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The differences between a real NASCAR race and what people think it is are huge. NASCAR races are battles of attrition and patience, cars are tuned to be technically identical, so winning requires the drivers to remain consistent and wait for their opening. It’s a far cry from the stereotypical “bumper cars and fiery explosions” reputation it has. NASCAR the Game: 2011 captures the reality of the sport, especially at the higher difficulties where you’re actually required to do hundreds of laps and manage your fuel, tires, and car condition. If that doesn’t sound like fun, NTG: 2011 might not be for you.
It may sound strange to non-NASCAR fans, but every circular track really does feel different. Bear with me. Slight changes in banking, track length and turn angles means every race requires your full attention. Misjudge the banking or go in too hot, and you’ll be saying hello to the wall every time; too slow and you’ll get passed or worse. You’ll quickly get to know the differences between the ovoid beasts. Super short, heavily banked courses like Bristol Motor Speedway are fast, exciting, and usually full of crashes. High-speed tracks with engine restrictor plates like Daytona require drafting and even bump drafting so you can slingshot in front of other drivers. Either way you’ll need to play patient and strike when the opportunity arises. Adjustable difficulty, assists and race length means you can cut your teeth against easy opponents in 6 lap races before working your way up to more realistic challenges.
NTG: 2011 features a career mode, challenges and individual races, in addition to online multiplayer. Players earn NASCAR Experience Points (NXP) for every race, and leveling up unlocks new challenges and additional liveries. Cars can be customized individually by hardcore players, but seeing as each car features a pre-made, track specific tune set up, you better know what you’re doing before you break out your e-wrenches. NTG: 2011 will include both the 2010 and fully updated 2011 Sprint Cup seasons, so hardcore fans will have two sets of races to complete.
While true NASCAR fans know there’s a lot more going on than just the crashes, the average NASCAR outsider enjoys a nice 43 car pile-up. While there are plenty of wrecks in NTG: 2011, the crash physics leave something to be desired. The game always does a quick flashback after a yellow flag is dropped so you can see the wrecks, but the cars look more like slick polygons bouncing into each other instead of savagely wrecked metal. NTG: 2011 could use a little more polish in other areas as well, there’s little to assist or train players new to NASCAR style racing, and the awards and win animations are recycled for every race. Non-circle track races like Infineon also feel a bit off, as if the game’s physics engine wasn’t really designed to handle them.
Despite the unfortunate large scale crash physics, individual crash damage on cars is modeled well, bumpers get scuffed and bent, and hard crashes will remove your hood and body panels. As with most sim racing games you have the option to keep the damage cosmetic if pitting in for a bent control arm doesn’t appeal to you. There’s also a rewind feature, a good idea in a game that could potentially have you losing the race after a mistake on lap 199 of 200.
Eutechnyx have done a nice job with NTG: 2011 but it isn’t going to win over many converts. “For fans only” is a well worn cliche, but in a game as incredibly specific and dedicated as NTG: 2011, it’s the truth.
Apr 6, 2011