Asleep At The Wheel
HIGH Short, sweet and specific challenge missions are a welcome change of pace after…
LOW …slogging through dozens of hours—in just the first third!— of career mode.
WTF Getting booted from a hosted game for being bad at driving.
NASCAR Heat 2 suffers from the same shortcomings as the sport it seeks to emulate. Like stock car drivers buckling in for 300 left turns, players will spend a whole lot of time doing what amounts to very little. Despite having a career mode that can stretch for dozens of hours, gameplay is rarely more interesting than rapidly tapping the L stick to the left and gripping the right trigger until hand cramps set in.
That said, I’m not a NASCAR guy. I don’t watch it, I didn’t play this game’s 2016 precursor, and I don’t expect a NASCAR game to be designed with me in mind. So, my question as I tried to evaluate the merits of NASCAR Heat 2 was whether or not it gives fans what they want?
At times, yes. Other times, definitely not.
The career mode is basically fine, but way, way, way too long. The options allow for increasing or decreasing race length, and I set my races to be nearly as short as possible. Even with shortened matches, I still spent more than 15 hours playing the career and only made it through roughly one-third of the game. Adding insult to injury, the player only advances from league to league by fulfilling first-place contracts, and nothing frustrated me quite as much having to redo a race because I was edged out at the last second.
A lengthy career mode isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but NASCAR Heat 2 doesn’t earn its run time. After racing each track, subsequent races don’t bring anything new to the table. I like what the game is shooting for—giving the player the feeling of working their way up the ranks—but the devs would almost certainly do a better job of communicating this feeling if there were any incentive to stick around long enough to fully experience it.
By contrast, in the challenge mode, the game capitalizes on its tight driving and the thrill of winning by trimming the fat. Each challenge puts the player in the shoes of a real driver in a race that actually happened, and the missions are introduced by short, scene-setting videos. These races feel rewarding, varied and interesting, and were a major breath of fresh air after hours slowly advancing my career.
Online multiplayer works just fine, but since this is a pretty niche game, I was usually only racing against a few other players at a time. While I enjoyed ramming against other drivers in single player, there is basically zero tolerance for it in multiplayer, and I got booted from a group for running into a driver by accident. This is a fine stance to take, but the game never incentivizes spotless driving, and it doesn’t feel particularly compelling or rewarding to keep your nose clean.
In the end, NASCAR Heat 2 offers up plenty of racing for fans to enjoy. The driving is tight, and it feels genuinely good to win. However, when it comes right down to it, I suspect my problem with the game may actually be a problem with NASCAR itself — all of the excitement and exhilaration is buried beneath race after boring race, lap after boring lap.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Monster Games and published by 704 Games, and is available on PS4, Xbox One and Windows. This copy was obtained via publisher, and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 20 hours were devoted to the game, and it was not completed. The game includes online multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. Parents have nothing to worry about except the possible trauma of famous NASCAR drivers chewing their young ones out for driving dirty.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: Lots of crucial information (like the explainer videos before challenge matches) is not subtitled, and there is no option to turn subtitles on. This game is not accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Some of Andrew King's best memories are tied up in games and game culture. Writing for GameCritics is his sure fire way to ensure that his future memories are, too.
When Andrew isn't writing about games, he's working as a News and Sports Reporter for the Hillsdale Daily News. His work has been featured in The Detroit News and The Washington Times.