Up next for review we have the fourth installment of the NASCAR Heat series. Having already released on the thirteenth of September I’m a little late to the party, but I have to say 704Games Company and Monster Games have done a really good job of raising the bar this year in comparison to NASCAR Heat 3.
A number of improvements have been made across-the-board. An overhauled graphics and audio package, team drafting, and smarter AI are just a few of the features that impress. Smaller details like the new track maps are also welcome. What took them so long to actually put this into the game I don’t know.
So let’s talk about the new graphics and audio. I appreciate the option to choose between graphical quality or performance. With the setting on quality there is definitely an improvement over last year but unfortunately even though I do have the Xbox One X I haven’t upgraded to a 4k display yet, so for me, on a 1080p television, the performance option is the way to go as the frame rate seemed to be much more stable. Its still playable in quality mode but there is a significant drop in performance which for me is much more important. The audio, on the other hand, is absolutely stellar. The engine noise is spot on and I love the sound of the wind on my surround sound system. Slipping in and out of a draft is just as noticable audibly as it is with my force feedback wheel.
NASCAR Heat 4 really does offer the closest thing you’ll find to a true NASCAR experience on console. The revamped Career mode allows you to choose which of the four series you would like to start from. As for difficulty, a number of sliders have been added, giving players more control over the AI and game physics to make races much more competitive and interesting. In my opinion, cracking into the top ten in any race should be a challenge, into the top five should be a feat to be proud of, and an actual win should be reserved for only the best drivers. Playing with the sliders will adjust various parameters making those accomplishments easier or more difficult to achieve.
Set them to whatever gives you the experience you desire. I prefer to go as realistic as possible but some may prefer more of an arcade feel. NASCAR purists will likely go for the three main series but I must admit that slinging my car sideways in the dirt is insanely fun this year. I’m not really into drifting for drifting’s sake, but the short tracks in the dirt are just a good time. The main menu uses a tile scheme much like the old Xbox One UI. From here you can choose to play through any of the championships, start a quick race, go online for some multiplayer mayhem or local split screen. Besides the main Career, a number of challenges can be completed as well. Completing the challenges will unlock a number of additional paint schemes that you can use on your car.
The challenges range from ridiculously easy to stupid hard. The September free pack challenge alone will have you hitting restart faster than a rabbit gets frisky. I know that they’re just trying to add more content and gameplay than just turning left by rewarding players for finishing these but a paint job just isn’t worth the effort some of these challenges will ask of you. I lost count of how many attempts I had at the September challenge but after an hour and a half of trying I had to give up. There is just no way to complete that one without keeping on the gas the whole way and even if you do make it through all of the wrecks unscathed you still won’t catch the lead cars easily.
Challenges aside, the jewel of the game is it’s great career mode. With the improvements made to the AI and difficulty scales rival cars now take multiple lines around the track and can adjust strategies as the race progresses. Build friendships and rivalries with other drivers by how you race on the track and handle post race interactions. The new eSports integration is a nice feature for multiplayer as well.
In fact, there is very little I can say negatively about NASCAR Heat 4. Visually, the way the game deals with shadows under the cars doesn’t do the gorgeous lighting effects of racing at night justice. Track surfaces seem a little dull in comparison to the dirt tracks. The dirt tracks seem to have more luster and reflect light better than the tarmac. For some it may just feel like an update to NASCAR Heat 3 and that’s fair. But if you’ve not played previous iterations then NASCAR Heat 4 is definitely the pinnacle of virtual stockcar racing.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.