NASCAR Heat 4 Review: A Thrillingly Realistic Racing Game

NASCAR Heat 4 cover

NASCAR Heat 4 is a thrilling and realistic racing game with tons of customization options that will impress professionals and confuse newbies.

With the release of NASCAR Heat 4, this relatively new series of racing games has moved to the next level. While sports simulators have long been a staple of the gaming industry, a truly great, realistic and well-rounded NASCAR title hasn’t exactly come around in the modern era. Sure, many fans point to NASCAR Thunder 2004 as racing done to near-perfection, but that game was released way back in 2003 and is more than a little dated now. Now comes the release of Monster Games’ NASCAR Heat 4, a game with impeccable racing, customization and easy-to-use menu navigation.

NASCAR Heat 4 sidesteps a lot of the flaws of past iterations in the burgeoning series by learning from them. In past games, the physics and suspense that makes NASCAR so fun to watch for its millions of fans just wasn’t quite there. Crashes were harder to set in motion, the AI was stiff and unrealistic and the experience was generally robotic in nature. That’s not the case with NASCAR Heat 4. Not only are racing physics a big part of the overall package, there are customization options intended to give players complete control over what will or can happen during any given race. Want the AI racers cars to have a higher chance of mechanical failure? There’s a slider for that. It’s truly a game that gives every kind of player the chance to be satisfied.

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Nowhere is this more clear than in NASCAR Heat 4’s online mode. Players can create their own races with a specified set of customization that all players racing in must abide by if they want to enter. If someone wants the most realistic NASCAR race imaginable and they only want to play with racers using those same settings, this is entirely possible. And given the title’s focus on more realistic racing this time around, these difficulty settings and sliders are very effective at achieving that online. For NASCAR fans who are looking for real competition, look no further than NASCAR Heat 4.

In addition the big changes that make racing just more dynamic and fun in NASCAR Heat 4, there are tons of little changes. Certain tracks have been updated to look more in line with their real life counterparts. Drafting has been tweaked to feel much more useful during a race and the game has a useful wind system that lets players know when the right time to make a move is. Even the crew chief feels more useful than they did in the past, offering sound advice for the novice and experienced NASCAR player alike. It’s these little changes and additions that make NASCAR Heat 4 such an enjoyable racing title.

Graphics are sort of a mixed bag, but the game nails it where it counts the most. Speedways look fantastic and so do the cars themselves. For the most part, this is all a lot of players are going to really care about. The racers, however, do not look up to par for a next generation title. Facial expressions are awkward and unrealistic and this is extremely apparent customizing your own character for career mode and other modes. It’s more than a little disappointing but to be honest, most of the time is spent behind the wheel of the car, so it’s an easy disappointment to ignore.

Speaking of career mode, this is where a lot of players who aren’t exactly interested in competitive races against other actual players will spend a majority of their time. Unlike past iterations, this mode isn’t nearly as repetitive as it once was. Races can be simmed and players are no longer forced to go from a lowly dirt track racer to someone competing on the superspeedway scene. NASCAR Heat 4 allows you to start wherever you want and the game mode is all the better for it. There are still times where career can feel a bit bare bones, but it’s never all that repetitive thanks to the overhaul.

The dirt racing part of NASCAR Heat 4, while largely unchanged, feels a lot more refined this year. The courses are sometimes a little illogical in design and precision, but car handling has been tweaked an improved just enough that it’s not quite as unfair as it seemed in NASCAR Heat 3. Not only is it still arguably the most fun mode in the game thanks to its chaotic nature, it serves nicely as a break from the big speedway races that NASCAR is best known for. The mode should prove to be just as popular among players as it has been in the past, if not more so.

NASCAR Heat 4 race

The biggest flaw in NASCAR Heat 4 is, funnily enough, also one of its biggest strengths: customization. This proves to be a double edged sword for the game as there are so many tweaks needed depending on skill level, that novice players may be left confused. In fact, players unfamiliar with NASCAR or even the inner workings of cars in general may spend hours finding their perfect set-up, which could be more trouble than it’s ultimately worth. There’s something to be said for making customization an important factor in providing players the ultimate control over their play style, but when it comes at the cost of potentially alienating casual fans, it might prove to be the game’s undoing. It’s an admirable flaw, regardless.

NASCAR Heat 4 is a surprisingly in-depth and layered racing game, featuring top-notch driving mechanics and amazing customization options. It’s a title that will likely capture the hearts and wallets of most NASCAR fans who have been waiting for the next generation of racing games centered on their particular brand of sport. Sure, it’s not perfect and the very same level of customization that makes it so compelling could be the very same thing that keeps casual players away. But there’s an admirable level of love and dedication racing through NASCAR Heat 4’s skeleton that it’s impossible not to recommend it.

More: Remember That Time Halo 5 Had A Nascar Battle?

NASCAR Heat 4 is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $49.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
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