Recently, there was an episode of South Park where Cartman wanted to become a race car driver but couldn’t because he was not “dumb or poor enough” to drive NASCAR. The hilarity of this episode pretty sums up my experience with the sport – I don’t really see the appeal in watching a bunch of corporately stamped cars turn left repeatedly. Also having a 2+ hour commute each day to and from work and with gas prices nearing $5 a gallon here in Chicago has left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to driving. I hate doing it in real life so why would I want to do it in a game? Granted these cars travel as very speeds but with this said, NASCAR games have a limited niche target audience.
Simply put, if you are not a fan of NASCAR, this game will not even be processed by your brain when you see it on the shelf at your local game retailers. However, is this game good enough to please fans of this left-turning sport? Unfortunately, I do not think so.
Again, I am a total noob when it comes to realistic racing sims. But this also proves my first point about the game; it is a difficult experience that leads to a wealth of frustration for new comers. When playing on the rookie mode, the easiest difficulty to choose from, my first three races placed me in dead last. And not only did I come in last, the first place racer almost lapped me. To be clear, I didn’t crash, tried to take inside turns, only nicked the wall, and attempted to stay in the draft zone of the cars in front of me. For some reason, I was just driving slower than everyone else. After getting my ass handed to me on the easiest mode after a few races, I wanted to immediately throw my controller through my television. Now, I had to play this game to review it; I can only image how a casual player would feel.
Besides not being user friendly, the game also has ridiculously long load times; I felt like I was looking at the loading screen longer than I was actually controlling a car. This is probably why trivia questions were added to the load screens at an attempt to keep the player entertained during these long waiting sessions.
Presentation values also have highs and lows. On the one hand, damage to your vehicle looks great as scratches, dents and bumpers bashes scuff up your vehicle. However, crash physics are not nearly as enjoyable as they should be. Instead of witnessing huge 43 car pile ups, cars seem to simply act like little bumper cars, animations repeat constantly and announcer is beyond annoying; yes, I know not to bump into the wall but thanks for reminding me every time it happens. Fans, on the other hand, will probably appreciate the strategy involved in succeeding on the track – when to use pit stops, how to beat your rival, when to use the slingshot technique, etc.
The lack of polish and steeper learning curve puts NASCAR 2011: The Game into the “for fans only” category. Everyone else should have more fun launching turtle shells at each other or speeding through topsy-turvy tracks in futuristic hover cars.
Not As Good As: giving away all your money to become poor enough to drive NASCAR
Also Try: wasting gas
Wait For It: a turning right sim
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