To the average gamer, trying to dive into a NASCAR game that enables players to get into the intricacies of not only racing, but managing sponsorships, tuning, and developing a fanbase, might be a little intimidating. Luckily, in our hands-on time with the career mode, NASCAR: The Game - Inside Line (opens in new tab) introduces you to the world of professional race car driving in a way that may turn you into a real foam finger-wearing racing fan.
Career mode starts you off driving a low class car, then pits you against true-to-life, world class drivers like Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Danica Patrick, and forces you to work your way up the ranks. The great thing about the career mode--especially if you know nothing about NASCAR--is Inside Line walks you through the entire process of a race exceptionally well. By the time you finish your first race, you’ll know everything from how to take a turn and the effects of drafting on your engine to upgrading your car and tuning it to the track.
You won’t just be jumping into a forty-car race from the get-go. You’ll choose from a number of events, which include practice runs, tuning, qualifiers, more practice, duels, and then races. Practice lets you get familiar with the track. You’ll have the entire track to yourself, to which you can figure out the precise moment to release the gas or accelerate through turns, experiment with passing lanes, and make tuning adjustments in the garage.
Once you feel like you and your car are set up to race, you’ll enter the qualifiers. Essentially, qualifiers are time trials that determine your starting position during the big race, so doing well can have a huge impact on how you place at the end. Getting a fast time will put you in a defensive position, closer to the front of the pack, and dropping the ball will have you playing catch up when the race starts.
Sitting in the driver’s seat feels incredibly immersive. The third person view makes the game feel more like a standard arcade-style racer, but if you want full Nascar feel, the cockpit view is the way to go. As you’re racing, your pit crew will be talking in your ear, giving you tips on the position of rival drivers, encouraging you when you’re doing well, and pushing you on when you’re not. It’s gives a nice touch of realism to the races, and the tips might actually help you shave a few milliseconds off your lap times.
Before you enter your first race, you’ll be used to taking perfect turns on empty tracks, but once the real race comes around the corner, having forty cars surrounding you is an entirely different experience. You’ll have to draft rivals, take outside lanes, and maybe even nudge a few opponents out of the way to stay ahead. But doing all of these actions is extremely dangerous. Nearly any miscalculated move can result in a multi-car pile-up and even put you out of the race. However, if you do manage to pull off a win, you’ll earn significant rewards.
Winning a race opens up many more options in your race shop. The better you place, the more credits you will receive, to which you can purchase parts upgrades, like faster engines, a chassis that improves your handling, and other performance enhancing items. If you do exceptionally well, you might also get sponsorship offers that require you to perform specific challenges, like pass five cars in the next race, or draft an opponent for 700 yards--earning you even more credits in the long run.
NASCAR: The Game - Inside Line has all of the mechanics, options, and intricacies you’d want in a hardcore racing sim, but fortunately, the campaign does well to ease new players into the game and learn the basic skills they’ll need for higher-level, online competition. Be sure to look out for more on NASCAR: The Game - Inside Line as we come closer to its November 6 release on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.