Game: NASCAR Heat 2
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows
Rating: E for Everyone
We often review games that focus on horror elements such as zombies, along with gung-ho action revolving around a lone hero who must singlehandedly save the world. However, there is much more to video games than the fantastical. Each year a variety of titles based on real life sports hits the market, allowing gamers to live out their dream of stepping into the sneakers of their favorite basketball player, or clutch the same wheel held by the best NASCAR driver. With the recent release of NASCAR Heat 2, you can do just that.
A Day in the life
Upon installing NASCAR Heat 2 you will notice a variety of game types to select from, the most available in the series to date, including split-screen, challenges, championship, online multiplayer, and career modes. Each of these games offers varying amounts of entertainment value. For the most genuine NASCAR experience possible, players should head over to the options menu before jumping in the actual game and switch the settings to allow vehicles to take realistic damage.
Whereas most games (even sports titles) implement a story mode to keep things interesting, NASCAR Heat 2 does not include a narrative, instead it features the aforementioned career mode. This game type provides you with a calendar from which to live the day-by-day life of a racecar driver, complete with constant job offers that sadly cannot be declined, if you were so inclined. These offers require you to meet certain objectives, such as placing in the top 22 positions, and other similar tasks drivers may be anticipated to achieve in their profession. Despite giving players the freedom to create and customize their very own racer and cars (complete with the ability to alter facial features, hairstyles, etc.), said freedom soon hits a metaphorical stone wall. Earning money via your now vocation is a satisfying feeling, that is until you realize it is merely a gauge of your success and provides no real meaning. It would have been nice to use earned cash on new cars or upgrades, unfortunately no such luck. Turns out this high-speed way of life can be one heck of a grind. Week after week of relentless races with nothing to divide the monotony—plus little in terms of professional advancement and personal satisfaction—can yield a rather disenchanting career path.
Off to the races
As fans will undoubtedly be aware, NASCAR is a dangerous, high speed sport—developer Monster Games invokes this peril with pleasing authenticity. Cars expunge sparks when they collide and plumes of white smoke after they spin off the track and into the dirt. If damage is turned on, we can see the results of these collisions through dented hoods and cracked and crashed bodywork. And with up to 40 racers on one course, the action can become chaotic, fast. This is best exhibited during online matches thanks to the dozens of real players careening around the circuit, bashing and shoving all those who get in their way.
The controls are rather simple, too. If you have ever played a racing game, you should feel right at home. Right trigger is to accelerate and left is to brake. The gameplay is pure, simple, and most of all, fun.
The visuals are this title’s biggest drawback; a mixed bag if you will. While the view from inside the car provides a relatively realistic experience, it’s a different story the moment you change the camera to the rear of the vehicle. NASCARS appear rather blocky and the track itself isn’t as detailed as other racing games out there. Driving at night by the gleam of the floodlights aids the graphical style somewhat, yet this does not change the fact that there are still prettier racers out there.
NASCAR Heat 2 chugs along in the single player and graphical departments before speeding up nicely in split-screen and multiplayer modes, especially during a time when playing together in the same room is becoming increasingly rare. Die-hard fans of the sport will find a lot to like here, while causal players may wish to look for their racing fix elsewhere.