It’s that time of the year again, time to turn left and race for that checkered flag. NASCAR 14, from the folks at Eutechnyx and Deep Silver, is a direct sequel to the 2013 release of NASCAR the Game: Inside Line. The decision to not go into the next generation consoles means that the graphics for NASCAR 14 wouldn’t be getting a major overhaul, so Eutechnyx focused on giving the player more online functions, a deeper design center, and tweaking the artificial intelligence to make the game more challenging.
This is a sports game, so there isn’t a story to tell. The closest thing we have to a story is the career mode, so I’ll go ahead and talk about that in this section. Career mode allows you to play as a user-generated driver, the new kid on the circuit, and race in the NASCAR season. One of the first things you get to do is customize your car. Car customization is deep in NASCAR 14, with a wide array of colors, finishes, and patterns to choose from. The layering system works out nice too, to add depth of color to your car. This is a nice addition to creating your own racing team and giving you a sense of ownership in NASCAR 14.
Once your car and team are customized, it is off to the first race of the circuit, the Daytona 500. Race weekend is filled with all the events that a typical NASCAR event has, from the practice laps to the duels and finally, the big race. After each practice lap, you’ll be able to fine tune your car to make it work the way you want it to work, and then test it again in the next practice lap.
Between events, you’ll be able to chase down new sponsors to increase your income, which you can put right back into research and development for your racing team. You can even manage your pit crew to help shave seconds off of your pit stops. These are great features that really bring to life the world of NASCAR for any fan. Everything in career mode worked out fine and felt like it needed to be there. For the more casual fans, you do have the ability to skip events during a race weekend if you just want to get out and race. Once I had run a few practice laps and qualified first for the Daytona 500, I was good to go ahead and get that race started.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, this game NEEDS a steering wheel controller with a gas pedal to be played correctly and get the full effect. If you are a racing game aficionado for the PC, odds are you already have one so you should be fine. If you want to get the most out of NASCAR 14, then invest in some sort of wheel controller, it will save your sanity. I don’t have one, so the keyboard was all I had to use. The game is controlled just by four buttons, up and down arrow are gas and break respectively, while left and right are just that, left and right. The problem with this control scheme is that you will over-steer too much and the fine adjustments to steering just isn’t there. This is a major problem when you go into a turn three deep.
One of the items that Eutechnyx wanted to work on was improving the artificial intelligence of the other race drivers. Since I never played a NASCAR game in my life, I have no comparison to whether or not they made this happen. All I can say is that the other drivers pissed me off something fierce, so maybe Eutechnyx was successful. Once I had finally got some handle on the controls and would race the Daytona 500, I would get cut off or pinched by the other racers, trying to shove me out of my line. Not being a fan of NASCAR, but I was almost positive that you just cannot come down from a turn to bump another racer off of their line once they’ve established themselves. And with the keyboard control scheme, any little shove anywhere would lead me to over compensate and spin out, causing a massive wreck.
During races, you will have to keep an eye out for the various penalties you can acquire as well. In trying to avoid yet another wreck, I steered my car under the yellow line and was summarily black flagged for it. Pit row also has a strict 55 mph speed limit, which must be obeyed in order to avoid that penalty. It’s a great feeling to a game when all the little things are put in there.
Online multiplayer is available, with a new league mode for this year. You and your friends can set up your own NASCAR league and head through the season, racing against each other and the bots for the overall cup. These leagues are fully supported by statistics, replays, rankings and challenges so you can fight for bragging rights among your NASCAR group. If you just want to race online, race matchmaking is available to pair you up with racers of the same skill level.
The aesthetics of NASCAR 14 is probably the weakest aspect of the game, but they are not horrible to say the least. Visually, the game looks like its predecessors, without having any significant increase in graphics. The game is being designed for the 360/PS3 generation so the developer really didn’t focus on trying to push the boundaries of the visuals of the game. What you do get is enough to make the experience enjoyable and look good too. Damage will show up on your car if you bang into one to many obstacles, and seeing the dust come up down the track is a great early warning sign to watch out for a wreck ahead of you. The car models look clean and the lighting is well done.
Sound design is typical for this type of game, with nothing really being too bad or too great about it. Voice acting is standard and what you would expect, with the in-game voice coming from your race manager, helping you “see” the track. Soundtrack is typical as is the sound effects for the game. Nothing that I would call memorable, but also nothing that I would call horrible either.
Reviewing a NASCAR title, for me, was an interesting experiment. I am no fan of the genre, not in the slightest, but had fun playing this game. I would still pick up a copy of Forza or Gran Turismo over NASCAR 14 any day of the week, but NASCAR 14 does a great job in simulating the NASCAR experience, and I know there are a lot of NASCAR fans out there looking for just that. For the PC, the biggest suggestion I can make is to invest in a steering wheel controller, because the keyboard just doesn’t give you the fine tuning in steering that a wheel will. The career mode is packed full of neat extras, like r & d and sponsors, while the car customization is deep and fun to play with. In the end, NASCAR 14 cannot compete with the polish and fun of either Forza or Gran Turismo, but NASCAR 14 is the only game in town that will replicate the NASCAR experience, and it does it well. NASCAR 14 is available now for the PC and PS3 and is coming soon for the Xbox 360.
[easyreview title=”NASCAR 14 Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]
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