|System: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Language|
by Jake Valentine
Let me preface this by saying that not only do I enjoy racing games, but I'm also a casual NASCAR fan. So, the promise of the return of a video game franchise for NASCAR intrigued me, having enjoyed playing past NASCAR Thunder titles and eager to see how developments in recent racing games (i.e. the tuning options in Forza) would impact NASCAR 2011. In regards to the latter, we're given some nice tuning options to customize our car to handle how we'd like it to handle, adding in a subtle strategy to the game. For the former, however, this plays nothing like NASCAR Thunder. NASCAR The Game 2011 has spun out, wrecked, and been sent back to the garage. Or at least it should be.
The game wastes no time throwing you into a NASCAR season. Once you boot things up, you're given the chance to either pick your own unique racer or browse through the roster of Nationwide and Sprint Cup drivers. Once I picked Jeff Gordon, I was brought to my garage, after a lengthy loading screen. From there, again waiting in a lengthy loading screen, I was brought the season. After choosing to qualify for Daytona, I waited….again…and proceeded to qualify. See where I'm headed with this?
When you've waited more than you've played within the first five minutes of a sports game where you drive 180+ MPH, something is terribly wrong. Once I got into the actual race, I was thrown a curveball and played through some pretty realistic and addictive gameplay. Daytona feels like it should; you have to draft and stay in line with the pack, or else you're going to get left in the dust. Drivers aren't afraid to go three wide often, and the pack stays together, naturally causing a wreck, which I got the worst of. When there's a big wreck, the caution flag comes out and resets the field.
There's two things that NASCAR The Game 2011 does right. The first is that it provides a great racing experience (provided you don't wreck). As arcade-y and unrealistic it may be, driving through traffic for an entire race on every track is lots of run and requires careful planning and near perfection on the track. More importantly, it requires a lot of on-the-fly thinking and adjusting: what worked for you on, say, Fontana, doesn't work in Atlanta, because the tracks themselves are different. You're given clear indications as to when you're both drafting and when you'll be able to sling shot past the cars in front of you, as well as helpful reminders that you should probably slow down heading into a turn. In addition, the strategy of tuning your car and adding in common race strategies during your pit stops helps make things seem more realistic and adds an additional sense of strategy to the game not seen before in past NASCAR titles.