Independent racing game developers Eutechnyx presents NASCAR The Game: 2013, their newest incarnation of NASCAR's line of racers. NASCAR plays quite differently than your average Need for Speed, Colin McRae or GTR title, and that's because it tries to recreate professional stock car racing as close as it could possibly get. Boasting the best drivers, teams and cars from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is NASCAR The Game: 2013 the realistic racer we've been waiting to ride? Or should we keep it in the pit until Gran Turismo arrives?
Eutechnyx did their homework and worked in close contact to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (yes, that's what NASCAR stands for), as they developed NASCAR 2013. The raceways are accurate compared to their real-life counterparts, the drivers match to their actual sponsors, and the races try to precisely simulate the overall NASCAR experience. Even though I can honestly say I am not a die-hard racing fan, this title does its very best to recreate the bumper-to-bumper, drag-pulling races I have seen numerous times on television. Despite its attempts at precision in regards to the sport of professional racing, the ultimate question is whether or not NASCAR The Game: 2013 actually plays well, or does it crash and burn on the raceway?
Honestly, I was not prepared for the calm, steady hands needed for NASCAR raceways. After decades of playing the various Mario Karts, Burnouts, Gran Turismos and Need for Speeds which I use to personally define my ideas of how racing games should play, I was surprised to see the dedication and precise level of control the NASCAR The Game: 2013 requires.
Unfortunately, the standard keyboard controls of NASCAR 2013 left me wanting to change the controls right away for something much more passable. Due to how tightly-knit the lines of stock cars were throughout the race, I found myself having to stay in my position (utilizing the realistic air-drag system behind cars to gain speed), until I had a large straightaway ahead of me to pull ahead. I had to let go of the gas before my turns in order to maintain accuracy and not slam into the walls (which repeatedly happened during my first dozen or so races). I was genuinely surprised at the level of control the AI maintained throughout these tight spaces. Like me, they were waiting for the opportune time and weren't trying to speed around everyone like a koopa shell-wielding lunatic.
NASCAR The Game: 2013's graphics are what's to be expected of modern racing games, but they do not meet the standard of the more popular racing franchises. When other racers, such as last year's Need for Speed: Most Wanted, provide a wild and thoroughly entertaining experience, then NASCAR 2013 needs to wheel out something more impressive (such as amazing graphics), in order to compete. While NASCAR 2013 is by no means an ugly game, it is simply average. And non-NASCAR fans who were thinking about switching over to more a more accurate racing experience, may be turned off and opt for a better looking racing title instead. Especially with Gran Turismo 6 veering around the corner, NASCAR 2013 really needed to shine in the graphics department in order to compete, but like the contents of its acronym, it appears to be your stock racing title.
NASCAR 2013's audio is what you'd expect. The engines sound great like they're ready to tear up some pavement, but there isn't anything else that really stands out in terms of sound. The collision noises could have been a bit.. crunchier. If I shut my eyes, I honestly would have thought I was playing one Gran Turismo 1 or 2. The soundtrack of NASCAR 2013 is about a dozen or so songs from some unknown bands. While I'm not complaining, I could tell they were again trying to specifically cater to NASCAR's core demographic. Again, this could turn off people new to this type of racing.
With it's $40 price tag (mind you, I am reviewing the PC edition), I can honestly say that I was hoping more from NASCAR The Game: 2013 from both its graphics and sound departments.
In modern racing titles, my main concern as I was going into NASCAR The Game: 2013 was in regards to multiplayer and how well this racer would do on the online pavement. Unfortunately, my online experiences were quite sporadic. Lag was a common occurrence, especially when compared to most of the other PC games I have been playing online. The players range from NASCAR professionals that can match the AI on the highest difficulty, to those that were very much like me when I first started playing. I always tended to finish somewhere near the front, but never #1, which always seemed be one of the master NASCAR players I was just describing. Nevertheless, I was rather content with my growth as a racer, and even the online experiences of NASCAR 2013 left me with an understanding and deeper appreciation of what drivers like Danica Patrick and Elliot Sadler have to go through, given how dangerous these races really are.
Ultimately, I can only recommend NASCAR The Game: 2013 to only the most devoted of NASCAR fans. For would be-racers wanting to jump ship from the wild and popular racing franchises over something a bit more realistic, I recommend holding off. It plays just fine, but requires a discipline the average gamer might not always have. If the graphics and sounds of this title were just a little more enticing, I would definitely rated it higher. But its choppy multiplayer, bland campaign mode, unnoticeable upgrade system, poor controls, and overall lack of charm kept this racer from an Earnhardt-level of greatness. It plays as advertised, but that doesn't necessarily reel any non-NASCAR fans in with it. This might be the type of game where you get out of it what you put into it, but I suggest not getting into it at all until Gran Turismo 6 wins the cup by the end of the year.
This review is based on a digital copy of NASCAR The Game: 2013 for PC that was purchased for review.