NASCAR Heat 4 Review
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Publisher/Developer: 704Games Company
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Price: $49.99 for standard, $69.99 for Gold, $29.99 Season Pass
Many of the officially licensed sports games I’ve played tend to rest on their laurels. They have the history of churning out a new game every year to keep up with current rosters and the like, and can usually get by with a slight upgrade. Last year I got to review NASCAR Heat 3 (check out that link, all of that data hits the core of this game, so the rest of the review pends on what’s new), and while I had never played any games previously in the series, I did note that there was quite a list of upgrades from the previous edition. This year, NASCAR Heat 4 brings the same mentality. I felt a hair disappointed when starting the game the first time, but after reading the series upgrades and going back to dip my toes in 3 again whilst playing 4, I found myself pleasantly surprised and excited for what the sequel has to offer.
First and foremost, NASCAR Heat 4 provides a brand-new engine, offering smoother graphics, an improved physics engine, and better AI. Last year I complained that I had a race where a driver got off of it’s predetermined track and just ended up “stuck,” with other AI just ramming into them like it was no big deal. In Heat 4, the drivers seem more natural, you can even work with a draft partner to help speed your way around the track.
Graphics are notably better, with more realistic reflections and some motion blur that clears up some of the minor errors made more prominent when going back to 3. New tricks are included as well, such as time transitioning from day to night in particularly long races. I feel like the cars handle more like real ones would, and there seems to be more focus on tuning up the cars between races, something that I really enjoyed last year. The overall User Interface is better this year. I like the layout of the main menu and feel I can understand what I’m going into a lot easier.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with a lot of licensed games (particularly sporting games) is how much they want to adhere to the real world. This means you end up with a lot of the same style and layout of tracks you got last year. The races feel notably different thanks to the new AI though. Opponents don’t seem completely stuck on one racing line, allowing you to weave through the pack more dramatically than before. Of course, fantasy tracks are in again this year, allowing a break from monotony and giving the developers a chance to be a bit more creative.
This year there is a lot of focus on difficulty customization. There is a plethora of difficulty sliders, allowing you to change everything from tire wear to how close the pack runs with each other. The driving aids have been cut down into six separate sections that can range from 0-100 as well. It may take a while, but this really lets you nail down your difficulty experience. Strangely, there are some “challenges” in the game that the developers actually suggest increasing your difficulty on, as this allows faster cars and lets you better hit challenge times. I understand consistency, but I also wonder why there aren’t tweaked challenges per difficulty level.
Purchasers of NASCAR Heat 4 will also receive a redemption code for $50 off the price of a NASCAR race ticket, so if you are already a big enough fan to be buying tickets, the game is basically free after you redeem it.
NASCAR Heat 4 takes all the stuff that got me to rate it a 4/5 last year and adds to it. Smoother graphics, smarter AI, and additional modes like integrated esports add to the package. Heat 4 may just look like the same thing in a different package (heck, the icons on PlayStation are identical other than the 3 and 4), but players who take the time to see the upgrades will see that this really is the better package.
-Last year, but better: smarter, more realistic AI, pit and garage tweaking that makes you feel like you are making a difference, and crisper graphics make this an overall better package
-Expands on real-world action with fantasy tracks and races
-I like the realism of not always aiming for first place. A true career isn’t won by 100% victories: if so there’d be a lot less racers out there
-It’s still NASCAR, which fans of action-based racers will see as “Left-Turn Simulator” (look past that people!)
-The series as a whole seems to have some annoyingly long load times
-Personally I liked last year’s soundtrack better
Special thanks to 704Games Company for providing a PS4 code for review!