That leaves the various multiplayer modes. The game gets props for offering split-screen, however, it’s you and your buddy, marked as “rival,” against 41 other drivers. You can race for bragging rights if you want, but is it worth bragging about finishing 30th, while he finished 34th? Online limit’s the racers to 16, so you can beat your buddies outright, but part of what makes NASCAR what it is, is the mass of 43 cars often in formation traveling at 180mph. 16 cars removes that mass and trades it for lots of open space.
So the game modes are very basic, but it’s 2011. Surely the game offers jaw-dropping graphics and sound, right? The answer is “sort of.”
Graphically, the game looks good, but that’s it. The car look good and are highly detailed, but there are some noticeable jaggies here and there. Also, on one occasion my steering wheel disappeared mid-race. The tracks themselves, also look nice but do suffer from moments of pop-in, especially on the road courses where winding twists and turns often catch the engine off-guard, forcing it to throw a bunch of details up at once. The touted crash damage is less impressive. Bits of debris that litter the track after crashes look like so much schmutz and crumpled panels that stay on the car just look jagged. Also, the crash physics are very floaty. Sure, a violent collision can send you airborne, barrel rolling, but when you land, the impact doesn’t convey itself to you.
Much like the graphics, the sound is a mixture of good and not so good. Engines sound great, but do drone on after a while, while tire squeals and crashes are appropriately noisy, but nothing special. Less than “nothing special” is your spotter, who, by my estimation, is completely useless. He yells out bits like “clear on your left,” or “focus, no rookie mistakes” but much of it is too late to be of any use. More annoyingly, he spends a disproportionate amount of time complaining about his food or how hot it is. I shudder to think what 200 laps of “a bird just pooped on my hotdog” would feel like.
The music doesn’t fare much better. I hope you like ZZ Top because that same ZZ Top song is going to play every time you boot the game up and mess with your options before a race. But at least ZZ Top isn’t bland like the rest of the, maybe 4 or 5, licensed songs that play during various menus. I didn’t recognize a single one and I wasn’t compelled to find them out either, but I understand that music is subjective and that your mileage may vary.
All that leaves me to talk about is the single worst part of the entire game: THE LOADING. There is so much loading in NASCAR 2011 that it really grated on my nerves. There is a loading screen in between every screen-change during the game. It even loads before and after pit stops. What’s worse is that during loading screens, they try to make it less dull by offering NASCAR trivia up like you’re waiting for a movie to start in the theater. Unfortunately the questions are as dull and bare-bones as the rest of the game: nicknames, dates of birth, slang terms, team assignments, and car numbers are all they ask about. A typical question goes like, “what race track in Indiana is known as the “yard of bricks?” I know bad comedians like to pretend that NASCAR fans are stupid, but c’mon, even an idiot would know the answer to that. This is a game for die-hard NASCAR fans. Ask some question that only die-hard NASCAR fans would know.
Overall, I feel like this game had so much potential, but failed to live up to any of it, and that, perhaps, it didn’t know its audience. It looks good and it sounds good, but it’s probably not hard-core enough for the die-hards due to it’s lack of features, but too hard-core for arcade racing fans as the turning is a deep as I’ve ever seen in a racing game. Maybe it’s just growing pains, after all this is Eutechnyx’s first attempt at a NASCAR game. Often times, a “first” in a sports franchise will suffer as features are left by the wayside to ensure the core gameplay is up to snuff. Hopefully, that’s the case here, and next year’s version will be the game true racing sim die-hards can get behind.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I really wanted to like NASCAR 2011: The Game; but while the core racing can be pretty interesting (especially on the short tracks), the overall game is held back by paper-thin career mode, unformed gameplay features, and unfriendly difficulty. I'm not a follower of NASCAR, but I hoped NASCAR 2011: The game would make want to. I didn't.
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