NASCAR ’14 Review (PS3)
You know how when you play a game that you thoroughly enjoy and then spend years trying to find the same experience again? Well, EA’s NASCAR 2000 on the PSone was such a game for me. Bought as part of a budget bundle and played because there wasn’t much else available where I stayed, it was a pleasant surprise. The game was a good introduction to the sport and got me hooked with the strategy / endurance elements of NASCAR. Fourteen years later I still haven’t found a stock car racing game that delivered that same enjoyment. Let’s see if NASCAR ‘14 can shatter my rose tinted spectacles then shall we?
NASCAR ‘14 is the latest edition of the NASCAR Sprint cup to be developed by Eutechnyx and Published by Deep Silver. The last version of this that I played was the digital version of NASCAR 2011 The Game which, while developed by Eutechnyx, had a different publisher. Right off the bat, NASCAR 14 feels very polished and geared more towards true simulation in comparison to the 2011 game. The game allows you to play through the 2014 racing season in a career mode that allows you full control of your team. From selecting your car, paintjob, team name right down to selecting sponsors and deciding on what R&D to do on the car, the whole experience feels rather authentic.
Graphically, NASCAR ’14 does not look too shabby at all. The difference from the 2011 version is noticeable and it’s obvious that Eutechnyx have been tweaking the graphics with each annual update. The tracks have been improved with better lighting effects and more details in the surroundings just off the track. This is of the quality we have come to expect from a circuit racing game. There are, however, still a few wee niggles to the graphics. The replays of the cars whenever a yellow flag is called can be a bit hit and miss depending on the camera angle. Should the replay be in front of the grandstand for example, there tends to be a black blurry line that runs across the screen covering the numbers on the doors of the cars. Thankfully this does not happen in game and whilst not excusable, it is an intermittent issue and also skippable.
The biggest update to the franchise this year is the enhanced AI. Whilst previous games were enjoyable, they were not always much of a challenge. Once you got in the front of a race, it was basically over. Normally my NASCAR racing would involve setting the difficulty to hard, getting pole position in qualifying and winning the race from the green flag. In NASCAR ’14 the difficulty can be set anywhere between 0 and 100%. Starting off 60% I could still achieve pole position but come race day I was done for. The drivers actively chase any opening you leave them and are realistically aggressive, never backing down because you are past them. This is essential if you wish to recreate the realism of NASCAR racing as it is a constant battle to keep your position for a lap never mind for the full race and the improved AI will not let you forget this. Once you have found your own difficulty sweet spot NASCAR ’14 becomes a realistic recreation of the strategic driving and pit stops that determine real life winners of NASCAR.
NASCAR ’14 is quite a meaty game in terms of content. The main career mode contains all the of thirty-eight races of the 2014 season. During a season you have full control of the team where you can choose sponsors, car set ups and research and development. For each race you can take part in the four events that make up the race weekend: two practice sessions, qualifying and the actual race. You can also determine the length of the event. You may, for example, choose to have five minute practice sessions and a 20% race length. These settings are just long enough to get the full NASCAR experience and will take approximately thirty to forty-five minutes per race. Even at these low settings NASCAR ’14 will give you over twenty hour’s gameplay for just one season. There is also a single race option for those just wanting a quick race. Multiplayer wise the game has split screen and online options for quick races. There is also an option to create your own online league. I was unable to test both of these as the servers were empty which would be down to the popularity of the sport in the UK. The league can be created from your friends lists you if there were a group of you with the game I would imagine it could be fun.
So, is NASCAR ’14 the elusive stock car game experience I have been looking for? The short answer is yes. The game recreates the whole atmosphere of NASCAR very well. The career mode is one of the most in-depth career experiences I have seen in a racing game for a long time and the tweaks the AI make your simulated career as tense and exciting as the real thing. There is definitely plenty in the game to keep you going and with a asking price less than thirty smackers NASCAR ’14 should be a game circuit racers should check out.
3.5 Boogity Boogity Boogities out of 5