No, hell hasn’t frozen over; Kunos Simulazioni have indeed pushed out an objectively fantastic update for their indie PC racing simulator Assetto Corsa, with the recent version 1.14 update bringing along a wonderful set of artificial intelligence upgrades that have turned the offline experience into much more than just a Chris Harris hotlapping simulator as many have previously joked about. I can assure you this is not a belated April Fool’s joke; it appears that overnight, the AI drivers were seemingly given world-class racecraft, and the end result is simply stunning – Assetto Corsa’s single player lifespan has now been exponentially extended, with the AI behavior leap-frogging every other modern racing simulator at the market in a resurgence akin to what we saw with Honda and Brawn GP between the 2008 and 2009 Formula One seasons. If you own Assetto Corsa on the PC, and have either shelved it or completely uninstalled it due to the lackluster AI opponents, I can say with 100% certainty that now is precisely the correct time to give it another whirl.
However, in this article I will take a drastically different approach than what many are expecting from an otherwise positive piece on Assetto Corsa. I will not praise Kunos Simulazioni for the contents of this recent update, because they simply aren’t responsible for what has been implemented. Instead, I will praise the community.
I shouldn’t have to give a lengthy history lesson to readers of PRC, but if you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years, the chain of events are quite simple to comprehend. When Assetto Corsa first shipped and started to reel in a very zealous group of diehard supporters, it did so primarily by offering a very engaging, intuitive driving model that felt leaps and bounds ahead of anything else on the market – an especially profound achievement given iRacing’s dominance over the sim racing genre. However, those not willing to bleed the colors of the Italian flag discovered that beyond the driving model, there wasn’t much else to do in the game. Online multiplayer was about a thousand times more painful to configure than already established offerings, and the game’s artificial intelligence was simply atrocious; absurdly slow on even the highest setting, driving straight into walls if the track grip was anything other than optimal, unable to pass slower cars, and downright embarrassing if you were a cheeky cunt and merely stopped on the track to see what they’d do – which was nothing.
Fanboys kicked and screamed inane phrases such as “you just don’t understand the point of Assetto Corsa; it is a DRIVING SIMULATOR, not a RACING SIMULATOR” upon valid criticisms of the AI cars being discussed in many areas of the sim racing community, while developers themselves on Twitter came out and said that the AI would never be able to pass faster cars and “probably never will”, adding that “people should work with the software, not against it.” The arrogance on the part of fanboys and developers was nothing short of mind-blowing; it’s like these people who loved Assetto Corsa like their first born child, didn’t actually want Assetto Corsa to improve – satisfied with mediocrity and internet “likes” for kissing the asses of developers on the official forums.
Regardless, sim racers unsatisfied by the single player experience in Assetto Corsa kept complaining over a period of years. At some point, these complaints must have been too much for Kunos Simulazioni to tolerate, as they have finally gone out and shut everyone up with an objectively wonderful batch of AI personalities to beat and bang with. Just the footage alone is impressive, which is why I’ve linked a couple videos that show off just how good the new update is.
Again, if you own Assetto Corsa for the PC, this is probably the time to either re-install, or fire up the application and spend a few hours messing around with the new AI code. It’s worth it, I promise.
However, there’s also a dark cloud in the distance that we should probably talk about. The long-awaited inclusion of private lobbies in Assetto Corsa launched only a few short days ago, but it’s been a bit of a mess. There have been a couple of people in our comments’ section ragging on Kunos for a disaster of epic proportions on consoles, and at this point I’m actually inclined to agree with them, again sticking to my belief that launching Assetto Corsa on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was a huge mistake, as it’s only serving to damage the reputation of the company far worse than what a shitty little WordPress blog could ever do.
So for starters, the Xbox One version of the update didn’t actually launch. Microsoft and Sony have vastly different Quality Assurance testing processes, and the PS4 version was able to pass all of the mandatory checks, while the Xbox One update has been delayed by about three weeks. However, this is the least of the team’s worries. In implementing custom lobby functionality, the PS4 update actually broke online play for the Xbox One version of the game altogether, presumably as both variants were operating under the same basic server farm 505 Games had acquired for the two variants of Assetto Corsa. So while PS4 owners have a rocky yet useful implementation of custom lobbies, Xbox One players are struggling just to enter any sort of online race at all. On the Xbox One side of the Console Lounge forums, it’s basically mass confusion as users are completely unsure as to why online functionality in Assetto Corsa stopped working the moment the PS4 update launched.
I mean, thank God I own a solid PC, but I spent several years primarily using an Xbox 360 as a preferred gaming platform, so I’m aware of what it feels like to be at the mercy of a developer making countless mistakes behind the metaphorical wheel and unable to troubleshoot for workarounds in the meantime.
Regardless, there’s a silver lining to this custom lobby update. Like the AI upgrades, custom lobbies were also demanded by critics of Assetto Corsa for several months after launch – the bizarre dedicated server approach defended by fanboys and staff members who repeated the hilarious line of “our priority was to ship a stable game” just as the shitty AI of the PC game was a few years ago – only inserted in because the tirade of angry customers upset that a common feature was left out for no justifiable reason wouldn’t stop.
So to those who have been very abrasive in their criticisms of Assetto Corsa, thank you. Kunos Simulazioni are finally listening to you, and it is resulting in a drastically better game than the one we once ripped on in the past. I can’t imagine how horribly unfinished this game would be if you guys kept your mouth shut and let fanboys and staff members bully you into silence.