Competizione, though, is in most ways a vastly better racer than its broader progenitor: there’s night racing, there’s dynamic weather, and the AI is leaps and bounds more civilised and capable of battling fair and yielding corners. The problem is the console versions’ performance and control issues make it seem like it wasn’t quite ready to be released yet.
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There are, no doubt, fans out there that will regard the contraction in total content between the original Assetto Corsa and Competizione disappointing, because scaling down to a single racing discipline means Competizione admittedly sheds a lot of surplus rides and racetracks. However, I think Competizione’s laser-like focus on a single underrepresented school of virtual racing is quite brilliant. Endurance racing is a fantastic challenge and, while it requires long stretches of unbroken focus and rapid reflexes, when you get into a consistent rhythm there’s an almost meditative quality to it.
Competizione understands this and includes an official selection of some of the world’s most respected circuits, and scores of racing opportunities: quick championships, long championships, a career mode, and host of fully-customisable custom events. Multiplayer is obviously supported and you have to reach a high track knowledge and safety rating in-game to be able to enter the competitive servers. However, custom lobbies aren’t available at launch and the game hasn’t let me into a single quick public race to date; it’s been greeting me with ‘No Servers Available’ for days.
The arsenal of exotic GT3 steeds on hand may be slim compared to some of Competizione’s racing peers, but they’re very distinct from each other in terms of handling characteristics and there’s a real world of difference between, say, a mid-engine Ferrari and a Bentley, which is a front-engine British holiday home on wheels. Moreover, they sound absolutely astonishing. The audio is a huge highlight overall, from the raw, mechanical squeaks and shrieks over the wicked exhaust tones to the bespoke track announcers in the background at each circuit.
Unfortunately, there are a few complicaziones.
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Off the Pace
Unlike the PC version, the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Competizione run at 30 frames per second, even on the One X and the Pro. That fact alone is not a sore point necessarily; hugely successful console racers like Driveclub and Forza Horizon 4 also run at 30 frames per second and they’re amongst some of the most visually-accomplished racing games of their generation. The key point of difference is those games have rigidly locked framerates, while Competizione seems to flutter. The result is a slightly uneven experience that obviously lacks the silkiness of the PC version, but also misses the consistency of other console racers: whether they run at 60 frames per second or a locktight 30. This is when I was playing on Xbox One X, too; not the standard launch consoles. Oddly enough, beyond the occasional temporary freeze on track, the frame rate seems at its worst in the menu screens, drastically diving to the point where the spinning car select screen resembles stop-motion animation.
It’s less of an issue, but it’s very noticeable that the steering animation has a tendency to appear wildly erratic when driving aggressively using a gamepad. The rotations seem like they’re matched to stick position rather than how fast a human could realistically twist a wheel. It makes the full cabin view and the otherwise well-positioned helmet cam a bit of a bust for pad users, so in these instances I found myself sticking with the more zoomed-in dash view – which crops out the steering wheel entirely.
The pad controls are otherwise pretty well-tuned; they’re a little devilish before the tyres come up to temperature but I had some great races and battles playing this way. The Blancpain series represented in Competizione allows factory traction control and ABS, which I tend to find useful playing racing sims with giant hands on tiny triggers anyway, and that helps make the pad controls less daunting. The default steering settings are intuitive enough to let you generally catch and correct a little oversteer; you just need a delicate touch on turn-in as the steering is quite sensitive on the stick. Controller force feedback is a bit vanilla, though, and the controller response to clipping curbs is pretty feeble.
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The Wheel Deal
Competizione is, of course, aimed at racing enthusiasts, and using a wheel makes you mostly immune to those weird driver arm display quirks. However, getting it working in the first place was bafflingly cumbersome. Our Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer wasn’t even properly detected at first, and then the buttons worked but not the steering or pedals. After a bunch of apparently fruitless fiddling around in the control assignment menus and a pair of reboots, I eventually got it running by resetting the button bindings (twice) and turning the wheel off and on again. I should restate that all this fussing was done with the d-pad and buttons on the wheel itself; Competizione recognised them, but not the throttle, brake, or any steering input. Once the wheel had finally registered I took the track only to discover my maximum wheel rotation had arbitrarily switched itself to just 40 degrees, which is utterly undriveable (this bug repeated itself several days later after going through the same broken process of plugging in the Thrustmaster). Helpfully, most settings (including steering rotation limit) can be manually adjusted through the pause menu without quitting the track but this issue with steering wheels is a supremely daft problem to have considering it’s clearly built to be played this way.
After finding a suitable wheel rotation angle, force feedback on the TS-XW seemed surprisingly flaccid at first. That was odd considering how impeccable the driving experience is in the console port of the original Assetto Corsa, but that of course has its own problems. I’ve improved it via some finagled settings but it’s still probably a bit lighter than I’d like.
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Regardless of whether you’re using a wheel or pad I can’t personally recommend the chase camera; it’s rather stiff, so the moment you get any kind of oversteer the camera yaws instantly, exaggerating even minor slip and regularly turning small losses of control into total tankslappers. Chase cam isn’t my preference in racing sims at the best of times and I found this one extra challenging due to these factors.
Also, regardless of whether you’re using a wheel or pad, don’t bother with manual options for things like the pit limiter, or lights or wipers and such; there are already about a billion more things to map functionality to than you’ll have buttons. We’re not working with keyboards here!
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