil hat conspiracy theory; the publications reviewing these games are indeed in bed with the developers themselves.
It just sucks when it’s this blatant. I get that we’re simple creatures who love to watch expensive cars go around in circles for hours on end, but this is an insult to our intelligence.
Despite one anonymous editor – presumably from Destructoid judging by what was mentioned in the review – taking to Reddit and begging for help with Assetto Corsa because the game was beyond broken, Assetto Corsa fared quite well when put through Metacritic’s basic algorithm after the game’s European launch last week. In fact, it was actually on pace to become the best racing simulator available for the PlayStation 4 from a critical standpoint, thanks to a slew of near-perfect scores from pretty much everyone. Save for one or two negative pieces, Assetto Corsa was also the most critically acclaimed title ever released by 505 Games.
Yet if you sat down for about thirty seconds and actually did some investigating as to who, exactly, were the publications handing out such phenomenal scores, it became pretty easy to discover what was occurring: Half of the positive reviews of Assetto Corsa on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were written by Italian gaming publications. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the headquarters for publisher 505 Games weren’t listed on Wikipedia as being located in Milan, Italy, while the Kunos offices didn’t overlook the Vallelunga Circuit just outside of Rome, but they are, and it obviously makes this all look a bit shady – Italian gaming magazines giving hyperbolic reviews to an all-Italian video game effort which one reviewer actually needed help with because it was so incomprehensibly broken. This is all compounded by the fact that all of these “quotes” from the reviews are written in English, yet when upon visiting the page of any respective outlet featured in the image below, the entire publication is instead written in Italian, making it difficult to even locate the quote featured in the first place.
So a lot of people at this point will stop and say “well, there were probably a whole bunch of other positive reviews from non-Italian websites, so you’re splitting hairs here for something to complain about.”
And to that I say you’re absolutely correct. The other half of the positive reviews for Assetto Corsa were written by Spanish publications. Again, the quotations are written in English, but upon venturing to each website’s individual review of Assetto Corsa, you’re greeted with a wall of Espanol.
Now it’s important to note that none of this would matter if there wasn’t a huge disparity in review scores when other websites got their hands on the title. Many of you probably want to make a sarcastic comment regarding American games receiving favorable scores from American gaming outlets, and while I’m sure you guys can be extremely creative when tackling this topic, the disparity is what counts. The North American launch of Assetto Corsa came on the Tuesday following the European release, and the reviews published in the days afterwards really drilled home how dishonest the scores from both Italian and Spanish magazines had been. While no less than ten European outlets sang the praises of Assetto Corsa and made it out to be one of the best console driving games ever made, western publications were underwhelmed by a boring racing simulator suffering from major technical issues.
I can understand a ten or even twenty point difference – racing simulators definitely aren’t for everyone – but we’re looking at a suspicious number of Italian and Spanish publications firmly believing Assetto Corsa is Jesus on wheels, whereas big guns such as IGN and Destructoid appeared to have been playing an entirely different game.
And this disparity could have remained a conspiracy theory relegated to the depths of PRC.net, buried by the incessant shitposting of Assetto Corsa fanboys determined to silence anyone critical of their favorite game. However, today Kunos Simulazioni actually made a fairly lengthy announcement detailing their post-release patch plans for Assetto Corsa, essentially admitting that they really fucked up the console launch and have a whole bunch of basic shit to fix.
Why would they need to make an announcement such as this one in the first place, if the game was as good as publications such as IGN Italy and Multiplayer.it said it was? I’m a bit lost here… Hobby Consoles says Assetto Corsa is the racing simulator everyone has been asking for and gave the game a stout score of 90, but here Kunos is apologizing for framerate problems, screen tearing, unoptimized artificial intelligence, and… a lack of private lobbies?!??! That doesn’t sound like a racing simulator everyone has been asking for…
For the final portion of this article, I’d like to re-calculate the current Metacritic rating of Assetto Corsa for the PlayStation 4 without including any Italian or Spanish gaming outlet. After twenty four reviews, the game is holding down a score of 73 as of this writing, but upon dropping eleven publications from the overall score (don’t worry guys, I still kept the 90 from USGamer and 82 from Gameblog.fr), Assetto Corsa falls to an unflattering 64. This actually brings it directly in line with the user score of 6.4, and more accurately reflects the critical reception most titles from 505 Games manage to receive.
It’s almost as if Kunos Simluazioni had been throwing elaborate parties for members of both the Italian and Spanish gaming press at the Vallelunga auto racing circuit, allowing them to spend a day driving exotic cars in exchange for favorable coverage of what’s quickly been exposed as a very underwhelming and bug-filled racing simulator.
Oh, that’s right, they did.