Review – NASCAR ’14

By: Louis Edwards

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NASCAR '14 - PRIMARY

The NASCAR 2014 season is set for launch with the 56th running of the Daytona 500 next weekend and Deep Silver is launching the latest NASCAR video game ahead of that to get you in a racing mood. We have taken NASCAR ’14 for a spin around the track, kicked the tires more than once, and went head to head with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and many other great drivers.

Did NASCAR ’14 earn a checkered flag, or should it go back to the pits? Read our review to find out.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has a long and storied history that goes back to the days of moonshiners running from the law through the hills and valleys of the Appalachians. In souped up stock cars they would leave revenuers in their tire smoke while delivering their fresh brewed fire water to thirsty folks all across that neck of the woods. Prohibition kept their customers thirsty and their quest for speed and power made their cars faster and faster. Once prohibition was appealed, while their customer base didn’t completely dry up, the revenuers started leaving them be (somewhat) and their quest for the adrenaline rush that only came from racing their cars still needed to be filled. Enter stock car racing. NASCAR ’14 is far removed from those early days of show room floor cars on a race track, but the spirit of the racing pioneers is still alive and well in places like Daytona Beach, Bristol, and Charlotte.

RaceShop

Developer Eutechnyx isn’t new to the NASCAR franchise as this is their fourth installation in the series, and their experience within this genre of video game racing is apparent. Racing games generally fall into one of two camps: Arcade and Sim. Very rarely do you find a game that can take one style, and with the tweaking of assists and difficulty, turn it into the other. NASCAR is, in real life, a very unforgiving sport where bumping a wall and spinning out can ruin one’s weekend in a blink of an eye. With NASCAR ’14 you can turn off damage so your car is always nice and shiny, or you can turn on just visible damage but not have that damage affect the car’s abilities on the track, or you can turn it on completely and risk being sent to the pits permanently for that weekend. That choice is up to you. Other settings that can be used to make the game either arcade or sim include Steering Assist, Traction Control, Braking assist, High and Low line indicators, and you can even have the car brake for you altogether.

The first thing we did when we got our review copy of the game is jump into a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We strongly recommend not skipping practice or qualifying as starting at the back of a 43 car line-up, with no clue as to how the car handle, is no picnic. To just gun it and go will have you spinning out due to no downforce and those not-warm-enough tires. We found that once the car gets up to speed, it handles nicely, but that rolling start requires a little practice and finesse (and a steady climbing throttle) in order to not lose traction. This being NASCAR, the cars are generally evenly balanced to give a fighting chance to everyone, but you can adjust the Opponent Difficulty from 0% (easy) to 100% (Hard). Want to blow the doors off everyone and maybe even lap a few racers? Set it to 0% and you’ll do just that. Want the ultimate test of skill? Set it to 100% and learn how to draft, slingshot, and master your timing to pass at the proper times. As your experience with the game grows, you may want to adjust that difficulty percentage to fit your skill level, and having that feature is a definite plus.

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One of the first things we noticed is that the AI drivers are generally predictable when it comes to their race lines, and this is pretty spot on when comparing these drivers to their real life counter-parts. This isn’t exactly surprising, since some of these guys have ran these same tracks for thousands of laps and they do know the best ways to run them. With all driving assists turned off, and no visible racing line to use, following the leader is a very valuable tool in your arsenal. The game does a great job of mimicking real life in this way, and that’s a good thing.

Crashing in NASCAR is a common occurrence and it isn’t a matter of ‘if’ there’s going to be a crash, but ‘when’. Here’s another area where you can set the game to follow real world situations, or lean more to the Arcade style of play. Let’s say you have a five second lead at the Texas Motor Speedway with ten laps to go. Ryan Reed takes his #16 Roush Fenway Ford into a wall and spins out back in 15th place. If you have Caution Flags turned on, that five second lead is gone and you’ll have to start neck and neck with the pack once the mess is cleaned up. Black Flags can be toggled as well so if you’re a violent driver, or driving too fast through the pits, you’ll be penalized accordingly.

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Fuel gauges and tire wear are a common part of the NASCAR formula for success and with those settings turned on, you’ll have to pay close attention here as well. If you just want to go fast, and not worry about overheating the engine, wearing out your rubber, or having to hit the pits, then just set the game so you don’t have to. One less thing to worry about. How you play, and how close to real life you play, is totally up to you.

Once you feel comfortable with the game, head over to Career mode and get ready to run a rookie NASCAR team in the Sprint Cup Chase. Beware, though, your car is not going to be as powerful as the cars you were running in a quick race, since you’ll have to build that bad boy up from a second hand machine, into a pole sitting powerhouse. Do well at Daytona, and some sponsors should come calling so you’ll be able to start banking some credits to spend on Research and Development.  Second hand engines might be a cheaper alternative for those low on funds, but you get what you pay for. Once you’ve earned enough credits to start R&D, make sure you start with some Engine Shop Upgrades as that just might be the answer to no longer breathing in someone else’s exhaust. You can also do some R&D with Body Shop Upgrades, but that engine should be your top priority.

Get that baby upgraded

Get that baby upgraded

The career mode doesn’t currently use the recently announced new race format, but a patch is in the works that will update the rosters and patch the new stuff in. Career mode does follow the current NASCAR schedule, and can give you a full weekend of racing if you choose to run all of the practice sessions, qualifying session and the actual race. Daytona runs across two weekends just like you would expect, and is the perfect way to start a season, either in-game or in real life.

