Nascar Heat 3 Review

The latest racing sim from Monster Games, and the third in their recent Nascar series has arrived in Nascar Heat 3 as they hope gain some real traction in the genre. Admittedly it’s been years since I picked up a racing simulator, I’m looking at you Gran Turismo 4, and while I’ve had my fun with a variety of other racing titles like The Crew 2 and Cars 3 in recent years, I was quite interested to see just how Nascar Heat 3 would stack up. Throw me into the world of Nascar and color me curious gosh darn it.

Upon first glance at the main menu you can tell there is a lot of depth to Nascar Heat 3. From Quick Race, Split Screen, and Multiplayer to Championship, Career, and Challenge modes, there is ample variety from the get go. Of course, the first stop to really get waist deep in the action can be found in Career. This time around it comes with a brand new way of racing: the fictional Xtreme Dirt Tour. You’ll start off in the hotseat getting offers to take the place of racers on specific teams with the hopes of gaining a permanent spot in the next season. All of these offers must be completed in order to move on, which takes a lot of the freedom, and even some of the fun out this mode.

Once you’ve proven yourself, you’ll have two options: take the place of another rider on a team or make your own team. This is a big decision as one allows you the freedom to simply race and take offers, while the other allows you take charge of everything from hiring staff to improving your vehicles. If you choose to join a team however, rather than creating your own, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of incentive to continue the career other than earning money and gaining fans. There’s no possibility of earning or buying cars here and this feels like a missed opportunity. While some might love this new beginning of dirt racing, I found it to be the most frustrating type of races in the entire game. Though that might be the point, offering a bit of a challenge, I found myself wishing for the option to choose where or what events to take part in from the get go.

Competition Makes the Racing More Intense

Now if you’re looking for a game mode to get lost in, you’ll want to turn your attention to the Championship game mode. I found the competitiveness of this particular game mode to be a worthy incentive in itself, even without additional car unlocks or anything of the sort. Here you can use your own driver and your own car without being subjected to the Xtreme Dirt Tour. The entire premise here centers around your standing in the season from beginning to end. Kick the crap out of your competition over and over and you’ll likely take the top spot when the season comes to a close, fail to finish in the top ten, or even top twenty of a few races and you’ll start to see your position fall. Alternatively if you’re looking to really make a name for yourself, you can take to the streets aka Multiplayer mode, though don’t be surprised if you’re stuck waiting for a lobby for quite a long time. I kept trying to join games without much success, though once I finally did get into some it was a smashing, and challenging good time.

One thing to keep in mind throughout your entire Nascar Heat 3 experience is to take advantage of the qualifying laps at the beginning of every offline game mode (with the exception of Challenge). This determines what position you’ll begin the race in and it makes a huge difference on the experience. For example, if you qualify and begin the race in first place, it’s quite hard to lose that position throughout race. On the flip side, if you qualify last and start the race in 40th place the race feels even more intense as every turn and straight through is an opportunity for advancement. What I found most interesting about the entire Nascar experience is just how intense the races can be when you’re so behind, and just how free you feel in the top spot. In fact, being in first place makes it seem like the race takes a lot longer compared to when you’re vying for each and every spot. Believe me, you’ll need every damn lap just to make important headway.

That last point captures the AI ability perfectly. Though I played on the normal setting it always felt like they just couldn’t quite compete with my skill at times, which trust me isn’t in abundance here, especially in the beginning. Other times however it felt like I was getting squashed by the competition. This was especially true during the Challenge game mode, where the objectives were similar to that of Madden NFL for example, where you join a moment in Nascar history and have to win in the same exact way. Regardless of the offline game mode however, the AI were quite consistent the entire time: if you start in first place, you’ll likely finish in first having lapped quite a few of the AI drivers and if you start in the middle or at the very bottom of the pack, it will be a bit more difficult to maneuver your way up in the ranks.

Presentation Overload

Blue skies and puffy white clouds are in abundance just outside each and every track and graphically this game looks great. It’s clear that Monster Games took their time crafting each and every map down to the little details though unfortunately these are bogged down a little bit by a few noticeable framerate drops where the cars seem to move faster than the track could handle. With the same brush stroke Nascar Heat 3 sounds fantastic, yet suffers from a bit of an identity crisis at times. It features an upbeat soundtrack complete with a variety of musical genres, crowds that go crazy cheering you on as you speed past them, and a spotter that gives helpful audible throughout the races. Despite this however, some of the actual car sounds seem to be a little less hard hitting, like smashing into a competitor or gearing up as you gain speed. Additionally, the stories seen in career lack personality and come across as more than a little cheesy. The voices here could have done with a bit more zest for sure. Of course while these don’t sound horrible by any stretch, they certainly stand out against the rest of the audio that sounds great.

The overall racing experience here in Nascar Heat 3 is solid and the driving feels pretty realistic, with huge drifts and the frequent inability to gain traction on the dirt tracks, and smooth turns on the regular speedways. Whichever game mode you decide to dive into, each and every one requires strategy to maneuver the competition, proving yourself worthy to hoist the cup. With that said, and despite the fact that there is an ample variety of game modes to choose from, the game itself doesn’t really offer a ton of replayability. If you love Nascar and will enjoy driving around in ovals, lap after lap, you’re sure to enjoy Nascar Heat 3, though if you’re a newbie you might become bored pretty quickly.

Though Nascar Heat 3 is a solid racing sim overall, it could have raised to greater heights with more exciting content for those outside the niche market, and a few tweaks to the frame rate stability and cheesy voice acting. Despite the lack of replayability and expansive customization options as seen in other games in the genre and in sports games overall, there’s still a whole lot of fun to be had here, especially for those who love racing, Nascar, or both.

*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***