I remember playing Nascar Heat 3 last year and thoroughly enjoying it. I have fond memories of watching Nascar races and being amazed with how fast the cars were going. So, I know a thing or two about the world of Nascar, but I have yet to watch a Nascar race still, even on TV! Life is busy, ya know? Anywho, with Nascar Heat 4 released to the public, I was pretty excited to review it. They have slightly changed a few things from the previous outing, which I'll get into in a bit here. The real question I'm going to answer here is: "Is Nascar Heat 4 a welcomed and worthy Sequel?".
You are a new race car driver; congratulations! I've played a few Nascar games in the past and I can say with confidence I know my way around your typical Career Mode. In the first screen after entering Career Mode, you'll see “Start My Career”, “Custom Start” and “Career Options”. “Start My Career” essentially brings you into a full career of all the race series within Nascar Heat 4. You start from whatever series the game chooses for you, though you're not in control of the order of the series you get in this option. “Custom Start” means that you can handpick the series you want. You have four series to choose from: Xtreme Dirt Tour, Gander Outdoor Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Series.
Xtreme Dirt Tour means that you're on a dirt race track in a car. I started my first play through with this series and either I am a HORRIBLE racer on the dirt, or the traction settings were all over the place in my car. I honestly didn't spend any time in the settings to try to figure it out because I just chose to restart the career and chose “Custom Start”, where I could only pick asphalt race tracks. I'm not going to lie, I did a little better with my car traction wise, but I still sucked pretty bad in the beginning. Gander Outdoor Truck Series is what it sounds like. Instead of a car, you're obviously driving a truck, and I was very neutral with this series. Like Xtreme Dirt Tour, I spent very little time in this series. Xfinity and Monster Energy Series are very similar. Both have you in race cars and are on asphalt. These two I spent the most time in, as I played what I was most familiar with. To each their own with their preference with tracks and styles of driving honestly.
After that, you get to create your driver. Now, I'm usually the gamer who takes a lot of time in creating my character and taking pride in how he or she looks. Not this time around considering there is no option to be a female driver, which isn't a deal breaker, though I'm going to be honest, I may have simply missed that option entirely, but I usually enjoy being a female character in video games. The options are rather basic, which is to be expected nor really disappointing. I consider myself lucky to have the option to create my own driver as some racing games don't give you that luxury.
Next, a tablet pops up on your screen and you've made the story of the week! It's a nice touch that is a 'take it or leave it' kind of deal. You next meet your agent and he says his speech about how he represents great racers like you. Your agent will ask you a few questions and you will have the option to opt out of certain series if you choose not to play in them. After you meet your agent, you either get to 'Join a Team' or 'Start a Team', but I simply stuck with joining a team. I tend to steer clear of starting my own team even though I'm a very self motivating individual in real life, I am not one in video games. Just let me join a team and let's get racing. You then get to choose between three team contracts that vary in payout per race, with the make of your vehicle and the managers who run your team. There may be a few managers or there may be only one, it all depends on your team. You then have two options, replace an existing driver on the team or drive your own car.
After all your paperwork is signed and your agent sends you on your way, you have to pick an Incentive Contract. To put it simply, if you finish three races at the Top 35 each time, you get a special payout. The more difficult the contract, the higher up on the ranks of the race you have to get to, such as Top 25 or 20. For some, this will be a cakewalk. For people like me, I'll stick to the Top 35. As you pick your first event to race, you'll know right away what track you're going to partake in. There will be two steps you need to complete before you are allowed to race with the big guns. You'll need to practice and then qualify for your spot in the actual race. I found this to be a nice touch, as most race games you play, you just jump into a race and you're off to the races; pun intended. The practice and qualifying will have a goal time that you need to meet to proceed to the next stage of the race. As you get into the actual race, there are about 30 other racers with you and is how a typical race starts. I mentioned briefly before that I'm not an all star console race car driver. I'm pretty average but I enjoy playing racing games because they are straight forward and not complicated.
One major criticism I have for Nascar Heat 4 is it lacks action while in any race from the other drivers. From a very young age, I've known Nascar to be action packed with the crashes, the loud crowds and the announcers talking. Nascar Heat 4 has very loud engines and can be described as lackluster at best. It feels as though Nascar Heat 4 lacks the passion, inspiration and attitude that I know Nascar has. When I got into a crash with another car, I saw really no actual “crash” or consequence.
It was more like when you are driving a shopping cart and you accidentally hit another persons shopping cart lightly. After the “crash”, you're allowed to keep going, as there is no damage shown on your car either. When you watch a Nascar race, you simply know it's a Nascar race. You can feel it just by listening to the background, the cars that are driven and the drivers on the track. Even when I had finished a race, the one thing I did think was pretty interesting was that you have drivers commenting on your great (or lack of) driving skills. You were able to either retaliate in a negative way or apologize. If I had to choose between a career mode to play again, I'd choose Nascar Heat 3 over Nascar Heat 4 without a doubt, which is an odd revelation after my time with Heat 4.
Challenges are one of my favourite parts of the Nascar Heat series. These challenges range from 'You're in third, get to first place within this length of the race track' to 'You're in 15th place, a crash is about to take place right in front of you. Get through that crash without becoming a part of the crash”. I find these challenges to be a lot of fun and challenge. They make you work for a little reward at the end. Nascar Heat 4 did very well here and I'm really happy with how that it turned out.
Online Multiplayer requires that you have no driving aids and you go into a queue. The queue has room for ten players, but the race will start once the timer runs out. During my time with Online Multiplayer, I had no lag which was a pleasant surprise. I played for a couple hours and had a blast doing it against much better drivers.
I have to be completely honest, I spent 98% of my time with Career Mode. I enjoy Career Mode the most in the Nascar Heat series and feel that overall it's generally a solid experience. This time around though, I'm not sold on the overall racing experience of Career Mode, which leaves me somewhat disappointed. My standards are usually very high for video games I know very well and I had high hopes that Nascar Heat 4 would be a great sequel. Now, I'm not even sure that this sequel is worth while knowing the main part of Nascar Heat 4 feels like an afterthought. I'm gonna go into the pit stop for a while and think about this.
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