The smell of gasoline. The roar of uninhibited engines roaring around a speedway at 200 mph. The crunching of sheet metal. The roar of the crowd as the pack rolls by. These are all things that make a NASCAR experience truly one of a kind, and these are the types of details NASCAR fans have been yearning for in a videogame for quite some time. Ok, so maybe you won’t get the smells of burning rubber or pure power packed fuel, but there are so many small details along these lines that can go into a game to make it special. NASCAR 09 and even old NASCAR Racing by Papyrus are considered some of the best games on the market. But the folks at 704 Games seem to be onto something with each annual release of their NASCAR Heat franchise. So does NASCAR Heat 4 roll with the pack or lose the draft down the straightaway?
Well, in it’s fourth year I would say the game plays and feels the best it ever has. The racing is smooth and you’ll feel like you are behind the wheel of a powerful stock car regardless of the series you choose to race in. The tracks look fantastic and the car models are spot on especially if you decide to race in the driver view. Not everything is visually satisfying with the game though. Damage is still very mediocre when it comes to sheet metal tearing, tires flying off cars flipping, etc. Its practically non-existent and for many NASCAR fans this is the bread and butter of the sport. Rubbing is race, but a buckled up front end is about all the damage you will see visually in this game and that is highly disappointing. Look at games like Wreckfest and Forza where pieces of sheet metal fly off, and underlying roll cages are exposed. I really need to see this in the game before I feel like the series is evolving.
The gameplay is what everyone wants to be perfect though, right? Cosmetics are just cosmetics although important to some like myself. The game definitely plays very well and you’ll feel the G-forces pulling on your car as you make your way around turns. The car rumbles when you are in a draft or you someone is behind you picking up your draft. There is plenty of bumping going on and when you are running in a pack at Talladega you will definitely feel that adrenaline rush. There are standard setups for any casual fan to jump in and be able to compete, or you can choose to make custom setups for each track. Tweak everything you need to in an extensive customization screen. This is where the big boys will play.
There is a variety of gameplay at your finger tips from Career mode where you can compete in a full career starting out in the Extreme Dirt Series and make your way all the way to the Monster Energy series. You’ll compete in weekly races as well as taking hotseats in the series above your current participation level. Race multiple seasons as well as multiple disciplines.
There is also the challenges that make a return. These challenges can be a bit on the difficult side requiring precision and smart decision making. You can compete in a single season if career mode is not your thing or buckle up with some split screen multiplayer. Or maybe just jump into some quick races with your favorite driver at your favorite track. There are plenty of options to keep you busy for a while and even some customization options for your driver and creating your own car/team.
Now of course many folks play NASCAR games for the online competition. Well, I am happy to say that there is plenty of that available with dedicated lobbies setup to certain specifications like using custom setups or only racing in a specific series. The setup options for creating a lobby are pretty cut and dry and you’ll be able to load custom car setups to get that edge on the competition. Let me warn you though. When you go online you better be prepared because these folks know what they are doing and they are fast as well as cunning. There is even an eSports category for those that think they can be the best in the world. You’ll have to qualify for the races As of writing this review over 50,000 races have been run and 2,200 of those have been run today alone. So there are plenty of folks online for you to compete against. Of course, you can create your own private lobbies as well if you want to race with just friends.
The game is solid with the exception of some of the visual aspects I mentioned such as damage. You’ll definitely get a solid package here is you are a NASCAR fan looking for a great experience whether arcade or simulation. All your favorite current drivers are available to use as well as the various paint schemes. You will have to register your age with the game in order to see the beer sponsors, but that’s simple enough. The depth in the career mode from assigning your crews and purchasing cars to build your team will keep you busy. I can recommend this game highly on the content alone and the solid gameplay. Each year the game seems to get closer and closer to games of old and this should make fans of the genre very happy.
Score: 86 out of 100
** A Copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes