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Dream Pack 1 DLC turns Assetto Corsa into a must have racing sim
Racing fans, get ready to be excited! The first DLC for Kunos Simulazioni’s Assetto Corsa is released. It’s called Dream Pack 1 and offers 10 cars plus the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit, laser scanned in all 21km of its forested twisty turning glory. But we’ve had the Nordschleife in games before, so the question is, does laser scanning the circuit make much of a difference? Can it be that much better?
Update: watch a video of the Dream Pack 1 here
Well the answer is yes. It’s night and day; it’s like blind men seeing for the first time, it’s utterly fantastic. It is the most realistic version of the circuit seen yet, coupled with the best driving experience possible on PC or console at present.
Dream Pack 1 comes with 10 new cars
So there are 10 cars in this pack of Assetto Corsa, some high powered sports cars like the McLaren GTR, the McLaren P1, and the very, very, very fast Mercedes C9 Le Mans car. These are all very nice, but to be honest, you need super skills to drive these on the Nordschleife. Don’t be surprised if you crash them all into the first corner barrier far too fast, so let’s switch to the slower cars. Here we have a lovely Mercedes 190 DTM car, surprisingly friendly and an absolute joy to drive, the Nissan GTR GT3 car, the BMW M235i Racing, and the Alfa Romeo GTA from 1966.
Overall, there is something for everyone in Dream Pack 1; from the insane, to the precise racing cars, to the lairy tail-happy show off machines. The 1960’s Alfa Romeo, despite looking like a Morris minor from the inside, is brilliant fun to drive. It is squirrelly on the brakes, doesn’t like changing direction quickly, but has great feeling and controllability Not to mention the fantastic power oversteer on every corner exit if you wish! If Ken Block was a 60 year old pipe smoking Italian, he might drive one of these.
In general the cars are obsessively well modelled and textured on the outside, but some of the cockpits look a little rushed. By no means are they bad, but it definitely could be better.
Racing on the Nürburgring
So the cars are nice, but if anything, Assetto Corsa lacks official tracks. Now what a way to stick two fingers to every other sim out there, by including the most famous track of them all in Dream Pack 1. And it’s a belter! To set the scene, it’s a 19-24km track that -depending which sections you open up- gives you three versions, all with slightly different lengths.
Dream Pack 1 has the original Nordschleife, more or less the same as the old Grand Prix circuit. Then we got the Touristfahren, the course open to the public on weekdays, classed as an Autobahn with timing from bridge to gantry. The last one is the VLN circuit, which includes the Nürburgring GP track. Slightly confusing if you’re not familiar with the history of the course, but the fact Kunos have chosen to implement all three shows they know exactly what car fans want. This means you can chase Stefan Bellofs lap record on the full circuit, or chase your mates’ real world time set in a dodgy Ford Ka on the Touristfahren.
The real track is in a massive forest in the middle of nowhere, and the trees come right up to the edge of the road. Jackie Stewart called it the ‘Green Hell’ and for a reason. It’s scary, and feels slightly claustrophobic in places. They have managed to capture this feel very well. It feels tight and enclosed, and you get a great sense of speed and danger by having the forest rushing by so close. They have also matched the heights of the trees to the rough height of the real trees in the real circuit, which somehow makes it all look ‘right’.
Secondly, there are a huge number of track-side objects, signs, posts and landmarks, many more than any other rendition of this place. It helps a lot with braking markers, but also, you get the impression of being in a real world location.
As for the road surface, it feels quite different to other games. It looks almost the same, but when you start driving, your lines are just a little adjusted. Some corners catch you out, some have bumps or dips you’ve never seen before. Seeing as Kunos have laser scanned the entire circuit, it’s safe to assume that it’s more accurate than the others. One interesting thing is it seems more fun to drive, more flowing, and, dare we say it, a little easier than other game versions. What is also impressive, is that all the advice from real world lap guides work perfectly in the Assetto Corsa version too, which is not always the case.
The track itself therefore, is extremely well modelled. It feels very accurate and looks great. Assetto Corsa has always had very nice physics, and really they are the point of pride for the game, but they don’t get to shine as much as they deserve when racing slick cars round short precision racing circuits. The Dream Pack 1 DLC changes this. The combination of this new track and the fantastic physics transforms Assetto Corsa into an experience better than any other racing game lets you ride around the Green Hell.
Racing with realism
The Swedenkreuz is a very famous fast corner made notorious by YouTube videos of tourists crashing Imprezas at well over a hundred miles an hour. The reason the turn is so nasty is because it rises, then mid corner drops away downhill a little, right in the fastest section of track. If you lift off the power, the weight of the car comes forward, the back wheels get much lighter, and therefore get loose, and suddenly the front and the rear have swapped ends and your car is about to become scrap.
Well, in Assetto Corsa, it works in exactly the same way! If you panic lift, you get the same result, which has not been done to any convincing degree before. It happens all over the track, all places you expect the rear of the car to get loose and need correcting, well, it does! In short, it feels brilliant to drive, it feels authentic, and just so much better than ever before.
The only negative point is that while all the track modelling, elevation and camber changes seem spot on, is the real Nordschleife road surface that smooth? It feels that Assetto Corsa perhaps lacks some of the very fine road bumps and details that for instance iRacing does very well. In Kunos’ defence though, comparing the fidelity of a 3km racing circuit to a 21km one is not fair. There simply has to be some compromise somewhere to get the track to run well, and really, while driving the thing, it’s not something that bothers at all.
Dream Pack 1 changes Assetto Corsa
So, for a couple of extra euros, the Dream Pack 1 DLC transforms Assetto Corsa from something with a lot of promise, but possibly lacking direction, into something quite special. The Nordschleife is like the ultimate track day, and just driving these cars round the track is incredibly good fun.
Like this, it doesn’t matter what the AI is like, and it doesn’t really matter about the multiplayer racing. Other games do multiplayer racing better, there are games with better AI. But Assetto Corsa has found its place as just being a great driving experience, and the addition of this Nordschleife in the Dream Pack 1 DLC makes it a must buy for any driving game fan.
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