JPep715 is back in the saddle! I know I’ve been MIA for a while but I’m excited to bring you my review for NASCAR Heat 2. NASCAR Heat 2 from 704 Games Company brings you a robust and authentic stock car and truck racing experience that has been lacking in the racing genre for some time. It’s not that there aren’t great racing games out there because there are. It’s just that this particular sub genre of motorsports has not had a widely successful release in a number of years. 704 Games along with developer Monster Games is hoping to change that. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Let’s start with the features, beginning with three National NASCAR Series. That’s right. Three. The Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series are playable for the first time in nearly a decade. Combine that with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and players will have over 100 drivers to choose from. New tracks? You’re damn right! Along with the 23 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series sanctioned tracks, 6 new tracks including 3 road courses, 2 ovals, and 1 dirt track, collectively offer a total of 29 tracks making racing more diverse. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t spin 360 degrees, meaning you cant look left or right, or behind you. Looking behind requires you look at the on-screen rear view mirror. You can indeed look left and right by a few degrees, but much of the view is limited. Not a major problem but buyers should be aware.
NASCAR Heat 2 also comes with a surprisingly deep career mode. A fully fleshed out career mode will have you work your way up from the bottom. From getting yourself signed to a team, you’ll work your way up through the ranks of all 3 NASCAR National Series in your own custom car or you can take over a car from the top NASCAR race teams. Aggressive driving will create rivalries with other drivers. This results in them being more aggressive against you. If you get too pushy, you’ll be pushed back. It adds a nice dynamic level of difficulty to the mix throughout the entirety of play. When you’re finished with the several hours worth of content there, you can strap in for the multiplayer. NASCAR Heat 2 features 40 player online races. You can fill out the field with A.I. cars for a true NASCAR experience. Two player, head to head, local split screen is available as well.
There is of course several modes to play through. Quick Race allows you to set up a single race on the track of your choosing. Split Screen allows you to play side by side with a friend. Championship has you choose which series you wish to compete in for a full season. Challenges has you completing goals based on true events. Multiplayer takes you online for some crazy motorsports mayhem. The meat and potatoes of the game, at least for me however, is the very deep career mode. I prefer the long races because it requires you employ different strategies such as drafting to conserve fuel. Whether or not to pit during a caution flag. Making adjustments to your car setup on the fly whenever you do pit. This for me is the essence of NASCAR. In a long race you don’t have to win it all in the first lap. You can take more time moving up the field.
A hard rock and country music soundtrack is just the right thing to get your adrenaline pumping come race time. There’s no music in race, just on the menu screens. Which is fine because it makes the racing more authentic with your spotter being in your ear over the headset telling you where the other cars are on the track. The car noise and sound effects seem a little generic but this doesn’t really take away from the experience. I do feel that visually the game is more on par with games from the Xbox 360 era. Not a deal breaker because the racing action is such fun but definitely noticeable in comparison to some other racers available on the Xbox One. Fortunately, there’s not a whole lot that disappoints here aside from the weak, last gen graphics, except for the fact that I couldn’t find a way to remap my gear shifters. I’m not a fan of having them placed on the shoulder buttons. A minor annoyance but an annoyance just the same. It seems like there is only one configuration for the controller, sad to say.
The online experience suffers only in that you will find people who crash just for the fun of it which ruins the fun for others but you may find a quality lobby on occasion. I suggest you make friends with like minded racers. I quickly became bored with short races and there wasn’t enough players as yet who wanted to commit to a full length race online so I mainly played the single player career at full length with difficult A.I. and normal (not accelerated) tire wear and full damage. For each event you get an hour long practice session to get a feel for the track and make adjustments to how your car is set up. You can adjust tire pressure and aerodynamics to suit your own taste.
Once you have your car tuned in and you put down a qualifying lap, it’s time to race. The Xbox controller does moderately well navigating through a crowd but it would be much easier to hold your line if you have the luxury of using any of the racing wheels available for the Xbox One. I have yet to win a race but I get immense satisfaction from qualifying in the back/middle portion of a field of 32 and moving up to a top ten position by the end of 100+ laps. Playing a full length race also allows you a chance to recover somewhat if you happen to find yourself in a crash. Just watch out heading onto pit lane. Enter too fast and you will get black flagged.
NASCAR Heat 2 is a solid racing experience only slightly marred by a few grievances such as last gen-like visuals, one singular controller configuration, generic car noise and sound effects and annoying online players that don’t race as intended. On the flip-side, the amount of content within is impressive and the vast career mode alone is certainly one that dishes up several hours worth of play. As alluded to above this game gives you a robust and authentic stock car and truck racing experience, a sub-genre that’s long overdue some attention and time in the spotlight, despite the few issues I mentioned above, NASCAR Heat 2 achieves what it sets out to deliver. Be sure to look for me on the track.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.