Driving simulators pride themselves on realism. A good one is most certainly something to behold, as balancing the nuances of motorsports can be quite difficult. It is also a challenge to introduce new players to such concepts and reward their efforts to learn. Nascar Heat 4 will force you to dig deep and understand the laws of the road, but it is a merciless experience. Buckle up, this ride is bumpy.
There is very little in lieu of accessible options in Nascar Heat 4. To the new player, you are given a full scope of driving aides and difficulty options. These matter little, however, as you will soon find that these fade into irrelevance quickly. The true difficulty of Nascar Heat 4 is in learning the game itself. While fans of the franchise may be used to the realism and complexity at work, the game itself does little to guide or instruct the new player in its ways. Indeed, even with driving aides present in the game it does little to circumvent its incredibly harsh learning curve. While the racing is satisfying and intense, getting there will be a problem for anyone but the seasoned veteran or ardent student.
The visuals in Nascar Heat 4 are great. While not the most detailed, the animations are fluid and the driver seat view creates an authentic feel. The sound design is also rock solid. Through speakers or headphones, hearing another car coming up on your position inspires a feeling of intensity. From the radio chatter and quick work of your pit crew, to the screeching of the tires on a turn, the presentation of Nascar Heat 4 is slicker than grease.
The game is fully featured, but seems just slightly off when everything is considered. The career mode is well done, offering a fantastic amount of customization. Many different types of races are available as well for online or offline modes. Truck races, off road style races and traditional Nascar races are all available and unique. The online multiplayer is there but it is an element that makes a terrible impression. While functional, the dated UI and matchmaking system sheds a negative light on the entire experience. Nascar Heat 4 offers a ton for the fans, but unless you can get into mastering the gameplay, there is little here for you. Despite it having everything it needs, there isn’t anything very flashy or noteworthy for the casual fan. While fundamentally a fantastic game and fully featured on a surface level, it does little to keep anyone but those who fall in love with the gameplay engaged.
The Good – Deep and varied gameplay, fun customization options, great animations, commercial soundtrack.
The Bad – Gameplay has a difficult learning curve, very little for the casual gamer, dated multiplayer experience.
Final Thoughts: Nascar Heat 4 makes an amazing first impression. There is a lot to love here for those seeking a deep driving experience. The gameplay is satisfying if you learn it and will harden you for the high octane races that await your racer. However, the road is a long one and is most certainly not for everyone. The entire experience is built upon fundamental mastery of the gameplay which is meant to make playing its own reward.