When is a driving game a sim and when isn’t it? It’s a woolly point that nevertheless is often the subject of much debate – are Forza and Gran Turismo sims? You could make a convincing case for and against both, and I’d certainly not argue against either’s approximation of the driving experience – that much, as ever, is down to personal taste. But if it’s a proper sim you’re after, in the nerdy 90s PC sense of the term, where you’re managing tire pressures and engine maps and spending half your time under the hood to get your head around how it all works… Well, I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like Asseto Corsa Competizione on console before.
Let’s take a step back first, though. After a slightly unconvincing exit from early access last year, Assetto Corsa Competizione has now earned its place alongside rFactor 2 and iRacing in the premier class of PC racing simulators. It’s a brutally focussed thing, built solely around the GT World Challenge – the series formerly known as Blancpain GT – and the GT3 cars within. It’s not the place to explore an exhaustive list of exotica, or to go drifting around fictional cityscapes. Instead, it’s about diving deep into the workings of a real-life racing series, and replicating the thrill of going door-to-door with some pukka GT3 machinery around some of the world’s finest tracks.
And Assetto Corsa Competizione excels at what it sets out to do. The racing is authentic, equipping you with all you’ll need to engage with the busywork of a GT3 race – there’s a virtual spotter to help you with traffic, a series of gauges so you can keep an eye on tire wear, brake temperature and tire pressure, real-life rulesets so you’ll have to manage pit strategy and dynamic time and weather so you’re battling the track and conditions as much as you are the rest of the field. When that all comes together, there’s nothing quite like it; partake in the 24 Hours of Spa and you’ll see the sun set and rise over the Ardennes, the track gaining and losing pace as the temperatures ebb and flow. If you’ve got any affection for the real thing, there’s those same butterflies in your stomach when you trail a train of GT3 cars as they soar up Eau Rouge, their tail-lights snaking off into the forest ahead.