- Format: PS3 (version reviewed), PC, 360
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Eutechnyx
- Players: 1 + Online Multiplayer
- Site: nascar14.etxracing.com/
When you first boot up NASCAR ‘14 you get hit by a quiz about past achievements in the stock car racing sport. Anyone with a keen interest will be right at home here, but what about everybody else?
After failing in miserable UK fashion at the quiz, the game took us to the main menu that has the obligatory ‘heavy rock’ soundtrack that racing games are known for. This is obviously to get the adrenaline rushing before you enter a big race, but it’s more likely to cause tinnitus! The game gives you a few different options, with a main Career mode, Single Player, Multiplayer and Highlights, which lets you rewrite and relive iconic moments of NASCAR’s 2013 season, all present.
The Single Player part of the game lets you test your driving skills before you take on the main Career mode. You can take your car out on any of the game’s tracks, and it lets you tinker with your car, and test it before you enter a major race. The Career mode is the main part of the game and puts you in the overalls of a rookie driver, who has to work his way up the rankings, picking up money and better paying sponsors for higher finishing places in races. To help you in your career, you have a Research and Development section, which lets you recruit specialists to help develop your car into an unstoppable beast of the track.
When you start a race you have a practice round to go through first, followed by Qualifying and another practice, sometimes two, before you get to the Race Day. Thankfully you can skip practices and get straight into the race, as basically most of the courses are big oval tracks, which means you don’t need to memorise any tricky chicanes. There are 38 races in a season, and you can tailor it to your own requirements including the number of laps, practice time, difficulty, tyre wear, fuel use, damage and flag rules. There is also a Paint Booth option that lets you design colour schemes for your car with options for choosing a metallic, matt or gloss finish paint job, as well as car stickers.
As you progress through your career you will attract the attention of sponsors, and this means you have to plaster their logos on your pride and joy. However you can size these stickers and position them how you want, a bit like LittleBigPlanet, which means you can really go to town with your designs. All the official teams, drivers and tracks from the current NASCAR season are present, with the high banks of Daytona and the exhilarating speed of Talladega some of the favourites on offer.
When it comes to the race, there is an impressive number of racers on screen, and the game does move at a fair old lick. As you bump and grind your way through the pack, the aggressive AI opponents can destroy your race. If you find yourself near the front, but get in the chasing pack’s way, a tiny nudge on your bumper can cause you to spin out, and end up in a 40 car pile-up, which inevitably ends with you limping home in last place. It’s almost like the AI isn’t aware of what’s happening on the track, and is just following a set route, a bit like an aggressive version of Gran Turismo’s AI drivers. You do have a proximity sensor and radio chatter from your team to avoid these collisions, but you do still find yourself getting bumped off the track if you dare take an opponent’s driving line. Your car does initially handle like a tank, and braking takes a while to slow you down, which means you crash into the walls a fair amount of the time. There are also no spectacular crashes, with cars just spinning out, and getting whacked like bumper cars.
The online multiplayer lets you set up 16-player online leagues, and gives you the option to create custom races, and keep the standings for the season. Apparently the game uses dynamic skill-based matchmaking, so you end up in a server with gamers of a similar skill level, and it’s quite easy to drop in or out of a session with the server browser. We did struggle to find a game when we were testing the online part however, so we can’t really comment on how it plays.
NASCAR ‘14 is an okay racing game but, with most of the tracks being essentially the same, boredom does set in only a few races into the season. If the game had more spectacular crashes to liven things up then it might have alleviated the problem; but spinning out of control and ending up at the back of the pack does get very frustrating. Fans of the sport will likely still find enough done well to enjoy NASCAR ‘14, but regular gamers may well struggle to see the appeal.