• Guest, RaceDepartment is now on Discord!  Join Here

NASCAR Heat 5| Another Massive Own Goal | Game Review

NASCAR Heat 5 from 704Games recently released on both console and PC, and despite holding the official licence for the 2020 NASCAR Series, it really is a massive case of what could have been...
  • Official 2020 NASCAR Racing Game.
  • NASCAR, Xfinity Series, Trucks and Dirt included.
  • Career mode and customisation.
Let me get straight to the point on this one. NASCAR isn't everyone's cup of tea, but for those who do enjoy stockcar racing predominantly on ovals, the series is an incredibly exciting one to both watch and participate in.

As a European who isn't willing to splash out on the relevant pay-per-view channels, I'm pretty limited in my access to watching the championship live, but that doesn't stop me from considering myself a fan of NASCAR racing, albeit from a distance.

Nascar Heat 5 4.jpg


As such, I would think that a game based on the series and the varied support championships that sit underneath it would be an absolutely perfect fit for me, especially as Heat 5 doesn't attempt to be an altogether hardcore simulation, but looks to straddle that bridge between realistic and accessible much like the Formula One series of games.

Sadly, despite the enviable licence and no less than four previous attempts to get it right, NASCAR Heat 5 falls down in pretty much every department - some of which are spectacular failures...

The RaceDepartment NASCAR Heat 5 Review:

  • The good.
  • The bad.
  • The ugly.
Ok, let us start with the more positive aspects from the title, namely the way AI races against you on the various ovals within the game.

AI behaviour
On ovals, I've found the AI to be exceptionally well behaved and quite intelligent in racing situations, producing believable overtakes and working strongly in pack drafting situations either with the player car, or together in groupings out on the circuit. This is certainly the best behaved oval AI I've had experience with, and without doubt one of the strongest positives for the title.

Draft partners
Another really enjoyable and well put together AI feature is draft partners, which can be toggled on or off in the options (assuming you can work out which button that relates to on your keyboard). Here, certain drivers within the AI will decide to become a draft partner with you, and either give you a tow, or perform a bump draft (when the AI push your car from behind), which has proven to be exceptionally useful on a number of occasions when racing in a tight field, or finding myself out of the draft group on track placement.

Audio
By no means is the audio great in NASCAR Heat 5, but it is an improvement over the dreadful implementation in the last of the franchise I played - NH4. A steady improvement, and something that doesn't take away from the immersion, whilst not really adding any significant benefit to the game play experience.

Nascar Heat 5 3.jpg


So, those are the key positives, now on to a select few of the rather large downsides to this game.

Lack of mouse support
This in itself is a disappointing result, however what really makes it almost laughable is the fact this game is very clearly a console port, with absolutely no effort put into the menu system to accommodate PC users. As I say in my review video, the game makes reference to console controller buttons that don't exist on PC, leaving you completely in the dark as to how to access important game menus within the UI system and out on track.

Wheel and peripheral support.
It supports wheels and pedals (and gearsticks) - this is good. But the support isn't very robust, and despite prominent Fanatec branding within the loading screens, I completely failed to get my Clubsport V1.5 shifter to recognise downshifts in sequential mode, or 1st and 2nd gear in h pattern mode.

From a wheel point of view, I have to re calibrate and allocate my steering every time I either load up the game or access the options menu, made doubly frustrating by the fact the menu only recognises my inputs one in every three attempts.

Force Feedback
Serviceable on ovals, the FFB in NASCAR Heat 5 is arguably the least impressive force feedback I've experienced in a modern racing title. When racing on an oval the wheel weight is good after you've adjusted it in your controller profile, and you can feel the bumps on track, but when you get to road course I've found the experience to be nothing short of horrendous.

The feedback tells you absolutely nothing about the car, and the sensitivity you have to use just to get round the circuit is way outside of any parameter I would call realistic. Frankly, you want to avoid any and all driving that doesn't involve an oval, and save yourself the pain.

Nascar Heat 5 1.jpg


So in summary, NASCAR Heat 5 could have been great. I so desperately wanted it to be great, or even just decent would have done, considering the lack of available alternatives in the marketplace today. Sadly 704Games fail miserably to make a title that is either hardcore simulation, or enjoyable pickup and play - it has the basic core of something great (oval AI), but falls down in incredible ways in places it really shouldn't do - which is exceptionally disappointing.

This may well be a good title for controller players (I suspect much of the wheel support is related to remapped control functions), and it is probably solid on console, but for a PC game, with a wheel and pedals, it really must be a robust skip for anyone other than the absolute most die hard of NASCAR fans.

As a fifth inclusion in the franchise, this really is not good enough.

NASCAR Heat 5 is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Want help from the community getting the most out of the game? Head over to the Other Racing Games sub forum and get yourself in on the discussion today!

