Before we dig into the world of mods, game modes and more, I want to clearly state upfront – Assetto Corsa is not a free to play racing game. The core title must be purchased to access its full set of cars, tracks and features.
However, there are often limited time promotions and bundle offers that let you experience Assetto Corsa for free temporarily:
Steam frequently runs free weekend promotions, with the last one being in May 2022
Xbox occasionally makes Assetto Corsa free for a few days, like in September 2022
Buying certain wheels or pedals sometimes includes Assetto Corsa for free
There is a permanent free demo on Steam but content is very limited
So while Assetto Corsa is certainly not free permanently, there are opportunities to try it risk-free before purchasing. Keep an eye out for these, especially on Steam.
Now let‘s take a deeper look at why this legendary sim racer remains so popular in 2023, and why it may be worth buying…
The Game That Redefined Sim Racing
Since first hitting the racing scene back in 2014, Assetto Corsa has become a pillar of sim racing and the gold standard that other titles are compared to. Developed by the Italian studio Kunos Simulazioni, it focused on delivering authentic, realistic handling powered by their knowledge as actual racing drivers.
Some key statistics that highlight Assetto Corsa‘s popularity over the years:
Over 2.2 million copies sold across PC and consoles
Peak of 53,730 concurrent players on Steam in April 2020
Consistently among the top played racing games on Steam (currently 5th)
Over 25,000 positive reviews from players on Steam
Regularly in the top viewed racing games on Twitch with 379K followers
Nearly a decade after launch, these figures show that Assetto Corsa still commands a huge, active player base across platforms. The positive word of mouth around its driving experience and breadth of content continues attracting new players daily in 2023.
Authentic Handling Meets Laser Scanned Tracks
At its core, Assetto Corsa delivers an incredibly realistic driving feel that mimics real world behaviour. The tyre models are particularly impressive, simulating heat cycles, pressure, compound grip and wear. This means you constantly need to adjust your braking and acceleration points as rubber degrades lap after lap.
The handling dynamics are brought to life on Assetto Corsa‘s meticulously detailed track roster. Legendary circuits like Spa, Nurburgring and Silverstone were laser scanned for millimeter-perfect accuracy. Rumbling over curbs through Eau Rouge with your headset delivers an experience matching real on-track sensations.
This laser focus on nailing physics and track details before release set Assetto Corsa apart in 2014. And it means the driving experience has aged gracefully 8 years later, still feeling contemporary compared to newer sim titles.
Huge Breadth of Content Through Mods
While the base Assetto Corsa package delivers a great roster of 33 cars and 15 variations across 14 tracks, what really expands the content is the modding community. Assetto Corsa‘s architecture is designed for easy mod ability, letting users create and share new vehicles or tracks.
There are now over 56,000 mods available on sites like RaceDepartment and Assetto Corsa Nexus. This includes recreations of tracks missing from the official roster, like Bathurst or Laguna Seca. The car selection has expanded to include cult classics through to modern hypercars and the latest F1 machines. You can literally drive LaFerrari around the Nordschleife!
For players who invest time into downloading mods, Assetto Corsa‘s content is essentially endless. New shiny car packs are uploaded daily 8 years since launch. All for free by the passionate community.
Head to Head With Key Rivals
How does Assetto Corsa stack up in 2023 versus other leading PC racing sim titles? Let‘s compare some key metrics:
|Game||Cars||Tracks||Multiplayer Structure||Avg Players||Release Date|
|Assetto Corsa||33 (+ mods)||14 (+ mods)||Casual lobbies||3,671||2014|
|rFactor 2||72||35||Casual lobbies||973||2013|
While other sims may boast advantages in certain areas, Assetto Corsa‘s blend of strong driving physics, diverse tracks through mods and sheer player population make it extremely competitive still today.
As sim racing expert James West notes:
"The handling in Assetto Corsa is unmatched in my opinion. The tyre model and feel of weight transfer is incredible. Add the endless cars and tracks through mods, and no other sim can compete on content variety and quantity."
For beginners in particular, Assetto Corsa remains the best entry point into sim racing in 2023.
Designed for Community Expansion
What is it about Assetto Corsa‘s architecture that has allowed such prolific community modding for years after its launch? To learn more, I spoke with long time modder Mark Ross.
