One of the most anticipated sim racing titles has arrived on Steam Early Access as RaceDepartment present our first (very early) review of the new simulation. In case you have been living under a rock these past few months, or if you have only very recently dived into our wonderful world of virtual sim racing, Assetto Corsa Competizione is a brand new racing simulation from Kunos Simulazioni, the well-respected Italian game development team who brought us the excellent Assetto Corsa back in 2013. Also Read: Assetto Corsa Competizione Talk & Drive Gameplay Videos Benefiting from an official licence to replicate both the current 2018 and the 2019 Blancpain GT Series, a highly regarded championship for GT3 specification cars driven by both professional and well-seasoned amateur drivers, and following on from the huge success of Kunos last sim racing offering, Assetto Corsa Competizione is quite possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated racing game releases in recent memory – causing plenty of positive pressure on what is still a relatively small development group to match the practically unprecedented expectations of a sim racing community keen to enjoy the expected improvements over and above the already very solid offerings of the “original” Assetto Corsa. Assetto Corsa Competizione is interesting for several key reasons, most prominent of which is arguably the move to the highly powerful yet still young Unreal 4 game engine. Moving away from their own engine that has been developed and polished during long development cycle of AC1, Kunos have gone down the increasingly popular Unreal 4 route as they look to maximise the opportunity to bring the graphical power of the title right into the modern era, pitching the title in direct comparison to some very tough competition in the racing game marketplace. The move to UE4 has been critical for the new title for other reasons over and above the graphical uplift, as the new engine technology now allows Kunos to incorporate some of the key racing elements missing from the original Assetto Corsa sim, namely time of day and wet weather conditions, both of which are present in the new ACC as well as including essential ingredients such as dynamic track conditions and 24-hour time of day capabilities. Because Kunos and their partner 505 Games have taken the wise decision to develop ACC under the Steam Early Access programme, not all of those features mentioned above are present in Assetto Corsa Competizione during this initial first build. At this stage, currently build 0.07, the game contains just a single playable car and track. Kunos have already revealed their proposed monthly update schedule that maps out the next six months of updates and improvements, with presents a refreshing insight into the future plans of the simulation as Kunos look to flesh out the content and features of the title in preparation for the full V1.00 release sometime around Q1 2019. If you missed it earlier, you can check out the roadmap to version one schedule HERE. With all that said, the content and features present in the simulation at the point of Early Access release are more than enough to get a flavour of where Kunos are heading with Assetto Corsa Competizione, despite the exceptionally early stage of development of the current build. Taking the Lamborghini out on the Nürburgring Grand Prix track can still provide plenty of food for thought for anyone investing any considerable period time in the first release into Early Access for the simulation. So, where to start the review? How about the weather... and more specifically, rain. Masterful, exceptional, flabbergasting, scintillating, magnificent. These are words I might use to describe the feeling of driving Assetto Corsa in wet conditions, and frankly I fear my vocabulary doesn't really do it justice - it's that good. Visually Kunos have done an exceptional job of replicating a motor race in wet conditions, from the way the puddles form on the track surface to the way the raindrops and spray form on the windows and the cars themselves, the whole package just feels "right". Driving in wet conditions in ACC is something of a work of art, and anyone who doesn't get themselves a few more beats per minute in the heart department heading into turn 1 under wet conditions is cooler than Kimi Räikkönen eating an ice cream sat in a fridge wearing just his underpants. It's just brilliant, and for me, one of the greatest moments in my long and often frustrating time in and around the sim racing / racing game scene. I must have restarted the race a dozen times the first time I tried wet weather racing - not because of any kind of incident of off track excursion, just simply to enjoy the feeling of the run down into the first corner and opening lap jostles, marvelling as the spray kicks up from the cars around me as I slip and slide my GT3 Lamborghini through the pack over and over again. It's brilliant. The video you can see at the head of this section of text is the early access press version of the title (build 0.07) using the "light rain" condition setting, with AI set to around 96% strength. Trust me, if you think it looks fun in that video, it really is nothing compared to behind the (virtual) wheel yourself. In terms of weather options at this stage of the development process, the dynamic rain feature isn't available yet in this build. For Early Access launch, players will be able to select pre-set weather options from a choice of clear, cloudy and various rain intensity levels. Dynamic rain where track conditions evolve during the course of a race event will be coming to future builds as ACC makes its way through Early Access in the next few months. As I said above, the video is from the "light rain" option, and for those feeling slightly more adventurous, the degrees of intensity can be ramped all the way up to full storm conditions, complete with thunder and lightning and a much heavier flow of rain onto the circuit. Apart from the visual aspect of more severe rainfall and a wetter, less grippy road surface, storm brings with it something rather fun indeed... puddles. What effect do puddles have on a downforce reliant racing car that rides just millimetres above the road surface? Aquaplaning… a What is aquaplaning? Essentially aquaplaning is an issue caused when a layer of water is allowed to build up between a vehicle’s tyres and the surface of the road beneath. At this point, the tyres cannot grip on the road and this causes a lack of traction which means the driver loses control and is unable to steer, brake or accelerate the car – basically turning your high performing GT3 car into an out of control boat. The great thing is, should you set the wet weather to a severe enough setting, this characteristic of racing in wet conditions is present in ACC, meaning that even in a straight line the virtual driver has to be exceptionally careful not to lose control of the car, which is something of a challenge I can tell you. By now you are probably of the impression that I rather like the way ACC simulates wet conditions, I think the developers