Sometimes I just don’t get NASCAR games. Granted, they weren’t made for me, but for fans that can’t get enough of the white-knuckle racing action that recreates the experience of the actual races. But I can’t help but think having that hook makes a difference. I’d still rather be making my way through NASCAR Rumble than I would another sim.
That said, I decided to give NASCAR Heat Evolution the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I was being too rough on these sort of games and just needed to settle in on what made them work. Maybe this time the new team at Dusenberry Martin Racing would prove me wrong and create a second-to-none racing experience that would put previous duds in the series to rest.
Uh-huh. And maybe I should just go back to Forza Horizon 3.
The problem with NASCAR Heat Evolution isn’t really its set-up. There’s a decent amount of content here, including challenges that are meant to bring out the best of your driving skills, as well as little touches – like bumping cars in an effort to take the lead, no matter how unsportsmanlike it may be – that do increase the potential of the gameplay a bit.
But the game as a whole just doesn’t really revolutionize like Dunsenberry was hoping it would. It just feels like the same old NASCAR game. In fact, it seems to be missing some modes that previous games celebrated, and as a result, it feels even more like a mere collection of left turns and more left turns, with very little to diversify it. Even those aforementioned challenges don’t seem to do much good here.
Let’s talk about the presentation first, which is painfully average. The cars look alright – there are even a few models with creative labeling, like “BRAD” – but the tracks don’t really offer much in creativity. What’s more, the game has slight frame rate and pop-up issues when a lot of cars pile up on the screen – which makes no sense considering other games look absolutely beautiful running on an Xbox One or PS4. The HUD set-up is also terrible, as you have to look through various options while trying to keep an eye on the road. Was a simplistic system not available? Ugh.
The audio doesn’t fare much better. There’s very little music to speak of; the auto engines are all about the same; and there isn’t even a personable factor to make NASCAR stand out from other games. It just runs the gamut.
The controls are okay as far as a NASCAR game goes, but you never really get a full feeling over your car, since you’re limited to so many actions during a race. What’s more, the career mode is possibly one of the most painful I’ve ever come across in a driving game, as you simply start out in one of the worst vehicles possible and have to grind your way through a number of last place victories to make progress. It’s terrible because the game fails to motivate you in any good way, instead choosing to bury you in an effort to try and turn around your losses. That’s not the way to motivate people – at all.
There aren’t too many options outside of that either. You can participate in quick races, or even try to get online with others and see how well you play against others. The idea of having 40 people in a race sounds good, but the races never really fill up like they’re supposed to, and, well you find players that are simply in the mood to goof off instead of actually racing. Talk about a waste of resources.
NASCAR Heat Evolution just can’t seem to capture the magic of the sport. Granted, as I said above, it isn’t really my type of game to begin with, but this entry really feels like it’s short-changing any players that fork over $60 to get behind its wheel. There aren’t too many modes to speak of, save for the career mode that’s utterly depressing. Online is okay, but you can find better online racers for a much cheaper price. And the dated presentation doesn’t do fans any favors either. You may be tempted to make the rounds with NASCAR Heat Evolution, but, honestly, you’re better off just watching the races at home.