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Welcome to the new season of NASCAR 2013
NASCAR 2013 is a Simulation Racing game for PC. The game is developed by Eutechnyx who have previously developed titles such as Le Mans 24 hours and Big Mutha Truckas.
Most racing games are about shifting well and getting the best line through corners. NASCAR 2013 isn’t like that. In this game you need to exploit your opponents’ speed by drafting, tune your car well and be careful not to cause any fouls. Unlike most racing games where you can just shunt your want through the pack, NASCAR 2013 will have you slowly pulling your way forward through it.
The rules of NASCAR are quite simple – though I didn’t know any of them going into this game. There’s sometimes a double-yellow line on the inside of the track, if you gain positions while inside those lines, it’s a black flag – you can avoid this by giving up your positions within the allotted time. Crashing into other cars and causing them to spin out or hit the wall is a caution – though don’t be expecting any spectacular crashes, the damage model isn’t that deep; while it isn’t the best out there, it’s good enough to fulfil its purpose. Speeding in the pit area will give you a black flag. Black flags require you to take a pit stop within the next three laps. There’s an interesting rule called “Lucky Dog”. If you’re the driver closest to first who has been lapped, on the next caution, you gain a lap. The problem lies within the fact you can’t be the driver who causes the caution. This can backfire on you by bringing second place closer to you if you lap them, making it beneficial to avoid lapping them.
If, like me, you’re not well-versed in NASCAR, you’re probably thinking there’s not much track variety at all. If you only look at the shape of the tracks, you’re right. They’re mostly oval-y shaped tracks, though there is one track in the game that looks like a ‘normal’ race-track. While the tracks are all the same general shape, the size, banks, corners and pit area are all different. Some tracks are large and wide, allowing you to pull far ahead, driving solo. Some tracks are small and narrow, forcing you to stick with the pack. Some tracks are a mixture. It isn’t until you get out there and drive – or in this case play the game – that you realise how different these tracks really are.
In NASCAR 2013 there are plenty of customisation options to choose from. You can paint your car and stick it with sponsors of your choice. There is a lot of freedom in the design as you can make your own sticker using simple-shaped decals and turn it into one layer. Doing this allows you room to create detailed images and decals for use in recreating real-life stock cars or even creating your very own design – Not that you’re likely to run out with 1200 layers available. Visual customisation isn’t the only customisation available. During season mode you can unlock new sponsors for your car and also upgrade the parts using your race winnings.
TECHNIQUES, TACTICS AND TUNING
So you’re finally out on the track and ready to race, but are you really? What’s the plan? Do you keep a full tank and pit less, or do you keep a half-tank – or less – and pit more? If you suffer damages, are you willing to keep driving, or will you pit to repair them? Do you stick with the pack or pull ahead?
There are many different ways to go around getting to first place. One is Drafting. Drafting can be driving behind a car to reduce drag, then catapulting out from behind it to overtake it – this is the type most people are familiar with – but it can also mean ‘docking’ your car with another to allow both of you to gain speed. ‘Docking’ is a bit riskier as it can raise engine temperatures, but can have a larger pay-off if you do it correctly. On the other side of ‘Docking’, there’s Blocking. Blocking is simple and just involves positioning your car in a way that stops you being overtaken, but trying to keep this up can easily cause a crash and a caution – this could cause loss of position. Interestingly, while crashing brings up a caution flag, you can use this to your advantage and gain some positions by bringing the whole pack closer to first place and gaining positions on driver who decide to pit under a caution. While driving out ahead of the pack in first place can give you benefits such as a large time gap, sticking with the pack can often lead to faster lap times due to some of the previously explained techniques. Finding a balance between all of these techniques can be fun and cause for experimentation.
Tuning in NASCAR 2013 is exactly what you’d expect from a simulation racing game. From tires to aerodynamics to springs and beyond, you can customise each little part of your car in the hopes of creating a set-up that will help you cross the finish line first. Each different element of the tuning is simply described when you hover over it, allowing even a novice like myself to create their own set-up. While the possibility is there, it’s advisable to learn how to properly do it first, otherwise you might just ruin your car’s times.
Season mode has you live out a NASCAR career. You will be up against real drivers and attempt to win each race and challenge in a given season. Finishing in high positions rewards you with more money. Each sponsor has a challenge that can be completed during a race for bonus money. Money can be used to purchase parts for your car and some minor decorations for your garage. In Season Mode, you will be able to play multiple different modes such as Eliminator, Driver Duel, Gauntlet and Thunderlap.
In an Eliminator, your task is to avoid being the rear of the pack. Falling behind means elimination. As the race goes on and more laps are completed, there will be less and less drivers remaining, making it increasingly difficult to pull back if you’ve fallen behind.
Driver Duel pits you against another driver. Starting at opposite sides of the track, you both drive around trying to overtake eachother over a number of laps. If no driver overtakes by the last lap, the driver closest to doing so wins.
An All-star Race is similar to a normal race, but instead of one long race, it’s split up into segments and only has 22 drivers. Qualifying is the sum time of three laps and one required pit stop. After qualifying, you’ll enter the first segment. Placing first in this segment will place you first in the final segment. This repeats until we reach the final segment, where the winner of each segment has taken positions 1-4 on the grid making for a great advantage over the competition. The winner of the final segment wins the whole race, so placing low on the grid doesn’t guarantee a win.
This race takes place over two rounds. In the second round, the starting positions are reversed based on the finishing positions in the first race. The driver with the most points (cumulative highest finish) across both rounds wins.
Thunderlap is a traditional time-attack-style race. You are given five laps to try and beat three times: bronze, silver and gold.
Challenges – Highlights:
The Highlights challenges are based on real life. There are NASCAR situations from 2011-2013 to choose. These Highlights are based on re-writing history. Going back to those clinch moments from previous seasons and changing the result.
Challenges – Head-to-Head:
The Head-to-Head challenge is like ghost mode from other games. In this mode you pick a driver to compete against, a track to drive on and attempt to beat their ghost.
In my experience of multiplayer, coming into this as a novice, I was crushed. In the races I participated in online, everyone was much faster than me from the starting line, almost as if their cars were more powerful. I think the reason for this is single-player upgrades carrying over to multi-player. In multi-player, the only race option is a normal race. This was a little bit disappointing. There is plenty of control over the parameters of the race, which somewhat makes up for the lack of other modes.
Multiplayer seems like it would be most fun with a stable group of people racing as if in Season Mode and keeping score themselves.
note: I have confirmed with Eutechnyx that Single-player upgrades Do Not carry over to multi-player, and that it was all down to tuning set-ups.
THE FUTURE OF NASCAR GAMES?
This is mostly just personal taste, but when I think of simulation games, I tend to think of management aspects. I would have loved to have seen NASCAR 2013 incorporate more management into the game, such as hiring a pit crew, researchers and mechanics in order to unlock upgrades, have faster pit stops and give the player a bit more to do. If you’ve played Forza, you will know it allows you to hire a driver to drive in your place. If NASCAR 2013 had this and some more management elements, I would have considered it one of the best simulators out there.
NASCAR 2013 does plenty to redeem itself from the negative pre-conceptions of the sport, but only if you give it the chance to. While there are a few minor niggles to be found, they don’t detract from the well-polished and fun core experience. There is a large variety of tracks — Who’d have thought? — which all require different driving techniques and tuning set-ups. NASCAR 2013 is full of little touches that neatly tie the package together. From the ambient garage in the menus to your character’s feet moving in first-person view, there are lots of little touches that just tie the game together well. I’d recommend it for any simulation, racing or driving gamer looking for something slightly different.