Nascar Heat 5 2.jpg
 
RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief, occasional YouTuber, commentator and broadcaster, with a passion for motorsport on both the real and virtual racetrack.

dwightyone

100RPM
Jun 28, 2017
134
122
46
Sorry being more serious - yep the FFB was diabolical on the previous versions but being a nascar official sim', like you I want it to be good (just a little bit) but sadly that doesn't seem to be case yet again it seems.
 

Michel Forest

100RPM
Jul 26, 2017
152
141
54
I'm not surprised, to say the least. This is obviously a game aimed at the console market. The biggest sign this is not a sim is that NASCAR itself chose to run its virtual championship last winter on iRacing instead of its officially sanctioned game.
 

ATSSHD

250RPM
Apr 18, 2017
333
384
How is this years game over 60 fps?

I tried last years game on a 144hz screen while uncapping the framerate but it had terrible frame skipping and random framedrops. Even with gsync.
When i locked it to 60 frames/sec, there was no more problem. Just the game feels less fast/fluid.
 

Paul Jeffrey

RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief
Staff member
Premium
Jun 5, 2009
11,334
31,749
How is this years game over 60 fps?
Actually I noticed no issues on this (144hz screen with high FPS) so I think its ok. Don't recall the actual FPS I achieved, but it was pretty high iirc on top settings (running RTX2080ti / I9)
 

aowzone

100RPM
Mar 30, 2010
133
49
Game literally crashes immediately upon launching. Support said the patch would fix it. Nope. Developers are stumped, and the game produces absolutely ZERO crash logging.
 

Durge Driven

2000RPM
Jun 17, 2017
2,086
1,087
62
I have to re calibrate and allocate my steering every time I either load up the game or access the options menu ............
Can't you setup then make the corresponding file "read only" before yu shut it down

Edit: If need be set a windowed mode to use file explorer and notepad

I do this with rF2 which resets to Microsoft :O_o: video every time I close it
Read only it boots with RTX2080 as it should

Also do this for other titles have issues saving controller
 
Last edited:

hooked

1RPM
Dec 18, 2017
4
2
63
Thanks for the review. This is yet another case of software companies trusting people to buy while they don't put an effort into making an even passable product.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Adyl

Andrew Whelan

50RPM
Premium
Nov 14, 2017
51
18
20
They should add the Canadian Series into the game. or any came for that matter
 
Last edited:

ATSSHD

250RPM
Apr 18, 2017
333
384
Actually I noticed no issues on this (144hz screen with high FPS) so I think its ok. Don't recall the actual FPS I achieved, but it was pretty high iirc on top settings (running RTX2080ti / I9)
That's nice to hear! Thank you. I will give the game a try then.
 

MoerasGrizzly

1000RPM
Premium
Dec 29, 2014
1,382
720
As a European who isn't willing to splash out on the relevant pay-per-view channels, I'm pretty limited in my access to watching the championship live, but that doesn't stop me from considering myself a fan of NASCAR racing, albeit from a distance.
Tbh the official Nascar Youtube uploading the full race replays a week or two after the event is great. I wish F1 did that.
 

ATSSHD

250RPM
Apr 18, 2017
333
384
Tbh the official Nascar Youtube uploading the full race replays a week or two after the event is great. I wish F1 did that.
Too much money in F1 to do that. Even when they streamed past events and races in YouTube after like a month they always delete/make it private.

F1TV is there for a reason.
 

jacobc62

10RPM
May 16, 2018
12
8
24
Thankfully F1 don't have tv ads every 5th lap.:confused:
Hey, woah.... It's every 8th lap! :p Honestly, y'all over across the pond have it good with a lack of commercial breaks interrupting the races. We have it so bad here that NASCAR literally introduced 2 guaranteed cautions just so the broadcast partners (Fox Sports and NBC) could make more money shoving more ads down the throats of those watching on TV.

I wish that NASCAR would allow another company to have the licensing to make an official game ala Papyrus/EA Sports back in the day. The games made by the two companies were the best NASCAR titles, and to this day still are.

NR2003, Papyrus' last hurrah before the EA exclusivity, is to this day arguably the best NASCAR game in NASCAR gaming history. Whether you want to argue that it's due to its (still somewhat active) modding community, the physics engine, or the AI behaviors is irrelevant.

Thunder 2004 and Chase for the Cup 2005, the 2003/2004-model-year-respectively titles from EA Sports are also argued as the best games. Many cite the in depth career modes, the driver transfers (at least in the Thunder titles), soundtracks, and accessibility to gameplay as their reasons.


I want 704 Games to succeed, I want to see them create a good NASCAR game, but of the 5 titles they've put out now, their best (which would be Heat 5 imo) is only merely "serviceable". Sure, playing the game can produce fun moments, but at the end of the day it leaves much desired. I'm honestly surprised NASCAR had extended the length of time 704 is able to hold onto the license due to the repeated outcry from fans.