NASCAR The Game: 2013 – PC
Release Date: Jul 24, 2013
Reviewed by Travis Young
Review Score: 3 of 5
It’s been more than ten years since I’ve reviewed a NASCAR game on the PC. I sort of got whisked away into the whole console scene for gaming since I mostly play sports and racing games and that is where the community was heading. My PC was eventually replaced with a MacBook for work, so I have been completely removed from the PC gaming scene for quite some time, but earlier this year I decided to buy a dedicated gaming PC and see what I had been missing.
I’ve had some incredible PC gaming experiences over the past few months, mostly replaying many of my console favorites on the PC and enjoying their improved graphics and framerate, but NASCAR: The Game 2013 is one of the first new racing games I’ve played on the PC and somehow, in the back of my mind, the memories of playing NASCAR 2003 are better than this new game.
I enjoy racing real cars in real life, so when it comes to video games I tend to slant to the simulation side of the racing genre. The more realistic the better, which I know can scare off casual racers, but it’s the job of the designer to add in whatever modes and assists are necessary to cater to that crowd. NASCAR: The Game 2013 is officially licensed, which translates to 43 drivers, 22 teams, and 22 tracks; many of which can be raced at night for a whole new experience. You can jump into a quick race, compete in a season, or check out the career mode where you create your own driver and team and try to compete with the big boys.
NASCAR: The Game 2013 supports Steam Big Picture mode, which means you can use a gamepad, but purists will want to use a wheel for the racing – save the controller for navigating the interface. There is a competent Virtual Shop with a Paint Booth that allows editing of existing car designs or you can create your own or even import other designs from assets created outside the game in Windows. Visit the Race Shop to add new Pin Packs and Decals to your collection or tweak your settings in the Pro Driver Setups. My NASCAR is your main hub where you can view online race results, screen caps, and adjust any game settings.
I’m guessing the first setting you’ll want to change is screen mode as the game defaults to windowed mode. After that you can start tweaking the settings to match your hardware. With my new system I was able to max all the settings like draw distance, motion blur, textures, mirrors, and FXAA, and the resulting game graphics were borderline photorealistic in some instances. Even running at the same 1080p resolution as the consoles, the extra level of detail and sharpness on the PC far surpasses console capabilities.
Before you get behind the wheel you’ll want to tweak the non-technical settings; stuff like transmission, steering and brake assists, and several others to create the perfect balance of sim vs casual. You can test your choices in Single Player modes like Race Now, Track Testing, or Single Season. Once you are comfortable with the game you can then jump into the Career mode for the ultimate NASCAR simulation.
Interestingly enough, one of my favorite diversions in NASCAR: The Game 2013 were the Inside Line Highlights Challenges. Highlights will definitely appeal to hardcore NASCAR fans as it picks noteworthy moments from the past several seasons and has you reliving them; or even better, rewriting them by changing the outcome. This has always been a cool feature in other sports games and I’m glad to see it come to racing.
NASCAR: The Game 2013 also has an online racing mode, but even three months after release it seems unusually hard to find a good race despite a somewhat active online community. I think back to 2003 and a game that supported 42 online racers, and we were able to fill a full grid with no problem. This game only supports 16 players and I’ve only managed two full grids in the past few weeks. I’m guessing the console versions are probably doing better in this regard, so if you are looking for a quality online experience you may want to pass on the PC.
Apparently, the designers are assuming their audience are experience racers and mechanics, as the game has no tutorials for the game, the sport, or even how or why to tune your car, and these are all fairly important things to know; especially the tuning elements that are required if you hope to win or even finish a race. The online community has come to the rescue with several user-created guides that will assist newcomers and casual racers.
Once you are out on the track you can expect a fairly competent physics engine and some randomly incompetent AI drivers that will swerve and wreck for no apparent reason triggering an annoying amount of yellow flags. In some races I spent more time under caution than actually racing and it does get annoying when it is out of your control. Driving controls are smooth and realistic with a racing wheel while using a gamepad will yield a console-like experience with a bit of imprecise seesaw steering. Gas and brake functions with a pedal are much more accurate with a better analog range of motion than you can get with gamepad triggers that you tend to either mash or release.
When it comes to NASCAR games, especially license ones, you don’t have much of a choice, but that’s still no reason to rush out and buy NASCAR: The Game 2013. As long as you know in advance that there is no tutorial and that you will need to already have a working knowledge of car tuning and setups, and that despite a functional online community it is disappointingly hard to find any online competition, then go ahead and give this game a shot. This is a game that was targeted for experienced NASCAR fans and hardcore racing sims; the same fans that will ultimately spend more time in the Challenges than any other mode of the game, which probably explains why I can’t find anyone online.