Ready for the Big Leagues?
The timer counts down as I ride around the track. Around me are twenty other cars that are vying for the same thing I am: First place at Daytona Speedway. Itís something they have been waiting for since the day their AI was first programmed. Me? I was ready the moment I launched the game 15 minutes ago. I had done the practice runs, attempted to find the tutorial and browsed through the menu screens. By god, I was born to do this!
Ten seconds afterwards I had earned my first caution of the race and found myself at the back of the pack after I lightly touched the car to my right, causing him to flip several times before crashing into the wall. I was never able to pass another car, and I finished last. My first time in Nascar was a failure, and it wouldnít be the last.
NASCAR The Game: 2013 is the first NASCAR sim I have ever played. Itís also the first time Iíve ever really spent any extended time with NASCAR itself, having never watched or attended an actual event in my life. I incorrectly assumed that all I had to do was drive in a circle and turn left and Boom, thereís a trophy. It was that assumption that left me in the situation described above, and it took some time for that assumption to be changed.
Yes, turning left is what you will be doing in every single race, but it requires more than that to win. For example, you have to take into consideration whether you want to be close to the wall or the inside during a turn in order to better secure your position on a straightaway. Plus, you have to decide whether it would be safe to draft behind the car in front of you or to risk it and attempt to pass him. And furthermore, you have to choose when the best time to pull in for a pit stop to refuel and change your tires so you wonít lose your lead. For a game with such simple driving instructions, there is a lot of strategy required in order to succeed.
Pleasantly, NASCAR 2013 features a wide spectrum of modes that are quite refreshing in terms of their variety. You have a Career mode that lets you create your own driver from scratch and work your way through a full season of NASCAR, a basic single player mode that lets you run individual races with whichever settings you like, and a Challenge mode that lets you go head to head against other AI drivers or play through highlights of NASCAR history. Playing through the highlights was actually my favourite part of the game, as they allow you to relive epic moments in the sportís history by challenging you to either repeat the legendary feat or rewrite history with an entirely different outcome.
Youíre on Your Own.
Like any racing sim, NASCAR 2013 features many fine details that need to be taken into account as you play. Before a race begins, you have to adjust various settings of your car in order to determine the best set for both the particular track and the particular type of race you are participating in at the moment, whether that be a qualifier or an actual race. Fine tuning your stock car is a major factor in determining how well you perform in an event, and neglecting to do so will result in finishing races at the bottom of the pack nearly every time you hit the track.
Which leads to perhaps the biggest complaint I have surrounding this game: There is no tutorial or other information that teaches you how to properly race or play the game. What tutorial there is within NASCAR 2013 amounts to a short narration that teaches you how to turn left on circular tracks. I had to consult a user created guide in order to understand how to properly tune my stock car, as well as how to perform techniques that are required if you have any hope of placing high in events. The game does not properly teach you what you need to do to succeed, and itís frustrating to know that it could have all been solved with the inclusion of a proper tutorial.
Aside from the lack of a tutorial, my other major gripe centres around the sometimes lacklustre performance that the AI drivers have when in the middle of the race. At times while driving around the track, I have seen cars swerve into each other for no reason at all, causing crashes and pile ups that ruin otherwise normal races. It doesnít happen often, but its enough to remove yourself from the simulation.
For True NASCAR Fans.
There is also a fully functioning Multiplayer mode for NASCAR 2013 that supports up to sixteen players in a series of simple races. It works well, though I was hard pressed to find more than a few people online at any given time, so donít expect to find a large online community just yet.
How much you will enjoy NASCAR 2013 depends on which of two groups you fall into. If you are a casual racing fan or someone who has not played a racing simulation with any regularity, NASCAR 2013 is not the game for you. The lack of a comprehensive tutorial pretty much prevents you from gaining any sort of entertainment out of it past the first hour or two. But, if you are a fan of NASCAR and its simulations, or if you have plenty of experience with racing simulations, I think you will be able to look past the obstacles and find a relatively enjoyable game within.
Wide variety of modes, simple yet strategic gameplay
No tutorial, somewhat poor AI