NASCAR 2011 The Game Review
The experience of a freshly baked steak and burning rubber can be nothing short of breathtaking. And all that can now be experienced from the comfort your own home with NASCAR 2011 the game. But is this eutechnyx developed game worth playing?
The first thing players will notice is the menu. This is honestly one of the best menus ever made. The garage in the background and track access cards while loading put me right into the NASCAR experience. An experience gained from many modes including career, quick race and online play. Now normally I’d say that career mode is where the mileage is at but this time I just can’t.
Career mode let’s you play as yourself or one of the 43 famous NASCAR sprint series drivers. As you race you gain experience, which can be put in new sponsorships or unlocks additional content, usually an invitational event or a color scheme. The sponsorship is a nice touch. After a couple of decent finishes you’ll gain interest from famous sponsors. Put their logo on the car will unlock additional bonuses for predetermined criteria, like leading a race for 10 laps. And while the sponsorship is a great idea it only goes so far because career mode only supports one season, all hard earned respect goes lost after the 36st race, not great.
Luckily the cream of the crop is determined on track and in that respect NASCAR 2011 the game does very well. Racing with 43 other cars fighting for every inch of the racetrack is an experience unlike any.
During the race the game does a stellar job keeping you posted of the world around you. At the bottom of the screen the HUD gives a clear overview of the surrounding cars. And the tire and fuel indicators are essential for making it to the end of the race. Trust me I’ve had races where the tires would suddenly fall off a cliff, leading to the inevitable puncture.
This is both a good and a bad thing, because while it adds a nice strategic element to it, the execution lacks subtle cues. Tires tend to drop off quite harshly and any car damage is always brutal. I’ve experienced a race where the car would pull to the left leaving me counter steering through the entire thing – really exhausting!
Also tactical is the positioning of the front end. These cars drive quite heavily so the entry to a corner makes all the difference between ending in a giant swabble or reaching the finish line scot-free.
When you do make errors or decide go the long route, there’s always the possibility to pit. In the pits a small screen pops up giving options for refueling, or changing tires. The only downside to this is that it yanks the player straight out of the immersion and switches to a fly cam until the car returns to the track.
The same can be said about cautions. These flags, which indicate a safety car situation, add a big lottery to any race. In the game they don’t come out too often (luckily?) but they do get the job done, although it would’ve been nice to stay in-car throughout the whole thing.
Reasons they don’t come out too often probably have something to do with the AI. They tend to drive very cleanly and don’t get tangled in each other’s tracks too often. When they approach an obstacle (probably you) they do a solid job in trying to avoid it, despite failing when in larger packs. Don’t expect anything like the real thing though. The two-car bullet phenomenon, where one is the pusher, is definitely something you won’t see in the game. The same can be said about strategic slipstreaming in packs or slingshots. But for the largest part the AI is satisfying.
Ultimately these elements do compliment the tactical sport that is NASCAR, and overall they’ve been implemented very nicely and do deliver close racing as is notorious for the sport, well done Eutechnyx!
So how do these cars drive? To find out I connected a G27 to the PS3 version of the game, and grinded my teeth in. To be honest I was a little anxious at first. Seeing a big oval banking coming up and knowing that the wheel is connected to 3500lbs of aluminum doesn’t fair well with me. And after many laps of bravery and content, I can say that it definitely does what it says on the tin.
These V8 muscles are heavy and it feels that way. Changing direction is tough, punishing any rookie entry to the corner. Contrary to what you may think the smaller ovals are what really get to you.
Also important for any tight oval is skillful braking. The balance between high pedal pressure and soft is as big as light and day. Aggressive drivers will definitely find the car dancing under the pressure, leaving you pray to the upcoming attackers.
As I mentioned before damage adds to the excitement of racing. Any contact with the wall and you might find the car pulling to either side. Harder contact will hurt the transmission. The damage is both visually and mechanically pleasing, despite never willing to break the car completely. Even the hardest of impacts will not result in an automatic forfeit of the race, the only dent in the system.
To prevent damages you might want to tweak the car setup a little. Players can choose between a standard setup (auto tuned for the particular race) or become engineers themselves. Aspiring engineers can start out easy using a few sliders to change the downforce, tires and gearbox among other things. I think that most will really appreciate this simplified method of making setups. Go all out though and the game throws any possible tweak into the mix. I can’t confirm this but I can imagine it being on par with real world NASCAR! And the best part is that all these efforts do pay off during the race, both in car-wear and stability.
I can’t deny that I’m a fan of eutechnyx when it comes to gameplay and again they don’t disappoint. With every aids off it’s maybe a bit shy of being a complete sim, but it’s challenging and the setup work is perfect. Likewise easy mode does a great job in offering a pick up and play experience to anyone new to the sport.
With the handling aced most will probably picture fantastic online battles, fighting till dusk and pushing the tires to their absolute limit, well don’t. Online racing often falls short of the picture we have in our heads, because close racing can only be done with mutual respect. Unfortunately, and I can’t blame the devs for this, the oval circuit lends itself perfectly for bump races and ghost riders. I can say that out of all the races I’ve been on, I finished not a single one with a feeling of satisfaction and content.
On the bright side I haven’t experienced much failures in the online system myself, although I’ve heard complaints from other users. So when you do know a couple of fair buds that are up for a race, go for it! But for most racers, unfortunately, lack of skill/intention worldwide will mark this mode useless.
NASCAR the game 2011 is out for the Wii (May 24th), PS3 and the xbox360. The last two versions are identical to each other and is the version that we used for this review.
The current gen is running on its final legs and it shows. The graphics while pushing 43 cars fall short of the best we’ve seen in the genre. The trackside objects look very flat and do a poor job in conveying the belief that you’re part of a bigger world. On the flip side the cars look great and it can be really entertaining at times to read a cars backend infomercial.
Also surprisingly good are the pre-race shows. These include hawks flying into the air and fireworks as the cars pass the pit straight, things you’d expect in real NASCAR racing. But again unfortunately the in-car experience doesn’t live up to the immersion.
This isn’t particularly helped by the sound. No matter the view you’re in the engine always sounds the same. It lacks a rough edge and is too clean overall. Less clean is the sound of the spotter. This director up in the sky helps the driver pick the best lines and keeps him up to date of the swabbles ahead. In the game however he feels the need to repeat, confuse and annoy, within spectacular short timeframes. He especially feels the need to repeat “all clear” when driving on an island for numerous laps. I do feel that further tweaking and a few extra lines would greatly help the spotter implementation.
NASCAR 2011 the game is the first in the series and is shows. On top of that the graphics suffer from having to run 43 cars at all times. Still the racing itself is great and does offer a lot of joy, even when you’re not familiar with the sport. The proper implementation of damage, tire wear and fuel compliments this feature.
The biggest problem, in my eyes, is the fact that you may find it unrewarding to race. Online is a hit or miss and the career mode isn’t up to speed just yet. And because of that your mileage may vary to the largest extend, making this title a recommend only to the biggest of NASCAR fans or the purest of racers.
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