have done an outstanding job with the sim in this regard, and I’m delighted with the outcome so early into development. The wet stuff looks and behaves brilliantly, and the way the car feels, from the force feedback to the movement on circuit feels absolutely spot on, and for me is certainly the very best representation of wet weather driving I've ever experienced in a racing game... but it comes at a performance cost, at least in this early build version. Performance is always something a PC gamer wants more of, especially when you get to the level of graphical fidelity found in ACC, and those of us running less modern equipment, or wanting to make use of the triple screen setup, better be willing to make some settings sacrifices in order to maintain a smooth gaming experience. Having said that, the FPS cost of running ACC in different weather / time of day conditions has been less than I expected in my testing so far, but I am only running a single screen with a decent NVidia 980ti under the hood. Moving away from weather and on to the overall graphical uplift afforded the title by the move to Unreal 4, I think it is fair to say that ACC is a visual improvement in almost every way over its natural predecessor, Assetto Corsa. The game looks unmistakably like Unreal 4 engine powered title, but with a little bit of Kunos art direction thrown into the mix to help it stand out. Assetto Corsa Competizione is a very pleasing experience on the eye, although for me at least, it currently just lacks that little bit of sharpness to the graphics I've become accustomed to with the original Assetto Corsa game, something that I've noticed with several Unreal 4 powered titles that have been released in recent months. Now I'm certainly not saying this is in any way a negative, but it is worth pointing out that to me at least, UE4 and ACC gives off a softer, more richly presented graphic than was the case with "AC1", and actually I feel this does perhaps go some way to offering a more realistic and true to real life look and feel to the graphics, something that other high performing graphic rich racing games in the marketplace have often fallen short of achieving in the past. Another thing about the visual representation of the game are the details that Kunos have lavished on the title, really going so much further in the presentation and representation of those trackside scenes and details that was ever hoped to be present in the original AC - all of which further add to the depths of realism in the simulation and are highly welcomed. From the small things like moving flag marshals and post-race fireworks and flares in the grandstands, to moving driver hands when flicking switches for the pit lane speed limiter and the various light options, these are all details that leave me with that warm and fuzzy feeling, safe in the knowledge that Kunos appear to be keen to leave no stone unturned in their quest to produce a very realistic and true to real life representation of one of the finest GT racing series on the planet, much like was the intention when SimBin Studios released GTR2 all those years ago... Moving away from the visual side of the title and looking at the way the AI behaves, something that wasn’t a forte of the original Assetto Corsa title it has to be said, the improvement shown in ACC is probably one of the single biggest upgrades over the original game I’ve noticed so far. One of the benefits of pulling the entire focus of the development team to a single category of racing is that the code used for the artificial intelligence can be much more refined than the current standard "jack of all trades" types of game, giving Kunos something of an edge as they can focus on refining the behaviour of a select group of cars and tracks, resulting in one of the most detailed and clean racing AI's I've had the pleasure of competing against. Since taking possession of my copy of ACC I've completed countless races in various weather conditions and times of day, and not once have I been needlessly dumped off the circuit by the AI, a testament to the work that has already been completed by the developers, allowing Assetto Corsa Competizione to deliver probably the most satisfying single player experience in any racing game I've ever played. The AI make mistakes and goes off the circuit, they race and repass you if you run wide or miss an apex, and they can get aggressive too… but I've yet to be mysteriously rammed off the track by them, never once having been shunted from behind and left to wonder what on earth happened to cause such a collision despite carrying what I believed to be a solid apex speed into the corner, and for this I'm probably the most impressed out of the many outstanding aspects of this new simulation. The job Kunos have done here is simply outstanding. However, one should temper that enthusiasm as we remember this is just one car and one track, it remains to be seen if this level of quality can be maintained as the newer content is added in the months ahead. Ok so I've gone on a little bit longer than I imagined for what is essentially an introduction article to our video review at the top of the page, so I'll try and wrap things up a little bit now and let you watch the footage on our YouTube channel. I know I often tend to lean towards the more positive side of things in my writing, but I do honestly feel that on this occasion the game really does warrant the levels of praise I’ve lavished on it here and in our review video. I've had quite a bit of time on track with AC now, using my less favoured single screen arrangement while we await the October VR update, and to be perfectly honest I've found pretty much nothing that I don't like. Yup, nothing at all... for a game so early in development, that fills me with nothing but excitement. Assetto Corsa Competizione looks to me like it is about to change that face of sim racing, instantly rocketing up to the very top levels of our hobby, and quite frankly if I were in the shoes of the other development teams throughout the world, I'd be worried about the amount of ground I'd have to make up to get on par with ACC... it really is that good. EDITOR MESSAGE: Please note I intended to have a video review of the title in this article, however having run out of time, and needing to prep for the upcoming Sim Racing Expo, I've run out of time. Please keep an eye on our RaceDepartment YouTube page for a future in depth review of Assetto Corsa Competizione. Assetto Corsa Competizione is available on Steam Early Access now. Check out the Assetto Corsa Competizione here at RaceDepartment for the latest news and discussions regarding this exciting new simulation from Kunos Simulazioni. We intend to host some quality League and Club Racing events as well as hosting some great community created mods (we hope!). Join in the discussion today. Like what you see here at RaceDepartment? Don't forget to like, subscribe and follow us on social media! Instagram Twitter Facebook Youtube Twitch Did you enjoy our review? Want to share your own opinions of the game? Let us know in the comments section below!