I’m fortunate enough to be the guy that gets to review most of the racing games that come through the pipeline here at the Xbox Tavern. So here is my review of the latest entry into the NASCAR Heat franchise developed by 704Games Company and published by Motorsport Games. Having written the review for previous iterations of the series I’ll admit that a few of the improvements made to the game caught me by surprise. Whether or not these improvements are enough to purchase NASCAR Heat 5, especially if you already own any of the previous games, is ultimately up to you. I’m just here to offer my opinions.
Largely, NASCAR Heat 5 is still a game where you spend a majority of the time turning left. That said, there are a fair number of road courses to race on as well. Like the games that came before it, it features the official teams, drivers, and cars from the three NASCAR National Series and the Xtreme Dirt Tour. Thirty-nine authentic tracks complement the surprisingly deep career mode this time around. A new Test Session mode, plus Quick Race, and Multiplayer, both online and split screen round out the offerings to be had.
Upon starting up the game the main menu has a few options; the two main ones are Career mode, which is where I’ve spent most of my time with the game, or Race Now, where you can set up a single race in any of the four car series, choose any track, adjust the number of laps, damage, and a variety of other options. Race Modes include Test Session, Championship, Challenges, and Split Screen. Online Multiplayer let’s you compete with other drivers around the world. My Driver allows you to customize your driver’s appearance and similarly My Cars allows you to change the appearance of your car in each of the four series.
In the new Test Session mode you can take your time to practice and adjust your set-up. Take as much time as you need here to get your lap times down as much as you can. Championship allows you to race through a single season of any series you choose or all four at the same time if you wish. Challenges has you complete a number of specific scenarios with even more available as DLC. Split Screen is surprisingly stable visually but unfortunately you won’t be able to take your couch co-op partner into online multiplayer.
Select Online Multiplayer to join active lobbies, enter Esports events in the pro league, check the online leaderboards, and participate in online challenges. The few online races I played were not very populated yet but you can race against 39 other drivers and race a full length race of 200 plus laps depending which race you select. You can enable AI cars to fill in the field of you don’t have a full lobby. If you choose to enable in game voice chat note that it drops the maximum number of players from 40 to 8 to eliminate so many people from talking over each other.
In Career mode you can choose to join a team or create your own. Joining a team allows you to simply concentrate on the racing as all other things are handled in the background. Creating your own team puts you in full control of everything from hiring your crew, what your mechanics specialize in, how much money you choose to spend on cars, and educating your crew members so they can be more productive when performing repairs. It’s here when creating your team where you can really see how much deeper the career is than in previous versions. Being able to establish friendships and rivalries with other drivers seems to be a little more balanced than in previous versions too. Drive well and other drivers will work with you. Drive overly aggressive or get a little to pushy on track and the AI may decide to try and take you out if you get too close. I’m really enjoying the career much more this time around.
Visually, little has changed from NASCAR Heat 2, 3, and 4. There is an option to optimize the graphics between quality vs performance but on my 1080 screen I didn’t notice any discernible improvement so left it set to performance. On the dirt tracks one thing that bothered me was watching tire marks in front of me disappearing before I reached them. This seems to be a staple of the series as I’ve noted it on every version I’ve reviewed since NASCAR Heat 2. It is, however, much less noticeable when driving in cockpit view.
Sound wise, it’s pretty much identical to every iteration before it. I have to admit though, that even though the “good ol’ boy” country rock music really isn’t my thing, I couldn’t help tapping my toe to a number of the songs on the soundtrack. But as far as the cars and sound effects go the engines are appropriately loud and on the dirt tracks you can really hear the gravel spraying up in your undercarriage.
I think that the biggest thing that will hurt this game is the versions that came before it. I’m not sure people will spend the money on the latest edition if they’re still having fun on the last few entries. The career mode is worth the jump I think, and the more people that do will ultimately find themselves filling up multiplayer lobbies too. While the base price of the game is $49.99, ten dollars cheaper than most triple A titles, it should be an easy buy if you haven’t played a NASCAR Heat title before. But if you’re still having fun with any of the previous iterations you may choose to wait for a sale.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.