NASCAR fans rejoice as Eutechnyx has made, quite possibly, the best console NASCAR title to date. The game has a fully fleshed out career mode, an online mode that brings all the fun of side by side racing with friends, and the new Challenge mode which takes real world telemetry data to let you relive key highlights from past seasons. Unfortunately I have to throw a caution out for things like the opponent AI.
The meat and potatoes of the series is the revamped career which takes place right when you boot up the game. Boot up the game and they place you in the garage hub; this is where you begin your career. After driving a few laps you sign your first sponsor and from there you’re off. It’s fun to work your way up the ranks and earn new and more prestigious sponsors, all while upgrading your car’s chassis, engine, transmission. The upgrades are helpful and do make a noticeable difference as I found myself finishing in higher positions much easier than the first few races, even with my awesome driving skills *brushes shoulder off*. Changes can be made visually too as you can design your own paint schemes to your team car with a decal placement editor. It takes some getting used to but it’s not nearly as powerful as something as say, in Forza. You have access to basic and odd shapes along with a slew of sponsors to apply.
As mentioned earlier, there are other modes to play around in other than career. The Challenge modes are quite interesting in that you take control of a driver and re-live higlights from previous NASCAR seasons. They go as far as 2 season backs and they have DLC which will include highlights from this year and even into next. These are fun challenges to complete and being that more are coming will keep some of this game fresh in the months to come. Online now has full race weekend support and, as to be expected, is fun with friends. I would definitely recommend friends because as with any other racing game, you can expect wrecks going into the first turn ruining the race for just about all involved. There is quick race too if you just want to race with any of the 40 real world licensed teams and drivers included in the game. I haven’t kept up with the sport since early 08 so a lot of the drivers have shifted seats or are just gone completely. In fact when you go to choose your car number, the list is populated with a lot of unused numbers I grew up watching way back when (RIP RYR and the #28). I can’t tell if they have all the current roster of drivers and if they are accurate since I’m so out of date, but you can be sure the big teams like Petty, Hendrick, Earnhardt Ganassi, and Roush are represented. Speaking of the teams, when selecting them in quick race, you’ll be able to see the team and driver Twitter accounts. It was a head tilting “wha?” moment but hey if you’re a fan with a Twitter account, you now can follow your driver.
When it comes to your opponents, the AI just doesn’t budge. Every track felt like the drivers were rolling on preset lines with no leeway. I would attempt a slingshot coming off a corner and find myself under the car going into the next turn, a standard maneauver, but turns into a big issue because the AI just isn’t as smart as it should be. I can’t give an exact percentage but it felt as though the majority of the time the car would continue on its path and come down into me. Even though my races were only 5-10% of the actual laps, it was still aggravating that you spent all that time only to get taken out by AI. You could say it’s just racing but it’s frustrating to know that when in a situation like that, the other driver’s spotter would be yelling “car low car low” and try to avoid you. To top it all off, they would cause abrupt slowdowns for no apparent reason causing huge pileups. Their wreck avoidance, well it doesn’t seem they were programed with any. Just a single car could cause the whole field behind them to get torn to bits with, albeit, hilarious results like cars flipping end over end on small short tracks like Martinsville. Unfortunately, these were not rare occasions.
Don’t let that lead you the wrong way though, use of smart passing and anticipating the AI’s lines will lead to cleaner races and overall more fun. I never got around to playing the first NASCAR game by Eutechnyx, and my last experience with a console NASCAR title was NASCAR 09 developed by EA. Compared to 09, its overall better but obviously way under the pinnacle of Stock Car sim titles found on the PC (NASCAR RACING Season 2003 being my bread and butter). If you’re looking for a good NASCAR experience to play on your couch, other than being the only choice, this is a great problem to have.
A review copy of the game was provided by PR for review purposes