NASCAR The Game: Inside Line Review (PS3)
In the world of NASCAR, you must conform to the rigors and etiquette of the sport or you’ll have a hard time being successful. With that thought in mind, let’s take NASCAR The Game: Inside Line for a spin.
NASCAR is, in itself, a multibillion dollar business that manages to keep stands packed while people watch and cheer for their favorite teams and racers. With the exception of two road courses on the circuit, Watkins Glen and Sonoma raceway, ‘all’ these cars do is race in a straight line, turn left, then race in a straight line again. Sounds simple enough, but a few factors turn a simple idea into a much more difficult feat.
In NASCAR, all cars weigh the same, have the same base horsepower, and carry the same max amount of fuel. This creates a parity unlike any in any other sport. The cars are so evenly matched, that in order to defeat your opponents, you’ll need to use the laws of physics to win. Following close enough behind another car to drive in their zero drag zone, known as drafting, is key to being successful in NASCAR. Drafting through corners, then slingshotting past your opponent on the next straight is a great feeling. Seeing the same guy do it to you on the next straight, not so great.
NASCAR is a game of patience, timing and, as Ricky Bobby knows so well, teamwork (Shake ‘n’ bake anyone?). Two drivers, working in unison, can reach higher speeds using drafting. Just holding the throttle to the floor isn’t enough if you’re working alone. Tandems will pass you and leave you in their exhaust while you fade further and further behind. All of these things are replicated almost perfectly in the game.
When first firing up the game, I jumped into a Race Now game against the CPU. Playing with the difficulty, I found that the AI can be aggressive, and even on the easy setting the game is very unforgiving, but then so is the sport. Leading after ten laps in a sixteen lap race, be careful not to bump a wall and have to lay on the brakes. The pack may close that three second gap in a blink of an eye and you may find yourself battling somewhere in the middle. Concentration is key when traveling around the same track repeatedly. One temporary lapse could be the difference between the checkered flag, and a tow-truck trip to the pits.
Along with a difficulty setting, you can also set the damage level to your liking. You can make your car invincible to damage, have only visible damage, or fall apart completely if you drive recklessly enough. The damage can affect how your can handles, how well it drafts and how it corners. For the sim lovers out there, this game can give you the full NASCAR experience, right down to the gorilla tape on the front air dam. If you like tuning to get as much as possible out of your machine you can adjust gear ratios and wind drag. A custom paint and decal booth gives you the ability to really make the car yours.
For those wanting the full NASCAR experience, career mode gives a great in depth multi-season look into the race circuit. Hit the track for practice laps, fine tuning, and getting the feel for your new ride. Qualify for your starting position, then get ready to bump and grind. There is an option for just racing in one season, but what fun is that? Career mode gives you the chance to chase the Sprint Cup over multiple seasons.
As you race and start earning accolades and credits, sponsors will step up and assist you in earning more credits. These credits can then be used to upgrade aspects of your car that can give you a leg up on the competition. Engine tuning packs can boost BHP, while staying within the NASCAR limits. Chassis lightening can allow for more weight in your ballast to lower your center of gravity, making cornering much better. Brakes can be upgraded to also help in cornering and the development pack can help maximize output, while maintaining fuel efficiency.
The graphics for the game can seem a little bland at times, but that is also the nature of the sport. Each track does have its own look, giving you the sense that you are racing in that given location. This wasn’t an easy task given that most tracks look almost identical. The outlying areas around the track are what sets each track apart visually. Once you are in a race, the fans are packed into the stands and cheering. Win a race and you’ll get to enter Burnout mode and really get the fans hyped in the stands.
In a race you’ll have a spotter giving you constant feedback. As any die-hard NASCAR fan will tell you, this guy is your best friend at the track. Fans will bring radio scanners and listen in on these feeds to keep abreast to what’s going on. I’ve done this myself at Texas Motor Speedway on more than one occasion, and the in-game chatter is spot on. This spotter will let you know when to bump draft, block or slingshot. Someone trying to pass you up high? He’ll let you know. He also monitors the feeds from the other drivers and will know their temperament. If you piss off another driver, he’ll let you know.
NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is about as far from an arcade racer as you can get, and this is something you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re thinking of picking this one up. Even on the easy setting, the game is very unforgiving and style and technique trump power and speed. This is a fairly true simulator that should end up trackside in a fancy setup with a rumble seat and steering wheel. Driving with a controller is very touchy and a decent wheel would be the choice way to play.
If you are into NASCAR, and love sim racers, you’ll love everything about this game. With forty teams and drivers to choose from, everyone’s favorite should be available. Or you can always just be yourself and take on your favorite drivers. Whichever you decide, bring plenty of patience, a good understanding of NASCAR racing techniques and a good steering wheel.