NASCAR SimRacing Review

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Graphics: 6.5
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 7.4
Review by Andy Levine
Developed by EA Tiburon, NASCAR SimRacing puts you behind the wheel of your very on professional race car. Starting off at the beginning of a “rags to riches” story, you must battle your way to the top of the different racing leagues. Besides racing, you will need to earn money through sponsorships, merchandising, and make a name for yourself as you strive to become the champion. Whether you are looking to fully customize your car to improve by thousandths of a second, or if you prefer to just race to your heart’s content, NASCAR SimRacing offers a somewhat satisfying gaming experience to any racing fan.

NASCAR SimRacing delivers what you should expect from any NASCAR game, but unfortunately that’s about it. From the beginning, you take part Craftsman Truck Series, where you race in small truck like vehicles instead of the typical stock car. These cars are slower and feel much heavier, but they allow you to get a feel for the updated physics engine. Instead of focusing on sharp turns and heavy braking, most of this game relies on drafting off of your opponents and taking the inside of a wide turn. You can customize your car in a few areas, such as adjusting gear ratios, tire pressure, and several other features, but most important is the new Telemetry Data feature. This gives you an analysis of your car’s performance on the track, and it will clearly show you where you need to improve, that is if you can figure out how to read the chart. If you don’t have an extensive knowledge about cars, then the tuning section will most likely remain unchanged, but you will still be able to win races without too much of a challenge. Instead of being forced to race around speedways for several hours, you have the option to cut down on the race length, as well as the AI’s aggressiveness, in order to fit your racing style.

The actual events that make up a NASCAR series reiterate races of previous releases. You still have the option of qualifying to increase your pole position, and afterwards you have the “Happy Hour” where you can make final adjustments to your car before the race begins. After a few warm-up laps, the race will roar into full speed on your quest to see a waving checkered flag. Whether the course is a long speedway or a compact short track, most of your race is reliant upon your rivals. As you work your way to the head of the pack you must catch a quick draft before accelerating past your foes. The realistic damage modeling is enough to make you drive conservatively, and if you destroy your engine not only will you be taken out of the race, but you will also have to pay a great sum of money for the repair. If you manage to nudge your opponents in the right spot, you can force them to spinout without being penalized yourself. If you’re lucky, most of the cars behind you will become involved in the crash, which will greatly increase your chance of victory. Other than this, hugging the corners and pushing the petal to the metal are your only weapons.

While the very beginning of the races can be very intense with over 40 cars on the starting grid, as you dive deeper into the meet the feeling of excitement will wither away. After the initial “wreck or get wrecked” stage, the game can become rather monotonous. If you manage to become the race leader, the remaining laps will involve accelerating and turning left. The vehicles are easy to handle, even at high speeds, so you won’t have to worry about the upcoming bends in the track. Even if you’ve been in an accident and your wheels have been offset, you will still be able to make it through any turn at full acceleration while only bumping off the wall once or twice. The environment isn’t very interactive; for instance, in the event that somebody’s front bumper falls off, it will often disappear before you even have the chance to run over it. If there is a massive car pileup, the victims will be taken off the track quickly before more people have the chance to suffer. While it is nice not having to wait through the yellow flag, some type of variation in the gameplay is desperately needed. A crash is the only event that can keep you occupied, but once you get the feel for controlling a skidding car you will be able to recover quickly and still manage to finish with a high rank. Other than this, the races can become very boring as you race around very similar tracks for extended periods of time.

The managing feature of NASCAR SimRacing doesn’t go very in depth, and only has a few limited options for you to control. Once you have your car, research and development is the only way for a casual gamer to improve their car’s performance. The tuning options are for more advanced users, and if used properly can give you a significant boost. The marketing feature, which allows you to sell merchandise such as model cars, is unnecessary and can be ignored entirely without taking away from the game. Lastly, signing a sponsorship will earn your extra money for your races, and as expected performing better will offer higher paying sponsors. You can own several different cars at once, each with their own specific settings, but your career is fully manageable if you just own a single vehicle. The manager aspect could’ve made the user much more involved as well, but it can be enjoyed if you like to have power over everything.

Visually, NASCAR SimRacing could stand to use a handful of improvements. The car models are horrid to look at; they are very plain and look like boxes with a few curves. The overlaying textures would be better if they were of a higher resolution, but seeing actual NASCAR cars with their respective logos and decals is still pleasing to see. Besides a selected few active fans in the bleachers, the environment is very dull and plain. Even at speeds reaching 200 MPH, your surroundings are very clear and easy to see; there is almost no sense of speed at all. From the cockpit view, the steering wheel and the gauges will rattle slightly, mostly because of the engine, but the vibrations are constant no matter what speed you are traveling at. The cockpit view is nicely done though, it feels claustrophobic like a NASCAR vehicle would, yet it still has a very wide field of vision. The special effects, such as smoke and sparks, are very small and unrealistic. Smoke from skidding tires always appears the same, no matter how severe the incident was. Scraping up against the ground while rising or falling in elevation will create a few tiny sparks which are hardly even visible. Tire marks remain on the tracks for the entire race, and it’s a good thing too; every once in a while you will see a strong black line leading straight into a wall, and you can’t even help but laugh. The damage modeling is decent; different parts of the car will fall off depending on where the damage was inflicted. Besides these few momentous graphical features, the rest of the game is not pleasant to look at.

The audio performance can be very convincing at certain points, but sometimes it becomes weak and headache inducing. At the beginning of a race, you can hear the air rushing past the cars as the stragglers attempt to draft off of the leaders. As a whole, the roaring of the engines fills you with adrenaline, making you really want to be the head of the pack. The pit crew will offer you advice regarding how you should drive and will even tell you if cars are gaining on you. In the event that you are completely stopped, you will hear the ever popular high pitched scream of the cars as they fly by, which is a must for any NASCAR title. The crowd cheers very quietly, but just enough to make their voices audible. Again, once you get past the initial starting phase, the sound really shows off its weaknesses. A single engine sounds very dull and weak, and it will only sound good when in a large crowd. If you have a great enough distance over the rest of the racers, the slight rumble will be the only noise accompanying you, and it will tend to become rather annoying if you hear the same muffled rumbling noise over and over again. Overall, the Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound recordings are one of the best features in the game.

The online play appeals to both avid racing fans and the casual racing gamer. If you are really interested in NASCAR, you will take a fancy to the online ranking system. Similar to the standard point system in NASCAR, drivers will be ranked based upon their victories over others. A tournament feature has also been implemented so you can truly see who the greatest driver is. LAN racing has its moments, but racing is meant for more than two people; so what’s better than to allow 43 humans on the track at one time? Because the graphics are very weak, the online play will run a lot smoother than expected with so many people. Most importantly, you will need to remember that humans and AI are different, so be on the lookout for some wise guy to stop in the middle of the track to cause a major wreck. In short, the multiplayer aspect delivers several moments of intense racing thrills.

In conclusion, NASCAR SimRacing is another NASCAR game to add to the collection. Now that EA has exclusive rights to all NASCAR games for the next few years, expect most of the games to feel the same at heart. If the market was more competitive, we could expect to see games work out some of the flaws seen here, but unfortunately that is not the case. However, if you’re looking to satisfy your NASCAR craving, or you simply want to get away from the typical driving games, NASCAR SimRacing improves greatly upon previous NASCAR titles.