There’s two laps to go. There’s a Green and White Checkered and you’re low on fuel. Your crew chief is shouting in your ear to lay off the gas until the restart and your spotter keeps cutting in to let you know that the driver behind you has agreed to give you a push at the restart. If what I said gets your adrenaline pumping and makes any sense to you then NASCAR The Game: Inside Line was made with you in mind. With their second outing with the NASCAR license, developer Eutechnyx has iterated on their first game and added a few new additions to try and make it feel like a new experience.
Like the previous game the focus was once again on making the driving feel as real as possible. Telemetry data was used to recreate every track to make sure that every turn, bump, and straightaway feels as real as it possibly can. The physics on each car doesn’t seem to have been improved too much but feels rather similar to the first game. The tracks and car models once again look great and panning around my car during pace laps was something I just could not stop doing.
I noticed that driving with a controller this time actually didn’t work as well as it had in the last game. I felt a bit too wobbly in the turns and too often wrecked the cars around me or slowed down from unwanted bumping. The game offers a few driving assists but with these cranked up it slowed my car down and I lost my competitive edge. I wish I had been able to try out a race wheel with the game because that seems like the preferred way to play. Theoretically it should give your car more stability and give racers more direct control over their car.
The Career mode has seen an improvement with this installment. Players start out as a rookie racer and progress through multiple seasons climbing the ranks of the driver. There are over 60 official NASCAR sponsors who will be attracted to your on track escapades and will give you the ability to get upgrades for your car. These upgrades eventually become crucial and give you a much needed edge in becoming successful in races. A single season mode is also available if players just want to jump in as their favorite driver.
Many fans of NASCAR games may never touch the Career or Season modes because they may just jump online for some multiplayer racing. The game allows for up to 16 players to race at once and offers practice, qualifying, and racing. As of writing this review the online is functional but like many of its predecessors it is a bit rough. Some lag and long load times mar the experience of what could potentially be a lot of fun. It’s not all Eutechnyx doing, however as player count, quality of connection, and even driver skill plays a huge role in how each race will play out.
Too often the group you end up racing with will have more than a few drivers who just can’t race well and you will spend more than half the race on caution laps and potentially never complete a lap. This is nothing new to a NASCAR game but I just wish someone could find a way to solve this issue. Most of the time the community takes it upon themselves to group up with those of similar racing styles and skills and only race with them. This is great for those specific drivers but divides the community and often leaves the online space a ghost town. I can’t help but feel like this may be the path that this game is headed down.
One great addition to the series is its Challenge events. The use of telemetry data helped Eutechnyx recreate some of the most exciting events in NASCAR history down to the exact location of each car on the track. Players are given the opportunity to attempt to relive moments through a drivers eyes by reenacting that last lap pass or block. History can even be re-written as the outcome of certain events can be altered by blocking a driver right before the finish line. This was where I had the most fun in the game. Attempting to complete each challenge was..…challenging. Each is very difficult and when I successfully completed one I couldn’t help but feel exhilarated.
The biggest hurdle the has failed to overcome is its difficulty. The game offers multiple difficulties and driver assists but still alienates the casual NASCAR fan looking for a fun racing experience. At its easiest the game is still tough and even though the AI may not be difficult, keeping the car on the track and tight in the turns is difficult enough itself. It’s great to see Eutchnyx listening to hardcore NASCAR fans looking for a realistic racing experience but I think they need to find a way to truly deliver both.
At its core NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is a better entry into the stock car racing genre than 2011’s NASCAR: The Game. Eutechnyx appears to have listened the the community that rallied around the first game and addressed many of the issues that they had with it while adding a few new tweaks. The game still caters more to the hardcore NASCAR gamer and not to the NASCAR fan. I think Eutchnyx once again missed the opportunity to make an easier racing experience for fans which may also effect the sales of the game. If you’re a NASCAR gamer than this is probably a must buy more so because it’s the only new NASCAR game available. Just remember to focus, take a deep breath, and drop the hammer!