NASCAR The Game: 2013 marks the franchise’s return to PC after many years. It is in fact, a port of the 2012 console game, NASCAR: Inside the Line. There are a lot of things that this game completely nails, but it suffers greatly from technical difficulties and overall mediocrity.
Career mode in NASCAR 2013 offers an in-depth and realistic look into a NASCAR season. In each weekly event, you are given multiple practice sessions, a qualifier in order to determine your starting place in the race, and the race itself. Throughout your career, you compete against NASCAR’s finest such as, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. There are some downfalls, you are only allowed to choose one car from either Toyota, Ford, or Chevrolet, and there is no way to purchase more. Perhaps the most agitating is the fact that a customized paint job cannot be used in career mode and only in free play or multiplayer.
The actual act of racing in this game is a mixed bag. Racing on circular tracks with all 43 cars can be an epic experience and the ability to race 200+ laps can bring a great sense of realism. Another aspect that attempts to bring realism is the caution flags. These flags are used after a crash to reset the track and maintain a proper playing field between the opponents. While the attempt at authenticity can be appreciated, this breaks up gameplay and forces the player to sit through several load screens. The worst part is, more often than not, these accidents are created by other AI drivers. There are modes such as elimination that break up the traditional 43 car race, but it is impossible to play them while not in career mode. This is disappointing because multiplayer could have benefited greatly from a second game type.
Player assists are a common feature in today’s racing sims, they offer new players the ability to compensate for their inexperience. NASCAR 2013 has these but, often times they make the game downright unplayable such as auto-brake, a feature so ineffective it allows all 43 cars to pass you in the first lap. The AI can be in a new league of stupid at times, cars will drive in the opposite direction if turned around and some cars will randomly crash into you for no reason whatsoever. When it works, NASCAR 2013 can be awesome, it is the times that it doesn’t that bother me.
Car customization ranges from shallow to overwhelmingly deep. Upgrades for your car parts such as the engine or transmission are laughable compared to other racing titans like Forza and Gran Turismo. Paint jobs and decal customization is robust and on par with its competitors. The tuning system really shines here, just about everything can be altered and tinkered with. Tuning is a necessary action with harder difficulties and they can give any experienced player a huge advantage.
Graphically this game looks ok, but there is nothing that stands out. Cars and tracks look serviceable but the character models are stiff, however this can be excused because they are not the focal point of the game. Damage actually looks better than most games, showing damage that actually seems plausible in certain situations. For the most part, the physics work but there are times when cars will flip so unrealistically from the simplest crash.
What seems to never fall flat is the sound design. The sounds cars make as they race around the track is spot on and your personal race spotter who gives you advice while racing is not tedious or repetitive, in fact, he is voiced quite well. Music has a little something for everyone, there are country, rock, and heavy metal tracks to be heard throughout the game.
Despite all of its flaws, NASCAR 2013 is not a bad game, it is actually quite functional. Things like the trivia on the loading screen just goes to show the immense passion that the developers had for the brand. It is just unfortunate that they could not succeed from a technical standpoint. NASCAR fans will love this game, but everyone else will find their money better spent on something else.