Platforms: PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Developer: ETX Racing
Publisher: Deep Silver
Rating: E (ESRB)
PC Review code was provided by Deep Silver
NASCAR ’14, the newest installment in ETX Racing’s adaptation of the racing juggernaut, excels in its immense detail of the sport and responsive controls. However, for the occasional racing game player and non-NASCAR person like myself, the concept of this sport being turned into a game is not thrilling enough to recommend. All the same, if you enjoy NASCAR, this is a definite buy.
The visuals of NASCAR ’14 are a mixed bag. There isn’t as much eye candy as other simulation games like Gran Turismo or Forza but there are some impressive effects in the game. To give a few examples, the wheels spark when cars crash, and the reflections of camera flashes from the audience and the environment from the car’s hood look stunning. However, the game’s overall models for the crowd, the tracks and the cars feel outdated with their low resolution textures. Also, the racers themselves look atrocious due to their expressionless faces and a general lack of detail in comparison to other sports games such as FIFA ’14 and NBA 2K14. While they are not heavily featured, the drivers should not look like they are from the PS2 era when we’re at the end of the PS3/360 generation.
On the other hand, the audio work for NASCAR ’14 is outstanding, as you hear the engines roaring among the cheering crowd and the whip of objects you pass at top speed. As the driver, you are also being instructed by someone over a PA system which gives an authentic feel in the cockpit of a NASCAR vehicle. The only negative that can be drawn is the irritatingly bland rock music that plays in the menus, but this can be turned off easily in the options menu.
The team at ETX Racing can also be applauded for capturing the NASCAR experience in game form. Plenty of brands from Burger King to even Canadian Tire are in the game and I was overwhelmed by how many ways you can customize your car in both the machine and the appearance. In career mode, you can save up enough cash to spend on various ways of upgrading your car including the engine, engine mapping, suspension, brakes, body, and chassis. You can also tune your vehicle to your liking before races by changing the suspension, the aerodynamics, the steering lock, gearing and cold pressure/chamber/caster of your tires to the absolute nitty-gritty. It is ridiculous as to how detailed this game can be for the dedicated racing car fanatic. For those who simply want to jump in and play, the default car settings should be fine for those who play in easier difficulties, and the free-play mode allows the player to simply choose their favorite driver and enjoy it. Another aspect of NASCAR ’14 I’m impressed by is the customization offered for custom cars. You can create your own designs easily through plenty of assets including primitive shapes, flames, international flags, sprays/splats, arrows and sponsors.
While the customization options are plentiful, ETX Racing has also given a lot of attention to how the cars handle. NASCAR ’14 feels solid, as braking and letting off the speed feel natural around the left turns. The game even notifies you as to when the player should brake or slow down, which is a nice touch. In NASCAR ’14, I also felt the rush of speed as every crash felt impactful and the feedback sent from the vibration of the controller was just right.
The controls feel solid but the issue I take with this game is that it quickly becomes a chore, as NASCAR ’14 requires the player to only turn left four times and accelerate through straight runways every lap. I’m not stating that NASCAR is a dull sport, but playing it feels different as to when you’re watching it with your friends on the television or seeing the races take place first hand with the roar of engines making everyone in the crowd giddy. Personally, I feel like NASCAR ’14 doesn’t hold up as a video game adaptation. Overtaking AI or humans online in a crowded race such as NASCAR can be somewhat thrilling from time-to-time but after a few laps, I get bored of it. I simply wish I was playing games like GRID, Forza and Gran Turismo, which have more inspired track design. There is a variety of these oval tracks which differ in width and locale but overall, these two factors do not take away from the tedium. I cannot fault ETX Racing for this aspect as it stays very close to the source material and has responsive controls, but for casual racing game players, I cannot recommend NASCAR ’14 due to a game translation that simply does not suffice for those who only play racing games every once in a while.
For those who love NASCAR, however, this game does offer up a fully fledged career mode which entangles the player with sponsorship deals and the further customization of your car, and there is a multiplayer mode that offers up an Online League. There are also plenty of tracks to race on in NASCAR ’14 which vary from narrow to very wide and all require very different strategies in terms of breaking/accelerating around turns.
Even though I cannot recommend NASCAR ’14 to a casual player of racing games, this title by Deep Silver and ETX Racing offers up one of the best sports-simulation games out there, with an awe-inspiring amount of customization, rock solid controls and impressive sound design. There are some nit-picks such as the low-resolution textures and the bland rock music played between menus and loading screens, but other than that, NASCAR ‘14 is an excellent package for those who love the sport.