Prior to each race, these practice sessions give you the opportunity to make adjustments to your car that can change how it drives and handles dramatically. Custom setups can be saved as track specific by denoting that in the name, and once you find that perfect setup for say a short track like Bristol, you can try it out at other short tracks, or just work on a new one. With tuning adjustments for things like your drivetrain, aero, brakes, steering and tires, you can make each setup work the best for each specific track. Practice makes perfect, and the proper car setup can be the difference between a DNF and the checkered flag.

When you are ready to take a break from racing AI opponents, and want some racing with real people, head online. You can create your own race or jump into someone else’s, and the game will do its best to match you up with someone whose skill level best matches yours. Losing might not be fun but losing by a lap is just embarrassing. Better to be matched up with someone who you can at least compete with and not someone who will leave you in their exhaust and you’ll only see again in passing. One cool new feature is the lead driver, when coming out of a caution or starting a race, get’s to decide the exact moment the race begins. Once inside the restart zone, that driver will hit his throttle and get an instant jump on all competitors. Being in first has its advantages, as well it should. Online racing was pretty fluid for us, with no glaring flaws or glitches that we encountered. We raced in a couple of different rooms with at least a dozen other racers several times, and it ran quite smoothly for us.

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If you have a group of folks that want to get together and race, you can start an Online League for up to fifteen players. This is a great way to test your skills against a bunch of friends in not just one race, but in an entire custom season. The game will track your driver points for you, keep track of the league standings, and keep your race schedule for you. Custom scheduling gives you the ability to set when the races take place in real life so you can collaborate on race days and times that work for everyone in your league.

For those of you wanting to create your own masterpiece of a car, head on over to the paint booth and get to work. Whether you choose a Ford, Chevy or Toyota, you can customize the colors, decals, text, shapes and logos from a pretty decent selection to make the car your own. Custom text will allow you to say whatever you want to folks as you pass them by and show them your tailpipes.

Seeya2

Seeya

New for NASCAR ’14 is NASCAR Highlights. Eutechnyx recreates the action where the exact condition of the cars, the weather is the same and track positions are identical, from points in the actual NASCAR season. Was your favorite driver sitting in 3rd with 3 laps left at Bristol but came up short? That key moment just might be replayable by you. Can you do what your driver couldn’t?

The graphics for the game are exactly what you would expect from a developer that has worked on these games before. While maybe not on par with games like Gran Turismo or Forsa Motorsports, they still don’t disappoint. The cars look great, and the lighting, shadows, and reflections on the cars look spot on. In-game photos can be saved to your hard drive, but these don’t always fully represent the in-game graphics. The many tracks of the NASCAR circuit are fully detailed and make us wish we could spend a season traveling from city to city following the spectacle that is NASCAR.

The sounds of the game are clear, crisp, and with the surround sound and bass turned up, can make the house rumble along with those machines on the track. You crew chief will let you know through your headset where cars are around you, but an even better indicator is can be found in your speakers. The soundtrack of the game is OK, with a few questionable choices, but the great part about that is you can use a custom playlist on your PS3 and not have to listen to some guy screaming in what some might call music.

NASCAR fans will be happy to know that NASCAR ’14 is a great game and a welcome addition to the NASCAR family of games. Developer Eutechnyx took it upon themselves to create a more fluid and true to life experience, with smarter AI and an improved online experience. Well done Eutechnyx.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

8.5

  • Realkman666

    Sounds like a great patch!

  • ftwrthtxTG

    With the changes to the AI, the upcoming race changes, the paint shop addition, and the improvements to online with league support, it’s a bit more than a patch this time.

  • Realkman666

    If it had been more than 7 months since the last version, maybe I would agree with you.

  • Louis Edwards

    I reviewed NASCAR The Inside Line for PSLS and was totally unimpressed. It was a bit of a mess with AI that probably had an IQ of less than 60, the handling of the cars was just terrible, and winning a race required more luck than anything else.

    This is a whole new game.

  • Jack Jamison

    How long is the career mode?

  • Louis Edwards

    It’s the full NASCAR season (36 races) plus you can continue on endlessly.

  • ftwrthtxTG

    However long you want it to be. You start out as a rookie driver and can race through many seasons.

  • Jack Jamison

    Awesome! Sounds like it’s got a ton of replay value especially with the difficulty tweaks. Great review btw.

  • ftwrthtxTG

    Thanks.

  • dalejr88

    is the new chase format and qualifying format in the game?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    Not yet but will soon be, along with the current roster of drivers.

  • dalejr88

    will that be DLC?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    The developer said it will come as a downloadable game patch, free of charge.

  • dalejr88

    im not “game savy”, so I apologize but what does that mean by patch?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    No need to apologize. A patch is just a downloadable file that alters the game automatically.

    What will happen is when you launch the game on your console or PC it will notify you that there’s a new patch available. You’ll then have the option to download and install the new patch.

    There is already a Day 1 patch that tweaks a few things, but the new race format will come in a different patch.

  • dalejr88

    is this something that I will need internet for? or is this something i can get from gamestop when available?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    You’ll need an internet connection for it.

  • dalejr88

    alright thanks! how long would you think that the patch will take to come out?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    No set timeline yet, but probably within a couple of weeks.

  • dalejr88

    alright thanks! is the game worth getting? i dont have internet ,so should i just wait till next year?

  • ftwrthtxTG

    If you enjoy NASCAR, you’ll enjoy the game, even without the updated race format.

  • dalejr88

    alright thanks!

  • dcaseng .

    LOL. This game STILL has no statistics, or any level of decent presentation. The entire crew is made up of 6 or 7 CLONES of the SAME guy! This series is a JOKE.
    A sports game that has NO statistics? lol

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