There’s a classic scene in the Ron Howard film Rush, in which an aggravated Niki Lauda stops alongside Ferrari representatives and immediately berates the car’s quality following the conclusion of an abysmal test session. Even if you’re not a diehard Formula One fan and only know of the Ferrari brand through toys, television shows, and posters from your childhood, the scene’s underlying theme is brilliant due to it’s simplicity. The carefully crafted marketing machine and passionate following of Italy’s most successful car company are both viciously torn away in one swift motion. Tifosi cannot save them now; Ferrari are at the mercy of their toughest critics – those who actually have to drive the damn car, as it turns out pride and fanfare are no substitute for engineering competence when the going gets tough.
Kunos Simulazioni have now found themselves in a very similar situation; this time, however, there are many Niki Lauda’s.
Assetto Corsa can be described as many different things to many different sim racers, but one thing it is not, at least on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is a game that’s worth the price of admission. During the mainstream review process, at least one editor actively logged onto Reddit with his personal account to ask precisely what PC sim racers were so enamored with, as the console rendition of Assetto Corsa wasn’t much of a package, or even a functional game for that matter. Straddling an awkward line between a quirky indie title and rushed console release, performance issues battled it out with missing features and show-stopping technical gremlins for the dubious honor of being deemed the element which plagued Assetto Corsa the most.
Somehow, things have descended even further into chaos since then; while the PC simulator enjoys a very respectable core following and even has a valid option for competitive online racing, it’s younger brother and sister are the poster children for why small developers should never bite off more than they can chew.
The community asked for Ferrari’s, and Kunos gave them Ferrari’s. Assetto Corsa fans voted on which historic vehicles from the prancing horse line-up would be included within a special Ferrari 70th Anniversary pack, and upon release this turned out to be a lot of Formula One cars and some special roadsters. There are certainly still a lot of vehicles from the iconic brand that deserve the full Kunos treatment, but between their historic Le Mans racer or the stunning 1967 Grand Prix entry, it’s difficult to call this DLC bundle a rip-off. That is, if you’re playing on PC.
The pack went live on September 19th, 2017 for those who own the Steam variant of Assetto Corsa whereas Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners would have to wait a little bit longer, with their launch date pushed to October 31st – nearly a month and a half later.
Yet as the bundle was made available to purchase for console users, shit metaphorically hit the fan. Customers who’d just bought the DLC pack were essentially given the unassuming role of third party quality assurance team. Many unwillingly discovered there is currently a bug with the Ferrari F2004 contained in the pack, one which crashes the game to the dashboard upon attempting to modify the vehicle’s setup on the PS4 version. Other bugs mentioned by frustrated users on the game’s Facebook page discuss sporadic crashing and the inability to select the new DLC cars for online races, though in their anger many have failed to go into specific details so I’m unfortunately left screen-capturing the most elaborate post I could find. Either way, basic functionalities – such as the ability to adjust your car setup – kick you out of the application.
Regardless of one’s allegiance to their simulator of choice, or their willingness to downplay software issues by comparing it to rival games exhibiting their own set of flaws – I’m looking at you, Forza 7 – there is a key difference with what’s happening over in the land of Assetto Corsa versus other driving games. Part of the fanboy wars which occur in this hobby are the result of tire model differences, physics engine nuances, or features which one game covers, but the other does not. Assetto Corsa is unable to even get to this point. Buttons and menu screens crash the game.
And that’s just the supporting act.
The Ferrari 70th Anniversary Pack is not functional on the Xbox One version of Assetto Corsa. You can part ways with your cash and purchase the content from the Microsoft Store, but the cars don’t actually unlock for use in game – retaining the cloud icon as a permanently locked item. Kunos scrambled to release a patch for Xbox One users to ensure this didn’t descend into talks of denying access to the money they’ve spent and some extremely vague legal threats from a crowd already frustrated by the discrepancy in quality between what they’ve purchased, and the superior PC version, but that update failed Microsoft’s certification. As of November 11th, 2017 – today – there is still no word as to when those who’ve purchased this DLC will be able to access said cars. If the act of selling downloadable content that literally does not work – you’ve spent money, but it is not present for you to select in game – sounds completely amateurish, that’s because it is.
Forget tire model battles and endless debates over wet-weather racing. We’re at the point where DLC doesn’t appear after you’ve purchased it. The icing on the proverbial cake, is that the package is still available for purchase on the Microsoft Store with no warning whatsoever that this content doesn’t actually function in-game – unsuspecting users who don’t follow the official forums or don’t rigorously check the game’s official Facebook page will find themselves scammed out of a couple dollars if curiosity gets the best of them.
Nobody had been asking for a console version of Assetto Corsa, as many believed Kunos would be well within reason to just keep developing the PC version. There was a justified hostility at the announcement of the console version. There was even more hostility at the launch of the console version when people bought it and realized how difficult it would be for a team this small to maintain three semi-related products across multiple platforms. And now there’s hostility at the launch of mere downloadable content, as Kunos are forced to bust their asses fixing amateurish problems that tarnish their reputation in a variety of ways, while this time could have been better allocated to polishing the PC version.
While all of this has been occurring, modders have created ways to race competitively online, and are just now starting to grasp how to use the game as a proper platform for new cars and tracks which match the quality of the vanilla content. Modders have created their own HUD elements, their own livery sharing applications, and are even looking into procedural rally stage generation – this game wasn’t even designed for rallying!
By comparison, Kunos are pushing out DLC package after DLC package to fragment the userbase into tiny little portions, with no guarantee the content they’re selling will show up in the game! So at what point will someone with a bit of intelligence say enough is enough, and take the next step? I would much rather see them cut support for the console version, get the backlash out of the way, and go back to beefing up the PC version, than to see their resources be split three ways and continue to aggravate two thirds of their userbase.
It’s just not fair to string these people along and act as if they’re getting an experience on par with the PC version, when they’re clearly not, and now it’s spiraled out of control into issues that are outside the realm of what normally happens with buggy games. You have to cut your losses and move on, otherwise there’s a chance you might accidentally open yourself up to some kind of minor class-action lawsuit with this kind of prolonged buffoonery. People are going to start paying attention to what’s going on here, especially because shipping broken DLC is a rarity in this day and age. Like, honestly, when does this happen?