(click the image to view gameplay videos, screenshots, etc)
NASCAR ’14 is Eutechnyx’s fourth installment of their NASCAR (formerly NASCAR The Game) series. Three of the four games were released on consoles, NASCAR The Game 2013 was PC only. It is set to be officially released on February 18th, 2014.
Before you head into your local electronics store to pick this game up, give this review a read and check out some of the gameplay we’ve posted to make a decision on whether or not NASCAR 2014 is right for you!
Everything aside from online play was based off of Xbox 360 gameplay.
Graphics: Eutechnyx has always done a pretty good job on delivering a realistic looking experience, everything from the track to the cockpit looks very realistic. The windshields in game collect debris as the race goes on, until you can get a tear-off from pit road and the walls of the tires get scuffed up after you’ve hit something or wore them down. The damage has not changed all that much and can be very unpredictable, sometimes it seems realistic, sometimes it is not. The cars are no longer pieces of paper that shred, but now they almost take too little damage when hitting other drivers and objects. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about aside from the shadows, which can get blocky quite often. The game’s environments look great and the lighting effects have added a nice touch!
Score: 8/10Sounds: The cars sound pretty good, especially when you’re riding on-board the roof cam or cockpit cams. Special attention to detail was done for sure, the closer you get to the wall, the louder the echo from the engine gets. You can also hear the poles for the catch fence once you get up close. Collision sounds are good the first time you hear them, but after that they get annoying and are simply unrealistic. It sounds like you’re smashing a pop can with your car tire again and again. The garage background noises are on a constant loop, which is expected, but you hear the same noises every 30 seconds, so make sure you get out of the garage as fast as you can. The music (lack thereof) is also saddening, the music that is there doesn’t fit the game.
Physics: The cars drive pretty much like they did in Inside Line. The high-line is much more effective on the default setups and it will make racing a lot better assuming the guy you race is on the same setup. The cars don’t fall off nearly as much as they did before, which is not necessarily realistic, but it makes the race car much easier to drive after 20 laps in a run. The setups still don’t work properly, you can do things that would never work to make the car much faster, including tire pressures as low as 15 on the right and left side. The crash physics also struggle, you get launched off of other cars and off of the wall like a bouncy ball at times and it makes racing very frustrating as it can be unpredictable.
AI: The AI have gotten faster, but not smarter. When bunched up, the AI drivers are pretty unpredictable. If one car slips up, the whole line of them slams on their brakes and if you’re caught behind them you better be able to react quickly enough. If you’re able to get around them you will find yourself moving up the field like no other. They have no awareness at times, and will come down on you or even slam you into the wall, yet at other times they overreact to where you are on track and nearly wreck themselves. They are still on rails and still tend to play follow the leader from 15th on back. Another big issue is how they react to being bump drafted, 4 out of 5 times they will get loose and nearly wreck, so that’s a huge issue. The front of the pack can be really competitive. This year the AI actually will make passes and block, they race you a lot harder, which makes offline fun at times. It’s a step in the right direction and if Eutechnyx could fix how they bunch up, the AI would be near perfect.
Career Mode: I loved the NASCAR Thunder Series, as did many others, because of the immersive career mode that it had. NASCAR ’14 had expanded the career mode from previous installations and it’s actually a nice balance compared to what we’ve seen since Thunder ’04. Don’t get me wrong, it needs some additional things to be ‘deeply immersive’. You earn money throughout the season by getting sponsors and finishing up front, and that’s your available budget for the next event. From there, you can select what type of engine/chassis (and more) you’re going to run, and each will cost you a different amount. If you are low on funds, you’ll be stuck running crappy equipment. I found myself enjoying the career mode, you can customize your car and place sponsors where YOU want which was very important to me. The R&D feature is pretty cool and allows you to increase the performance of your equipment. Much better than previous career modes.
Online [Read at own risk, pre-patch and on PC]: We had a total of six people in a lobby, all were using custom cars, and the race ran pretty smooth at Daytona. There’s still an evident bubble off of the back of the cars, but it’s gotten improved enough to where you can lay into someone if needed. Caution periods don’t always work, sometimes people get stuck on pit road causing the pace car to go around and around. But we only had that happen twice out of about 20 races, so there’s a lot of variables around it. The online league feature is a nice addition, it needs a lot added to it, but for someone getting together with their friends to compete for the Sprint Cup Title it will do the job, you cannot customize the points, but that’s a very minimal thing in our books. It’s a good place to start, but again it needs a lot added to it.
Paint Booth: The paint booth is still the same essentially as what we saw in Inside Line. It’s more stable, and that’s a massive plus. But there’s not many new sponsors to use, and the graphics have been recycled once again making the variety of shapes and what not pretty low. For those talented enough to master the paint booth, they’ll be happy. The average user won’t be impressed, but it’s still not bad. Eutechnyx improved the user interface, making things quicker and easier to find. Aside from that, nothing has changed here.
Overall: The game has taken steps in the right direction, it’s far from perfect. But it’s actually an enjoyable game now. Career mode can be a lot of fun, and if you get a good group of people together to race online, online can be a lot of fun as well. If the issues get worked out, NASCAR ’14 would end up in the top 5 of NASCAR games in our books. But until then, the issues it still deals with will hold it back from its full potential. We’ll see how Eutechnyx handles the current issues, but for now here’s our overall score:
Lower End Overall Score: 6.5/10
Higher End Overall Score: 8/10 *
*Without the issues