GamingReview: NASCAR ‘14

Review: NASCAR ‘14

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Specialised racing games that focus upon one discipline are few and far between; with many developers attempting to combine many race genres into one package, they can all unwantedly mesh, giving the only real variable of how much the back end kicks out. Eutechnyx and Deep Silver have created a game based upon one of the most popular motorsports in the world; NASCAR ’14 hopes to fill the aching void of a dedicated racer.

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Straight off the bat, my inadequacies of NASCAR knowledge are exposed due to the loading screens, rather brilliantly, offering little multiple choice questions, quizzing you on your dedication to the sport. After being made to look a fool by a loading screen, you then get overly introduced to the menus by a very enthusiastic southern American drawl describing what each of the selectable options do. The first niggle surfaces rather quickly as his explanations are not quite punctual. The delay on his voiceover takes a few seconds to kick in, meaning you often breeze through the menus before cutting the poor fellow off; scrolling back up to hopefully prompt him to say it again doesn’t work either.

It’s not long before the call of the racing game career mode draws me in to see if it can balance the awkward line of immersion minus unnecessary clutter. Whilst initially seeming shallow, the career really starts to take shape after you’ve got a few events under your belt. Upgrades can be bought; sponsors can be earned and subsequently applied to your car and many pre-race options can be altered. Interestingly, the money you win from events can be spent before an event, dictating what level of equipment you put on your car. For example deciding which variation of engine block to use, whether you choose a refurbished model to skimp on money or go all out and plump for the higher tier engine, hoping it’ll be enough on its own.

Much like other dedicated racers such as the F1 franchise and Moto GP, you’ll be required to partake in practice laps and qualifying sessions before taking on the pack. In the pit, the more advanced players can alter their car setup before taking it out for a few laps; hopefully putting in an improved time. It’s still worth getting a few complete practice laps even if you don’t intend to change the car setup however, as although there’s little variation between tracks (it’s NASCAR, therefore a loop is all you get) the little, seemingly insignificant variables can make a stout difference. A steeper camber on one corner will completely alter your track positioning; it can be interesting to attempt new lines to shave off those pesky tenths.

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Once qualifying has been completed, the race day turns up. Once again, there are options to suit your needs, if you fancy an all-out slog of a race with a realistic lap count then go for it, or you can simplify matters and go for a five lap blast. The custom difficulty options are crucial to you getting the most out of NASCAR ’14; much like the Forza series, you can specify aspects of the game to suit you. If you’re adverse to pit stops and refuelling, get rid of them, don’t like simulation style damage models? Give the cosmetic only option a try; the difference between everything off and everything on, makes a staggering change to how the game plays. With the entirety of ABS, traction control and cornering assists switched on, you can pretty much hold down the accelerator and win, whereas turning everything off can make for quite the hardcore experience.

In terms of actual racing, Eutechnyx have done a great job of making the cars feel both weighty and planted; the thunderous, bass inducing roar of their massive engines helps too! Acceleration should be feathered upon exiting corners and the steering requires a deft touch as opposed to constantly applying full lock. Due to the inherently large amount of racers on track, and more importantly, their constantly close proximity to one another, it helps to know where they are. Fortunately, there are two factors in helping you here, not only do you get a nifty little radar at the bottom of the screen displaying other nearby racers, but also your pit crew will give constant feedback of the other racers positioning, giving a real sense of immersion at the unfortunate expense of occasionally having to sift through their jargon.

The drafting mechanic poses interesting problems due to its necessity in winning. Whilst you can, and should, slipstream behind other racers, the hot air emanating from the car in front will start to overheat your engine should you persist for too long, meaning that you’ll have to occasionally get into some cleaner, colder air to counteract this. Indeed the only real problem with NASCAR ’14 is that, due to the immense amount of cars on the track, ‘accidents’ are inevitable. Whilst the computer AI can be fairly competent at keeping close and attempting to limit bumping, in nearly every race I’ve taken part in, there has been an incident, always involving me. There are never collisions involving two AI drivers at the back of the pack either, it uncannily seems to be always when you’re leading the race too… Whilst I accept that this is a solid factor in all motorsport, it happens way too frequently and often costs you the race, necessitating a restart.

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As far as longevity goes, that of course depends on your dedication to the sport; the career mode is the obvious starting point and should last a while. Once you’ve worked through that, with each manufacturer, there are the highlight stages to attempt to gold. Appearing like small scenarios, they often involve things like working your way through the pack in as quick a time as possible; just generally recreating some of the most famous moments. If the concept of online play appeals, you can also jump on and compete in leagues and the like; due to the server browser, finding a match that fits your criteria shouldn’t be a problem.

In terms of fidelity and general presentation, NASCAR ’14 doesn’t really stack up all that well against the rest of the pack, the car models look reasonable, especially whilst using some of the in-car views. It’s the dull, lifeless tracks and the complete lack of a classic NASCAR atmosphere that detracts from the experience the most. Whilst the excellent, hefty engine rumbles valiantly try their best to make up for the other shortcomings, in the end it’s not enough, and on first impressions, it comes across as an old game.

Whilst it may not be for everyone, NASCAR ’14, with its adjustably hardcore settings, loading screen trivia and engaging career mode, will find its home amongst fans. Overly aggressive AI and exceedingly similar cars and tracks will undoubtedly put off the majority however. If either NASCAR racing or attempting perfectionism behind the wheel appeals to you, then I would whole heartedly recommend NASCAR ’14, if not, then it’s probably not for you.

SUMMARY

+ NASCAR fans will be in their element
+ Weighty handling
+ Enjoyable career mode
- Aged presentation
- Aggressive AI
- Too limiting for casual fans of the racing genre

(Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and PC)

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+ NASCAR fans will be in their element <br /> + Weighty handling <br /> + Enjoyable career mode <br /> - Aged presentation <br /> - Aggressive AI <br /> - Too limiting for casual fans of the racing genre <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 and PC)Review: NASCAR ‘14