Following a week of teasing from Italian developer Kunos Simulazioni, their new racing sim has been revealed, Assetto Corsa Competizione, which is planned to enter Steam Early Access this summer. Announced as “The Official Blancpain GT Series Game”, the sim brings many technology upgrades over Assetto Corsa (2014), thanks in part to the move to Unreal Engine 4.
Update 2/23/2018: A statement regarding VR support (quoted later in this article) was removed from the game’s Steam page. Kunos Simulazioni Brand and Product Manager Marco Massarutto has confirmed directly with Road to VR that the title will indeed feature VR support.
While the development focus appears to be on bringing the FIA GT3 homologated championship to life, the title clearly represents a new chapter in Kunos’ simulation technology as a whole. Perhaps they took a leaf from the Polyphony Digital playbook in avoiding a numbered sequel, instead selecting a name that acknowledges a stronger leaning towards eSports.
Assetto Corsa continues to be one of the most popular racing sims on the PC, but it is reaching the end of its life cycle, and the team has been looking to move the technology forward. The time is right for a graphics engine upgrade, and the teaser trailer above highlights the benefits of moving to Unreal Engine 4, enabling rain and night scenes for the first time. The new systems will allow full 24-hour lighting transitions and dynamic weather.
Further improvements over Assetto Corsa include driver swap support, motion captured pit animations, and a “well-structured ranking system” for multiplayer. This follows a recent trend towards higher quality online racing competition, with GT Sport (2017) and Project CARS 2 (2017) taking inspiration from iRacing’s (2008) class-leading matchmaking technology.
In the description on the game’s Steam page, VR support is also confirmed. “Designed to innovate, Assetto Corsa Competizione will be VR Ready and set to promote eSports, bringing players at the heart of the Blancpain GT Series and putting them behind the wheel of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens and many other prestigious GT racing cars, all reproduced with outstanding level of detail.”
Assetto Corsa‘s existing VR mode on PC is solid, but also limited by the current engine, with no full VR menu system and compromised rear view mirrors. Unreal Engine’s comprehensive VR support could benefit the new sim in these areas. Assetto Corsa supports Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Kunos aren’t explicitly calling Assetto Corsa Competizione a direct sequel to Assetto Corsa, but it seems that it could become exactly that, depending on the terms of the licensing agreement. “This announcement represents a dream come true for us,” says co-founder Marco Massarutto. “The Blancpain GT Series license is just the tip of the iceberg. By combining the potential of Unreal Engine 4 and the feedback received from our community, we are producing a completely new simulation aimed to redefine the racing game genre, improving the features that made Assetto Corsa so popular, and introducing those demanded by players for a high-level racing simulation game – with no compromise, and remaining loyal to our philosophy.”