"Another step for NASCAR games, but not a very big one"
It has been a rough world for NASCAR games in the past. Each year they seem to get better, but not as much as fans would hope. NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is the newest game for the sport released for consoles, but what does it offer for not just fans of the sport but driving game enthusiasts?
NASCAR fans know that stock car racing is much harder and much more challenging than outsiders perceive it to be. It’s not simply about "going around in circles forever", it’s about drafting and conquering positions throughout the race, and making the lead by strategically passing during the straights. In short: I’d like to see you try and do it. So what does that mean for a NASCAR game? It means a good one should utilize and develop the passing and drafting elements of real life NASCAR within the gameplay to the extreme. NASCAR The Game: Inside Line succeeds at this.
But perhaps it succeeds a little too well, because if you don’t know what to do, then you’re going to be all over the place. The sad part is though, NASCAR The Game: Inside Line doesn’t feel all much like a car-sim at all; it seems to sit in limbo between an action-arcade racer and a car sim. Add in the fact it’s a NASCAR game and it's going to a niche audience, and it makes me wonder how many copies of this game are actually going to sell. F1 2012 was a game which takes a niche sport (at least here in the states) and does all it can to bring in new players via a fine balance of design and options.
NASCAR The Game: Inside Line doesn’t do much of this at all. Again, due to the nature of the NASCAR sport in general, you will be going around a track in typical NASCAR fashion, so those seeking a rally kind of game, full of twists and turns, may get a little bored at the circular nature of this type of racing. That is the thing, however: if you are huge NASCAR fan, NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is probably one of the best NASCAR games to date. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying too much, considering the past. Even so, there just doesn’t seem to be enough realism here. Sure, you race, but to what extent?
F1 games give you the feeling of a battle as you fight rivals and position in the rankings, recreating the media frenzy that exists in real life for that sport, so why is that forgotten in NASCAR games? We, NASCAR fans, are passionate about our sport and the drivers. Stock car racing has its roots in racing for pride (along with that whole bootlegging thing), and it continues on the track today and among the fans. This is the second most watched sport in America, so why is that realism of in-game passion missing here? Where is the chance to really feel victory when you win? Where is the reward? We get a better car, better equipment, but there’s really no point in these races other than to move onto the next. Where F1 2011 and F1 2012 have recreated the thrill of victory and the rewards it brings both in equipment and in rankings, NTGIL fails completely. This sucks because it's what NASCAR games have been missing time after time.
At least NTGIL gives us some pretty good graphics, realistic sounds and all of that jazz, but it also fails on another level. The A.I. cars can be described in one word: lazy. They aren’t aggressive enough to try to catch up to you. Once I jockeyed in position for first place, it really didn’t seem hard to stay there lap after lap.
At the end of the day, I wonder how many non-NASCAR fans will actually even give this game a chance, but I have to say, why bother? Even fans of NASCAR may have fun with it for a few hours, but they'll be done with it soon after. It will take only the most hardcore NASCAR fan to keep racing track after track, which is unfortunate because NASCAR The Game: Inside Line will fail to bring in racing / driving-sim gamers who would be willing to pick up a NASCAR title if it were stronger in content.
GameDynamo's Score for NASCAR The Game: Inside Line (PS3)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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