NASCAR SimRacing Review

Exit the NASCAR Thunder series and enter NASCAR SimRacing. EA Sport’s newest NASCAR offering tries to appeal to both the hardcore sim fan as well as the casual gamer. While it falls a bit short of being ideal for these gamers at both ends of the racing spectrum, it proves to be a competent game for most of those in between.

Two things that always come to mind when looking at a racing game are the cars and the tracks, and SimRacing certainly doesn’t disappoint on these items. You get 25 real-world tracks, a few fantasy tracks, and over 60 professional drivers and their vehicles from NASCAR’s National Series, Craftsman Truck Series, and Nextel Cup Series. The cars are for the most part authentic to the point of inclusion of color variants used by some pros, but ad logos have been changed probably due to various licensing issues. Each track is meticulously modeled on its real-life counterpart, so you’ll be racing on the same surface and screaming around turns at the same bank angle as the pros.

When you first start SimRacing you’ll have a variety of play modes from which to choose. You can run a short race using your favorite driver’s car, test your endurance with an authentic full-length race, or begin a career in racing. Getting to these options can be a little tricky, though. SimRacing’s interface is not very intuitive and you’ll have to wade through several levels of slowly transitioning menu screens before you find what you are looking for. Remember those hundreds of cars that I mentioned earlier? The only way to select the car that you want is to scroll through all of the cars in the game until you find it. And once you’re ready to race, your reward is an excruciatingly long load screen.

Interface issues aside, once you do make it to the game’s settings menu you’ll find that you have a great degree of control over the customization of the game’s realism levels. Tone everything down and you’ve got an arcade racer that will give novices a chance to win a few races. Crank it all up and the game is a true sim, with realistic car handling and aggressive competition. Whether or not the highest degree of realism will appease the truly hardcore racing fan is matter for debate, but most gamers will find it to be extremely challenging. The parts of the simulation that fall short are in the areas of research and sponsorship. Research is simply a matter of selecting an area to research such as aerodynamics or power. Then it is simply a matter of waiting the requisite number of races for the research to be completed. Outside of adding additional funds to research to speed it up slightly, there is not anything else for you to do and overall this aspect of the game feels thin and underdeveloped. Sponsorship is accomplished by checking the sponsors page for a list of your current offers. This list depends entirely on your on-track performance and if you lose a fair amount of races, you’ll find the list growing smaller each time you visit. There’s not much in the way of depth here – you’re not conducting negotiations or actively wooing sponsors. It’s a simple matter of winning gives you more sponsorship opportunities and losing giving you less.

Once you eventually make your way to a race you’ll find SimRacing’s rendering of the cars and tracks to be phenomenal. The view from your car is appropriately limited and conveys a sense of the feeling of cramped quarters. As you circle the track, you can watch the sunlight and shadows move through the car and across your dashboard. A nice feature of the game is that you can control the type of heads-up display used by the game. You can read the gauges off of the dashboard as if you were really driving the car, or you can select from a couple of other views which provide you with a zoomed-in look at the gauges. You can cycle through these views on the fly with the touch of a key, making it easy to switch between more information and greater visibility on the fly.