Speaking of NXP; as far as I can tell it does absolutely nothing. Maybe you can use it to unlock new driver-specific paint schemes, but if you can, I never earned enough to. I never earned enough because the game’s difficulty is brutal, even on easy with all the driver assists (traction and stability control, ABS, steering, and auto-brake) turned on. My car spent so much time rubbing up against wall that I’m pretty sure it should register as a sex-offender. As far as I can tell, there were several reason for my familiarity with the wall. The main culprits were other drivers that would, as soon as you tried to mix it up and pass in the main group (otherwise known as “the only interesting part of the race“), tap you in the behind and spin you out - it would literally happen to me every lap. It’s not fun to spend as much time facing backwards as facing forwards during a race. This created 2 separate problems: one, cautions were completely random. This meant the even a violent collision and spin could result in your car being bypassed by the whole pack, leaving you in last place and facing the wrong direction because there was no caution. The second problem was being spun out into pit row only to receive a penalty for exceeding the speed limit. That’s some serious nonsense right there - like an NFL player being called for offsides after the play was over as he was walking to his bench. Other issues included a brake warning that often came too late for me to do anything, and a rewind feature - ostensibly a mulligan for bad drivers - that often didn’t go back far enough to allow me to avoid the events that led to me rubbing one out against the wall (again).
Even the ability to tune my car didn’t alleviate my constant crashing issues. NASCAR 2011’s tuning system, while functionally similar to Forza’s (minus the purchasing of upgraded parts), never paid off the way it did in Forza. I could dial back oversteer in that game, for example, but all the fiddling in the world never produced any noticeable results in NASCAR 2011. I did, however, enjoy the paint customization. It’s nearly as deep and, frankly, a little easier to use than Forza’s. But even that was not without its issues: There were no head or tail light decals and placing words requires awkwardly placing each letter individually. Entering one medium-length word required so many button inputs, it was hardly worth the effort. The only other option of note in career mode was to view your car, but all you could do was spin the virtual camera around it. With no zoom, what’s the point?
All in all, career mode, such as it is, was a bust for me. There were no multiple seasons and no feeling of building and climbing the latter to success that have become standard in most modern licensed sports games. I was looking forward to learning the ropes and getting a sense for what being a NASCAR driver is like, but there was just nothing to hold my interest and make me care about what I was doing.
So career mode is a failure, maybe the straight single player mode would be better. After all it contained the ability to select any racer, paint scheme, track, and included the interesting “eliminator” mode where after a certain interval of time, the last place racer was kicked off the track until the one was left and crowned winner. However, the racing was identical to career mode. For me, that meant lots of facing the wrong direction and rubbing against the wall. At least, as with career mode, each race is very customizable. Everything from AI difficulty to transmission type (auto, semi-auto, and manual) to number of laps, and drivers assist sliders were customizable- and many, if not all, could be altered during the race. That was a nice touch.
Single player also offers a practice mode and track testing. Practice lets you select the car and track, then drive it, while track testing is more for gear heads who want to optimize a set up for a given track. It’s basic stuff, to be sure, but it at least you’re not being spun out constantly so you can appreciate the sense of speed and growl of the engine.
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