I must start by saying that it terrified me going into NASCAR Heat 4. This game is well outside of my wheel house for starters. And nothing, absolutely nothing scares me more than games based on professional sports. I will make it no secret that I hate the 2K brand of games. From Madden to NBA to Baseball, now to even my beloved WWE games. Triple A gaming has deliberately made leaps and bounds towards monetizing worthless platforms. All while offering only the minimum viable product every year. They seek to harness free mobile gaming tactics based on addiction and “Whaling” mechanics, with absolutely no regards to gameplay, long-term viability, or even the law sometimes.
I am ecstatic to say that Monster Games has not fallen into this pattern, this deep pit of despair that seemingly all of our beloved IP’s are falling into one by one these days. It’s a cancer really, growing into our titles faster than we can catch and stop it. It should be obvious by now how I feel about these things, and so seeing a series like NASCAR Heat free and clear of these types of mechanics even after four years is a breath of fresh air in a decaying genre of sports games.
So, lets drive into this game, shall we?
- OS: 64-bit: Windows® 7,8,10 (latest updates)
- Processor: Intel Core i3 530 or AMD FX 4100
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 460 or AMD HD 5870
- HDD: 18 GB
- OS: 64-bit: Windows® 10 (latest updates)
- Processor: Intel i5 9600k or AMD Ryzen 5 2600x
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti or AMD Radeon RX 590
- HDD: 18 GB
- OS: 64-bit: Windows® 10 (latest updates)
- Processor: Core i7-4790k
- Memory: 32 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB)
NASCAR Heat 4 was not even on my radar when I learned about it. This is not uncommon, as racing games aren’t exactly my cup of tea. When they are, they are games like Grand Theft Auto, Burnout Revenge and Mario Kart. So I did not really know what to expect from this game, or if I would even like it. Much to my surprise, I found myself enthralled in the career mode early on. NASCAR Heat 4 is a realistic feeling take on NASCAR, showing you just how interesting and difficult NASCAR racing can really be.
First off, I fully suggest having a racing wheel set up for this game. Although it can be played with a controller, the impactful nature of the game is easily best felt on a wheel over any other medium. While NASCAR lacks the interesting and changing difficulties of multiple maps, that is how it is intended. NASCAR is not a street racing game about NOS and hair-splitting sharp turns. Instead, bringing to the table long, drawn out races where minute changes in speed, direction and repetition can make the difference between first and second place, respectively.
The story mode of NASCAR Heat 4 will probably be the main attraction of this game, for reasons I will get into in the Gameplay section of this review. Essentially, what is in store for you in the career mode of this game is pretty much exactly what I expected out of the game from the get go. You start on the bottom, racing on dirt tracks with other bottom contenders. You work your way up from the bottom to the top, making friends and enemies along the way. After each race you can enter a social media phase where you can respond to other racers on things that happened during the race.
Unfortunately, while the career mode in NASCAR Heat 4 isn’t particularly bad, it’s just not good either. For long time fans of NASCAR, I’m sure it’s fine. But if you want to pull in gamers from other games, you need to bring something new to the table. You need to show people like myself why we should have an interest in NASCAR.
I thought it was very cool that the game used real video footage from real drivers, even though I don’t really know who any of these people are. It’s an interesting concept that, in this context, actually works. It makes the post-race report feel more like a social media account that you’re running for your driver. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can say about these characters because I have no clue who they are or what they have done in the NASCAR circuit. For big fans, I’m sure that these characters are very well made and accurate.
-Other racers congratulating me on my first race win on social media-
Personally, I have always had an interest in racing. Specifically Formula racing though. The concept of building a car from the ground up within a formula and racing against others of very similar builds is very interesting to me. It means that instead of winning a race being reliant on how much money you put into your car, it’s about small tweaks in design and structure. The pit crew concept is what I was looking forward to the most, hoping that career mode would allow me to build a crew and Formula car from the ground up, increasing its viability with each race.
Unfortunately, none of that is in the game. Outside of joining a racing team and customizing the external look of your car and driving big left turns, the game is barren of what makes NASCAR… Well, NASCAR. This, in my opinion, is the games biggest down fall. The absence of any customization for internal components is a severe disappointment to me. As that was my biggest point of interest going into the game. Unfortunately, this lack of deep mechanics does not stop there. Although vehicle damage exists in the game, a pit crew to repair said damage does not. And in a game where races can be 81 laps or more, having no breaking of the constant driving makes the game feel very repetitive rather quickly.
Without something to break up the racing, this game quickly falls into the trap I feared it would. Because it’s NASCAR, you can’t exactly expect any maps aside from the actual raceways. It harkens back to the biggest complaint I have heard about NASCAR:
“All they are doing is turning left”.
While that isn’t true in real life, NASCAR racing being much more involved than people like to admit, in NASCAR Heat 4, that kind of feels true. Because there is no pit crew system or wear and tear, because there is no meta-game, the game just ends up being a bit of a snooze fest.
The real problem is once you nail down the racing loop, the game becomes a rather easy task to complete. It took me about twelve hours of gameplay to nail this down and now the bots don’t stand a chance against me. Made first place in my last three races before heading online. And this is where the real issues with the game stood out to me. The online community is barren of players on PC.
Knowing that NASCAR is a very popular sport, it begs the question why aren’t NASCAR fans playing the game? I love the concept of having large 40 player races. But if the player base is not there, neither is the game. It just all culminates into an experience that is more average than it should be. Anything that NASCAR Heat 4 does, other racing games do better, and unfortunately the game does not play into the strengths that NASCAR can offer it.
Although the music choices are good, NASCAR Heat 4 falls into the same issues that games like Madden and WWE 2k have. They do not have enough music. While the songs are good, hearing the same songs over and over in every menu quickly becomes annoying. No matter how much I like a song, if you play it enough times I will grow tired of it. They play too often, quickly becoming annoying until I just turned it off. The other audio work in the game, however, is solid. The cars sound great, the pit captain voice on your headset sounds good, the crowds and stadium sounds all sound good. No problems there.
NASCAR Heat 4 looks great. The cars, maps and gameplay all look and feel great. Unfortunately, as good as they are, they will never compare to something like Grand Turismo. It also seems to fall into the same issues that Grand Turismo suffers from. Graphics never make a game, and this couldn’t be more true than in racing games. There is a reason Mario Kart and Need for Speed: Most Wanted are so much more popular than these games. Gameplay features.
The racing genre is often difficult to decode. No two games are the same and some games tread the line into the genre without being in that genre. If you take Grand Theft Auto 5 for example, it is not traditionally a racing game, but a huge racing community has built up in its online community because the driving mechanics are solid. Then there are games like Mario Kart, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Twisted Metal and Burnout Revenge, games that are built on racing but take different takes on the genre to differentiate themselves. Then there are what I call “True Racers”.
These are games based wholly around racing. NASCAR Heat 4 falls within this sub-genre of racing games. They definitely are not for everyone either. Most people will probably find them boring early on because they have exposed us to exciting crazy games across the spectrum of gaming. Games like these just seem mild in comparison.
If you have a good wheel, shift and pedal system this game might be worth picking up. However, I think only the most hardcore NASCAR fans would really find this game very interesting for long. It lags behind the competitors in its genre. From gameplay to audio to graphics, everything in the game is just average. Unfortunately, with nothing to capture the general audience, the whole experience just falls flat.