|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Monster Games|
|Pub: Dusenberry Martin Racing|
|Release: September 13, 2016|
|Players: 1 Player (2-40 online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Online Interactions|
This doesn't feel like a sim racer or an arcade racer, to be quite frank. It's in a strange and confusing middle ground where you can bump and collide with your competitors with little to no consequence, but you can't take corners aggressively at all. Your brakes are completely useless, and feel like binary switches. There's no finessing the break and working the turns. Instead you'll find yourself feathering the gas pedal by tapping the right trigger like you're shooting a pistol in Call of Duty to make it through the tricky turns. On tricky, winding road courses like Watkins Glen, this means you have to take things really slow or else be forced to slam on your breaks for each turn.
Veteran sim racers won't have a problem finding their rhythm here, but for amateurs like me the learning curve was grueling. During the early phases of career mode and for championships I very rarely qualified within the top 30, and in those races I rarely finished within the top 20. The AI does do a great job of blocking you, utilizing multiple lanes, and punishing you for your mistakes. Placing well will earn you cash, which you'll use to upgrade your team's facilities and improve your car. That, in turn, will make it easier to win over higher paying sponsors that will dish out huge rewards for placing in the top 15 or top 10. It's a very linear progression system, and one that I didn't find particularly compelling.
There is a single race mode as well, but a vast majority of Nascar Heat Evolution's race tracks are locked away until you reach certain levels or accrue enough "speed points." This was a huge mistake, and it makes the game feel like an incredibly limited, free-to-play offering. Where's the $5 microtransaction that lets me race on whatever track I want while I'm not slogging through career mode? Having these blocked off is a brutal low blow to casual fans who just wanted to buy this game and take an occasional spin on their favorite track with their favorite racer.
I will say that the netcode in this game is excellent. Racing online, I didn't experience any significant lag at all. Strangely, I felt like frame rates were much more consistent online than they are during single-player, so that was nice. What isn't nice is the fact that you can't talk to anyone you're racing with - voice chat disabled unless you're in a party. There are also no caution flags for wrecks, and in two out of the three online modes, there's no way to automatically kick the jackasses who just want to purposefully run into you or chill sideways in the middle of the road to ruin the race for others.
You also can't switch your driver between races. In order to do so, you're forced to exit multiplayer entirely, select a new driver in the single-player Race mode, and then head back. As far as track selection goes, you're at the mercy of whomever may be hosting your particular lobby or session. This is a little disappointing, as map and track voting have been common in multiplayer games for almost a decade now. I'd love to say that it's no big deal, and that you can just work out amongst yourselves which track you'd like to play next but, again, you won't be able to talk to anyone unless you're partied up.
I'm not sure what else I can tell you. Don't buy this game for $60. The competition is too good out there no matter which platform you're playing on. Nascar Heat Evolution could have used another year or so in the oven, and it's lacking in almost every regard. It's amazing to me that a PlayStation Plus subscriber can purchase Driveclub for less than $10, but would have to shell out $60 and tax for this piece of work.
Move along, or wait for a sale. Nascar Heat Evolution is a devolution for the series, and even when playing friends online, I can't imagine how you'd have fun with this game for more than a few hours - if you even make it that long.
Date: September 14, 2016