How many roads must a man walk down, before he admits he’s lost? That’s the question I’m left asking today, as Kunos Simulazioni’s highly anticipated Version 1.11 update for Assetto Corsa isn’t receiving much praise from those who are actually talented enough to push the physics engine to its limits. While the brand new patch comes packed with an array of features that are objectively nice additions to an otherwise barren simulator, and brings with it the third entry in a series of downloadable content packs centering around Porsche sports cars – which until recently were restricted to games created by Electronic Arts and Turn 10 Studios – the raw driving experience has suffered.
Once again, the legion of Kunos disciples have already gone and loaded every relevant sim racing message board with songs of praise for the Italian developer, claiming the cars are more alive than ever, yet before I start ripping them apart in the manner you all expect me to, I’d actually like to take a moment and thank Kunos.
For the tenth time since the game’s release on the Steam Early Access Platform in the fall of 2013, a large part of this recent update revolves around how Kunos have drastically adjusted Assetto Corsa’s underlying tire model – no surprise given the eternal science project status of the game. However, in an article I published a few months back, I revealed that the tire pressures used by real GT3 teams – in particular the guys working on the Gainesco McLaren 650s – were far lower than what was hard-coded to be an ideal hot tire pressure in Assetto Corsa’s GT3 cars, despite Kunos’ claims of using “real data” to build the numerous GT3-spec machinery in their simulator. Kunos have actually gone out and rectified exactly what was addressed in that article for the Version 1.11 patch. Good job guys!
But there’s a catch. Though some of the numbers are now correct, driver feedback is not looking good. Now obviously there will be guys on every message board who are five seconds off pace and still give it the thumbs up regardless, but reception to the Version 1.11 update from my own personal connections tell a drastically different story. My buddy Brian first hit me up claiming to have cooked the tires at Monza, and I mean, I figured he just got the setup wrong. After all, Aris himself noted that you’ll be doing a bit more tweaking in the garage to refine your vehicle’s balance, so a bit of a learning curve was something to be expected.
And then my boy Ethan began complaining about the exact same thing. Now unlike Brian, who falls firmly into the Gentlemen driver category, Ethan is currently slugging it out with the one and only Tim O’Glock for bragging rights on several Automobilista time trial leaderboards – and a few years back he was actually my primary competition during a period when the only online element to Assetto Corsa was the RSR Live Timing app. It’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing not only behind the wheel, but setup-wise as well.
Along with his rants – which closely aligned with everything Brian said above – he ended up firing me a short video to display just how bizarre this new tire model was performing under duress. Despite running with traction control set to the maximum level, and the track grip operating under the “fast” configuration, his Mercedes GT3 entry is literally skating around as if he’s messing with an early build of iRacing prior to the New Tire Model revolution – and that’s with the soft compound tires brought up to optimal operating temperature.
GT3 cars simply don’t handle like this. Numerous teams often invite random automotive journalists to take a few laps with their respective babies at speed, and none of them report an experience synonymous with sliding around on a knife’s edge, barely managing to keep the car in check. Hell, Mercedes themselves offer random scrubs the opportunity to pilot one of their older GT3 combatants in a private track day setting, and there’s even a solid story on MockRacer.com of a fellow sim racer putting down the money to participate in Mercedes’ AMG driving academy at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. These cars clearly aren’t trying to kill people, so with an abundance of real-world data powering Assetto Corsa, why is what’s happening within the simulator vastly different than the on-board GoPro footage?
Better yet, how are we at this point after ten different tire model iterations? Even if I do my best to accept that Assetto Corsa is a heavily work-in-progress simulator that’s subject to change on a monthly basis, I’m a bit lost at how a developer claiming to have all this real data and support from several manufacturers is managing to endlessly refine a tire model which produces a number of unique driving experiences on totally opposite ends of the spectrum. One build, the cars are fairly enjoyable to drive and closely align with in-car YouTube footage, as early versions of Assetto Corsa in Early Access very well did. A few months later, the cars are too planted and almost monotonous to drive – nearly impossible to spin despite a heavy right foot and intentionally poor steering inputs. Now, we’re at a point where the numbers are correct in regards to heating, cooling, and overall pressure behavior, but the GT3 cars are nonsensical death traps on par with initial builds of iRacing prior to 2011.
And this is before we factor in all of that other stuff. This is what Kunos Simulazioni are choosing to spend time on – refining a tire model for the umpteenth time and still failing to get it right – while console owners are growing increasingly agitated at their inability to create private online races for their friends, as they’ve been able to do in basically every other console racing game on the market not named Assetto Corsa since 2001.
For everyone’s sanity, let’s hope this strange GT3 behavior is the result of a misplaced number or two deep within each car’s individual tire.ini file, and not the beginning of many sim racers discovering Kunos Simulazioni don’t actually know what they hell they’re doing, buying time with pointless revisions and buzzwords to keep the army of fanboys blissfully unaware of internal struggles.