STAFF REVIEW of NASCAR Heat Evolution (Xbox One)

Saturday, October 22, 2016.
by John Elliott

NASCAR Heat Evolution Box art I have a fascination with NASCAR, and what has driven that fascination (pun intended) from the very beginning are the drivers. They are a highly skilled group of men and women that make it fairly interesting to watch fast cars turn left on a track for hours at a time. With such a structured racing environment, these drivers are the main component (their personality, successes, and struggles) that, in my opinion, draws in the crowds. Hoping that NASCAR Heat Evolution would deliver in a well rounded career driven NASCAR experience, I jumped in and buckled my seat belt for what I hoped would be an exhilarating ride.

From the home screen you can select from various local or online gaming options. Local gaming includes Career mode, Challenges, and a 'straight-to-the-action' Race mode. Selecting Career brings you into the customization features available for your driver and vehicle. There were slim pickings in the vehicle customization area though, as you simply select a vehicle icon of an already existing driver. You also can't fully customize your cars number as its dependent on the vehicle manufacturer you select. This was really disappointing, as it prevented me in fully creating an experience that was unique for me. There is a bit more selection in your drivers appearance, but nothing to really write home about.

Once you've handled the customization process you jump right into the racing with a simple objective of placing 30th in a race. I might as well have been playing the simple race mode, as the career mode offered nothing to draw me in. No backstory about you as a rookie driver and no history about NASCAR itself for any players who might not be as familiar with the sport, though there are some fast facts that pop up on the loading screen, but they don't tell you much. There isn't even a simple tutorial to show you what you can do.

While in a race you will instantly notice that the graphics are horrible. Its like you were playing a really bad aviation game from the 1990's where everything close to you is clear but everything else is blurry, or moves in and out of focus. To add insult to injury, your cheering fans in the stands just stand there like statues, and lets not forget the strategic marketing (Sprint, Coca Cola, Geico, etc) that is associated with NASCAR. I would prefer to play an 8 bit game where I know the graphics are a “style”, and not one with this type of visuals where you can tell that the developer didn't make use of the technology available. If these graphics were by choice, it baffles me as to what they were thinking.

The audio has all of the components one might expect from a racing game; the engine whirring, the cheering fans, and the pit crew sounds as they change your tires. There was some voice work which was standard, and again lacking in variation with common statements being: “All Clear”, “Still there”, “Stay low”, and “We'll get them next time”. Aside from menu music there is no music in the game as races stick to standard sound effects and voice work to set the stage.

Moving on to the controls, it really doesn't get much better. The car is not very responsive and you spend your time toggling the left control stick to keep the vehicle on the track. Most of the time the car kept pulling into the wall unexpectedly, which was extremely frustrating. There were several boxes and images that pop up telling you of your vehicles condition and there is a required rear view mirror. Depending on where you finish you can acquire new sponsors, more fans, and money. All of these aspects play a role in expanding the racing experience for you by building up your garage, which in turn makes your car better.

There is some online play, but finding people to play with was quite difficult. This was not surprising given the caliber of this game. I was only able to find other players in the Hosted Lobby mode, and while I did participate in a couple races, the only major difference is that the human players are a lot more likely to 'love tap' you into the wall way more often than the AI controlled drivers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in the Normal or No Rules modes as there were no active players every time I tried.

Overall, NASCAR Heat Evolution is a like a massive wreck that happened on the track, the result being crushed metal and fiberglass that smashed 180 mph into the wall, and you get to play the contents that the dev-team threw into the game from that gnarly mess. Last generation graphics, horrible controls, no music, typical audio, and a whole lack of ingenuity, it's not a nice mix. It's as if they slapped the NASCAR logo on a bad racer hoping the logo itself would sell the game when in reality they should have invested in the game itself to make it carry on its own weight rather than rely on paid license, that being the NASCAR name.

Overall: 3.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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