When someone pictures a racing title, they may think of GRID, Gran Turismo or Need for Speed; but if someone told you that a new NASCAR racing game was coming out, you may dismiss it as a ‘turning left simulator’ and if someone told you it was called NASCAR: The Game, you might even laugh in their face. But while the game certainly has issues, there are some qualities that many racing game fans are looking for that they can’t find in other racing titles.
After entering the game, you’ll notice the graphics aren’t much to write home about. In terms of textures and model quality, they are more or less industry standard. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it makes a difference. One element that really stands out is the lack of effect enhancements such as HDR, depth of field, vignette, etc. Adding effects would have brought a more interesting visual element to game and made it more interesting to look at. Arguably, one of the more exciting aspects to NASCAR are the crashes. While there is collision detection in the game, the crashes are as spectacular as you might expect. Some of the finer details like dust, sparks and actual damage to the vehicle are noticeably absent. Even when you slam into a wall, the only real visual damage you’ll notice is your bumper hanging off. If you wanted to see smoking hunks of twisted metal, this may not be the game for you.
The game itself has no original score and instead opts for the standard ‘rock and punk’ title screen songs like many of the other sports games default to. What it lacks in music, however, it makes up for in surprisingly good sound design. The way the cars sounds is hard to describe but the best way to put it is that the cars sound ‘meaty’, when you hit the accelerator, you can feel to roar of the engine, especially if you switch to the cockpit view. Every bump, scrape and throttle sounds very crisp and convincing, helping you get absorbed for where the game really shines, the game play.
So what sets this game apart from other racing titles? Why should anyone try a NASCAR game where the only courses have you turning left? Once you jump into your first game, you may be overconfident, thinking you can just slam on the gas and fly past the other drivers. But the truth of the matter is that NASCAR can be a very demanding game. One slip, one bump can send you and everyone else into a tail-spinning pile-up. NASCAR: The Game 2013 relies on drive precision and requires a more strategic and plays more like a simulation game. You’ll need plenty of concentration and discipline to not only win a race, but finish it in the first place. You will have to resist the urge to overtake other drivers. If you can’t do it cleanly, you may find yourself in a lower position. Keep in mind, of course, that even though you can adjust the amount of laps each event has, if you want an authentic racing experience, you’re going to see upwards of 200 to 600 laps per race, not including pit-stops, which means you could be spending hours in a single race, even when one whole season has up to 50 events. That’s what sets NASCAR apart, it isn’t a racing game you can just throw in and relax with, it’s something that requires attention and discipline. If you have the right equipment such as a peddle, wheel and gear shift for your computer, NASCAR can offer an experience that sets itself apart from other racing simulators on the market.
The gameplay aspects are also accompanied by a few different game modes. You’ll have your choice between the standard race, Elimination, which eliminates the last place driver after every lap, and Duel, where two drivers are pitted against each other on opposite sides of the map and have to catch up to the other racer to win. If single player racing isn’t cutting it, NASCAR: The Game 2013 has multiplayer and leader-boards that allow you to test your skill against other drivers. What it lacks in maps it makes up for in a solid offering of well-designed game modes.
Unfortunately, the game is marred by several issues that make it difficult to enjoy this game to it’s fullest. The user interface, while generally well-designed, has issues registering mouse clicks on menu options. You may have to click several times on some of the options throughout the game which adds a level of frustration. The artificial intelligence is sub-par; they have no issue with committing racing suicide by slamming into you and causing a spin out. These tactics would never have been used in real NASCAR drivers but yet the AI has no problem doing it to you. If you leave the formation for even a second, you will get hammered to fall back in line. The body shop is also incomprehensible. Want to paint your car? Well I hope you’re ready to trudge through an interface that makes no sense whatsoever. The customization options, while providing an option that has the potential to make this game a fun and customizable experience, turned out to be yet another standard mode. You can change the engine, body and development package but it lacks any real game changers. Generally, these upgrades simply gives you a flat boost to your power with no real downside that would make you have to really think before upgrading. Seeing a system that would make you customize the car to the way you drive would have given more depth to this otherwise shallow system.
Despite the issues, NASCAR: The Game manages to stay within the pack of simulation racers out there instead of pulling away from it. NASCAR is an exciting sport full of vibrant colors, rich sounds and a party-like atmosphere. Sure, the racing aspect of the game is generally good, but it is the smaller details that fell through the cracks. Having a solid career mode or even improving the visual fidelity would have gone a long way. However, when you put all of that aside, you have a solid NASCAR game that challenges the player and forces you to think like a NASCAR driver. In the end, isn’t that what a NASCAR simulation is all about? If you agree with that sentiment, you’ll like this game and its for that reason we give this game our recommendation.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of NASCAR: The Game 2013 developed by Eutechnyx
- Authentic NASCAR
- Realistic Gameplay
- Lack of Customization
- Sub-Par AI