The competition is heating up as the starting grid on the PC
NASCAR circuit fills up. With Sierra and Electronic Arts already on
the track, Hasbro Interactive has prepped their stock car for the big
race. Although not without a few flaws, NASCAR Heat is a genuine
racing experience that is both challenging and fun.
NASCAR Heat starts out of the grid slowly because it only features
27 official drivers from the NASCAR circuit. With a 43-car field, that
means you'll see a number of fictional names throughout the
leaderboard (although mostly at the bottom). Luckily, NASCAR
Heat does offer every track on the Winston Cup circuit minus the
elusive Pocono and Indianapolis. You'll be able to race just about
every event from the 2000 NASCAR season with the exception of an omission or
There are four racing modes in NASCAR Heat: Single Race,
Championship, Beat the Heat and Race the Pro. Beat the Heat is a
unique series of challenges that also acts as a tutorial of sorts. In
this mode, you'll be thrown in the cockpit at critical points of a
race. For example, you might be thrown into the middle of the
pack of a particular race with only a few remaining laps. The
object of this challenge is to finish the race is the best possible
position from that point. Your awarded cups based on your
performance (Gold, Silver & Bronze), whereas receiving any one
of these cups will unlock the next competition. This is a great
mode for novice players looking to experience crucial moments of
a NASCAR race. Race the Pro mode pits gamers against ghost cars
of actual performances by various NASCAR racers. Both of these
modes are certainly innovative and add a great deal to the overall
NASCAR Heat package.
The Single Race mode allows players to jump right into the
cockpit without worrying much about the intricacies of each race.
Select the track, the number of laps and competitors, amongst
other options, and you're ready to go. A little of the old in and out
if you please. The Championship Mode allows you to race through
an entire NASCAR season, running each of the tracks from the
Winston Cup circuit. The Championship Mode tracks each of the
races and the points awarded for each position, allowing you to
simulate an entire NASCAR season.
Just about everything can be tweaked in the Championship Mode.
If you're a novice player, you can turn off options such as pit stops
and damage modeling so you can focus on the race itself. If you're
a diehard NASCAR enthusiast, you can adjust everything from
grille tape, sway bars and wedges, creating the ultimate NASCAR
simulation. Unfortunately, some of these advanced options bring
flaws with them. Damage modelling, for example, is horrible.
Although it's been implemented, it takes quite the smash up to do
any kind of damage to your vehicle, let alone vehicles around you.
You can literally flip over and still continue the race, not to
mention the good folks behind the event won't even bring out the
caution flag. The bottom line, you really don't have to worry about
wrecking your car because unless you purposely smash into
oncoming traffic, you'll always be able to finish the race. I suppose
the thinking behind the lacklustre damage modelling is to adhere
to those learning the nuances of a stock car, but gamers looking
for a true racing experience will be disappointed to say the least.
The best feature of NASCAR Heat is by far the graphics. With
everything set on the highest detail, the visuals are absolutely
stunning. The car models are dead on and every little detail
has been taken into account. If you scrape your car against the
wall, black marks will remain on the surface for the remainder of
the race. The menu system is designed much like a browser,
resulting in a very efficient and simple interface. Sky and other
environmental textures are just about perfect and everything from
shadows to logos has been incorporated into the game. With
multiple camera perspectives and a great cockpit dash, NASCAR
Heat is by far the prettiest looking NASCAR title to date.
Unfortunately, the audio doesn't quite match the quality of the
visuals. While the noise of the engine is quite realistic, other areas
such as crowd noise have been neglected.
NASCAR Heat features support for force feedback steering wheels,
and if you so happen to own one, you'll be pleasantly surprised at
how real the game feels. Other methods of control include
keyboard and joystick and all methods are fully customizable. If
you get tired of computer opponents, you can jump online for
races with up to 16 players over the Internet. The unfortunate thing
is there's currently no matchmaking server set-up, making it
extremely difficult to find other NASCAR drivers to race against.
While it doesn't dominate the race, NASCAR Heat offers a sound
stock car racing experience. It caters to both arcade racers and
diehard enthusiasts by way of the variety of racing modes,
although fans looking for an accurate simulation might be deterred
by the lack of realistic damage modelling. The lack of a
matchmaking service surely will make racing against real-life
opponents a little difficult but visually, the game is spectacular and
with most of the licenses in place, NASCAR Heat is an enjoyable