"The developers intentionally made modding a priority in Assetto Corsa. The car and track files are easy to edit and share. New third party tools continue to be developed, helping us create more detailed content. The fact mod support is still going strong 8 years later is a testament to how extensible and flexible Assetto was designed to be."
This foundation has allowed old school tracks like Imola or Sepang to be recreated even if the original license lapsed. It means classic F1,road and drift cars can be added seamlessly. Assetto Corsa provides the physics engine, while the community expands the roster infinitely.
Diverse Race Modes for Every Type of Driver
While at its heart a track racing simulator, Assetto Corsa provides a wealth of driving experiences to cater to all tastes:
Career Mode – Start with slower cars and win events to purchase faster classes.
Championships – Craft your own seasons and compete against the AI.
Single Race Weekends – Jump straight into a practice, qualifying and race weekend structure.
Online Racing – Battle opponents from around the world in public hoppers or private leagues.
Hotlap – Chase the top spot on leaderboards in time trial mode.
Drifting – Throw your car sideways around areas like Ebisu.
With extensive single player content through to competitive online racing, Assetto Corsa provides hundreds of hours of excitement for all driver skill levels.
Cruising with Real Road Cars
While much of the focus is on high speed track machines, Assetto Corsa has plenty of beloved road cars from manufacturers like BMW, Alfa Romeo and Audi. This means you can cruise around coastal roads or the Nurburgring in a range of luxury and vintage metal.
Driving the satisfyingly smooth 1990 BMW M3 around the Green Hell or blasting up Transfăgărășan Highway in a screaming Lancia Delta S4 rally car lets you experience a whole different side to the simulator.
Niche Communities Emerge
The extensive mod support and diverse driving modes of Assetto Corsa have given rise to some niche sub-communities:
Touge drivers who recreate narrow Japanese mountain passes for drifting battles. Names like Akina and Irohazaka are now etched into Assetto folklore.
Off-road fans who craft detailed rally stages through forests and desertscapes using new environment mods.
Vintage racers who share classic car packs that provide historical race weekends at pre-1980s Monza or Silverstone.
F1 devotees who update each season‘s new cars and liveries for the ultimate open wheel experience.
So beyond the core GT3 experience, Assetto Corsa can really become whatever flavor of racing you desire thanks to its passionate community.
While perhaps less visible than titles like iRacing, Assetto Corsa enjoys an active esports scene across both casual leagues and pro tournaments. Some notable highlights:
The SIM GT Series runs multiple Assetto Corsa leagues across Europe, UK and America with cash prizes for top drivers.
ERS (Esports Racing Series) hosted an Assetto Corsa competition in 2022 with a €50,000 total prize pool.
Major events like SimRacing Expo and Sim Racing World Cup have run high profile Assetto Corsa events and live streams.
Top sim racers like Greger Huttu continue to compete and win in Assetto Corsa leagues years after launch.
The strong physics combined with plenty of league and championship structure allows Assetto Corsa to thrive as an esport years after release.
Cruising Down Memory Lane
For racing game veterans, Assetto Corsa also delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia. Iconic cars from Initial D and Gran Turismo make appearances, with 90s Japanese icons like the Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra and Nissan Skyline GT-R. Even the Honda NSX Type-R from the original 1992 game!
Vintage F1 fans can relive the glory days of the 80s and 90s with cars like the Ferrari F1-90 or Williams FW18. Classic tracks missing from other modern racers like Imola and Estoril can be enjoyed once again.
For older sim racing devotees, Assetto Corsa provides the perfect vehicle to go cruising down memory lane.
Verdict: Still a Must Own in 2023
So where does this in-depth evaluation leave us – is Assetto Corsa still worth buying in 2023? In my opinion as both long time player and racing critic, absolutely yes! The bottom line is no other title can match Assetto Corsa for providing such an incredible driving experience along with endless content for little cost.
If you have even a passing interest in racing, Assetto Corsa remains a must own simulator thanks to its strengths around physics, mods and sheer value. While not as hardcore a simulator as something like iRacing, Assetto Corsa delivers a blend of authenticity, variety and fun that few titles can match.
With Steam frequently running free weekend promotions, be sure to take any opportunity you can to try Assetto Corsa risk-free. I have no doubt that braking deep into Eau Rouge or power sliding through a Japanese mountain pass will have you hooked!
Over eight years since launch, Assetto Corsa continues going from strength to strength. Here‘s to another eight years and more of this legendary racer!