It's not the first time (nor the last) that a bunch of racing enthusiasts have been invited to a real circuit to try out real cars in order to promote a racing game, but the goal in the past has often been just that: to share love for the cars, to smell some burnt rubber, and to pump up the excitement before having some fun with a rather different, less realistic game. But it takes courage, and confidence, to do this with a racing simulator, but that's exactly what Kunos Simulazioni just did, as we got our hands on a couple of Porsches, then afterwards compared the real experience to the simulation achieved by Assetto Corsa for its brand new content update.
And to make it even more literal, the venue was of course Autodromo Vallelunga, the circuit 30 minutes away from Rome in which the studio is based, so that attendees could try out the very same cars on the very same track in-game; and the result is pretty impressive.
We already knew that Assetto Corsa was a top-tier simulator (click here for our review) after many years of passionate development, community feedback and studio polish, and we already loved its natural response, amazing accuracy, pixel-perfect recreation of the tracks, evolved physics model, and the really convincing handling with completely different vehicles.
In this case, tough, it has to be noted that this collaboration isn't just about licenses and branding, and the work that has gone into every single Porsche model included in the update really makes a difference.
Both developers and car manufacturers have been working together on this content for more than a year, and as a testament of the quality of the replica, Porsche is using Kunos' work as their official virtual showcase of the cars for customers and fans, setting up AC simulators at the Porsche Experience centers, the Porsche factory itself, and even well known circuits such as Nürburgring or Le Mans. Porsche really wants to make sure in-game cars handle and look just like the real thing, and part of their team has been actively taking part in beta testing for the game, then doing internal tests and reviewing every single version of the 24 planned cars submitted by Kunos, to the point of making them include even the tiniest details or the optional accessories. So, again, this is not newly licensed content, but a co-developed effort, day by day, car by car. It's clear why, even with the license being exclusive to EA, Porsche chose the Italian team as their premium video game partner.
You can see this attention to detail when driving one of the four wheel drive cars such as the 911 Carrera 4S, as it's one of the elements that the developers have been tweaking the most for the Porsche content. You can now feel power and grip when pushing the pedal to the metal as you exit a turn, or the heavy feeling when facing the next turn compared to the handling of a ride that uses rear wheel drive. 4WD may or may not be your cup of tea if you're more used to RWD approach when it comes to sports cars, but it now changes the game, both in terms of feedback on the wheel and because it has you learning new ways to drive and compete with these unique cars. The same can be applied to other finely tuned mechanics such as releasing the brake pedal, weight shifting, the way these Porsches behave when doing manual gear shifting, or the points in which the engine gets boosted from 4000 rpm.
We also tried the RWD, bi-turbo 911 Carrera S, which had different handling and grip, has its own shape and style, and they've captured the audio just right too. You'll obviously miss the physical feedback of sitting in the car and hugging the turns in real life (unless you have one of those super-expensive motion drive seats), but other than that, as far as feedback and handling goes, racing sim lovers will appreciate the effort and care that has gone into this.
We played on the stellar Fanatec Clubsport setup, which makes for better brake resistance compared to other setups, and even if we found strong braking a bit too ruthless in-game (the car went perhaps too slippery or ABS just too shallow compared to the real Carrera when you really had to break), it might be a matter of configuration, as everything else just clicked and it felt scarily natural to go from the real deal to the simulator, then keeping the same approach to the same situations and seeing how it worked.
What's also interesting is that they're not just including modern cars such as the aforementioned Carreras or the über exclusive 918 Spyder (the beast, which had a production of only 918 units, has just been finished, and is the current Nürburgring record holder), but also a great selection of historic classics, such as the insane 935/78 "Moby Dick". By comparing the in-game models to the real cars we were able to examine at the venue (they brought a handful of them over from Stuttgart) we could verify every visual detail is present on the 3D models, just as with the sound, but we're curious to see how the driving turns out, as with classic cars it's naturally impossible to use the same modern data and measurements provided by the manufacturer, and thus both Porsche and Kunos have worked in a more artistic/craftsman fashion on this part of the project.
In the coming months we want to spend more time with German manufacturer's sports cars on Assetto Corsa, but at least for now we can now confirm that the collaboration is already producing, simply put, the best Porsche experience we've ever played in a racing game.
Porsche Pack 1 has been available for some weeks on Steam and it's now making its way to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Assetto Corsa this week. Pack 2 released on Steam today (December on console), and Pack 3 will add more modern and classic cars before the year's end for a total of 24 Porsches. Separate DLCs cost £5.99, with the season pass costing £12.93 right now, at a discounted price.