Opinion: are gamepads too easy to handle in Assetto Corsa Competizione?
Disclaimer: I’m not trying to start a flame war, and I do not think gamepad users are lesser in any way. I think this is a genuine question, which I want to pose in order to start a discussion, and hopefully trigger a reaction and/or explanation from physics master Aris.
Disclaimer 2: This post was written in january 2020. A lot has changed since then, so keep that in mind while reading this post.
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more people who I consider to be very quick drivers come out and state they are driving with a gamepad. I always assumed that driving with anything other than a wheel was total madness. However, encouraged by their results, I took the plunge and fired up my trusty old X360 gamepad. For full context, this gamepad has some minor ghosting on the left joystick.
I started ACC and took the Aston Martin Vantage V8 for a spin on Spa. The results, even after my first lap, were… discomforting.
At first, my biggest concern was getting used to the chase camera and the new perspective this brings. Due to the different camera angle, I had to re-learn my braking points. Still, I was surprised when my first lap was a 2:22.578, as can be seen above, even more because this is only five seconds slower than my fastest ever lap around Spa.
This encouraged me to power through the initial hurdle. I quickly adapted my braking spots, and managed to set a time below 2:20, in which I succeeded after just six laps.
After some more laps in a second sessions, I was even able to break into the 2:18‘s. Video below!
This got me thinking: this wasn’t the deep simulation I had come to love. This felt like I was back playing Forza. Yeah it was fun, but this wasn’t ACC.
I figured it might be due to the car I was driving, since the Aston is one of the more well-behaved cars. I switched to the 2019 Porsche, which is arguably on the other end of the behaviour spectrum. While I did have a bit more trouble keeping the Porsche under control, I easily got within two seconds of my personal best after just four laps. And, what’s more, I never fully lost control even though I came upon situations where I would have surely lost the car if I were driving the wheel, like these video’s below showcase;
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been able to catch driving with the wheel, however, the relative ease of catching these clear fuck-ups surprised me. Also note how unnaturally it springs back into a normal straight line.
I went looking for answers, and I got one. A little option in the controls menu called ‘Steering Assist’.
In the video’s, I didn’t have to do anything to catch these slides. The steering assist did it for me. Normally, I’d have to respond to the force feedback and take appropriate measures, sometimes leading to adverse effects i.e. overcorrecting and spinning out. As a gamepad is unable to convey proper force feedback, this is an option in order to level the playing field for gamepad users.
This option is an automated response, reacting to the car’s rear stepping out in a way that is so fast, if you were to try to recreate it with a wheel you’d snap your wrists. In my relatively short experience with the gamepad, it has corrected the car’s trajectory without fail. There is no danger of spinning out. Never had I even been in danger of losing control. This also means that it is much easier to push the car to it’s limits, since the game offers a safety net.
Even more so with setups: you can create a setup that would be near undrivable with a wheel, but could be very fast with a gamepad. This could give people who drive with a gamepad an unfair advantage, especially when looking towards the leaderboards for the Special Events.
To further illustrate this, here’s a video of one of the proper aliens (who is a regular on the top 10 on Special Events) using his Steam Controller after a couple of minutes fiddling with the control scheme, doing a 1:56.5 on Silverstone;
I understand why this steering assist option exists. Without it, the game would probably be a barren wasteland since it is practically unplayable without it. Therefore, in discussing this matter with other players, I have formulated some possible solutions:
- Give server-owners the ability to force this option off in their server settings.
- Rework the option to make it less powerful, have it react in a more natural, human manner.
- Make it visible (with an icon) on the leaderboards if people used this option (like in the old Forza days).
Am I now going to drive using a gamepad? No. For me, the ‘fun’-factor in driving with a gamepad is greatly diminished, as well as the sense of pride and accomplishment you get from nailing a (in my case, near) perfect lap.
What do you guys think about this? Have you tried playing with a gamepad? What are your experiences using a gamepad? Do you have any solutions to this? I really appreciate any and all input!