Nascar The Game 2013
Nascar’s a sort of special interest sport. It requires an absolute love for the stock car. It looks silly, from the outside looking in, that we’re so intrigued with this circular racing, and wouldn’t it be more appealing to face an occasional right turn. The problem with simulating this is that it’s not an inherently interesting thing to reproduce into videogame mechanics.
Good racing games look at what creates the most compelling videogame experience, rather than simply modeling around a real thing. See Criterion’s work. It’s about what plays into the environment best and creating the best context for what racing can be, without regard to what’s expected. Replicating a real thing, of course, is ultimately less valuable than making something new.
Developer Eutechnyx have given it an earnest try. They’ve created a racing game that a fervent Nascar follower can surely respond to but is limited outside this appeal. Over the course of a season or highlight challenges pulled from actual races, we find a singular objective in turning left. Sometimes we’ll angle it in and others the ovals allow for smooth turns. As the lap totals rise, so too does the monotony and we’re left circling around a fairly replicated real track over and over, until it’s done.
There’s probably a way to make it interesting. Sharp AI that produces a consistent challenge might be the way. No luck this year. The AI is simply not finished. They cut through their lines and race as though our car isn’t there, colliding coming out of pits, apparently overpowered in career races. Of course, it’s a challenge to program forty-two other cars to consistently react in an intelligent way but that’s the nature of the experience. A series of continual patches look to address the problems. As is noticeable in many licensed games, releasing on time for season becomes the precedent over releasing a finished product, a toxic idea for any developer, and a fault we’ll have to leave with the publisher, Activision.
Much like the in-game experience, this cyclical release schedule hampers the real potential of the content. It’s initially promising enough, to find all the year’s new models of stock car and lay down some laps on some prestigious speedways but without a well-considered challenge, it’s never allowed to mean much.
Unfortunately the online experience is also bare. It’s hard to find active games and it’s a big ask trying to get a group together over a lengthy race. It’s not a draw that can overcome the other disappointments, although it’s admittedly far more interesting to race other people online, making for much more varied on-track experiences.
This year’s Nascar is a miss, then, exemplifying the problems with the cyclical release for a licensed product without adding real value to bring new players in. For some, it may be enough to simply have a new Nascar experience, but as a game, it’s not going to hold an appeal for anyone beyond those who simply want a straightforward replication of the sport.