|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Monster Games|
|Pub: Dusenberry Martin Racing|
|Release: September 13, 2016|
|Players: 1 Player (2-40 online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Online Interactions|
by Matthew Hayes
Monster Games and Dusenberry Martin Racing made some big promises with Nascar Heat Evolution. The marketing for this game was incredibly ambitious and optimistic. As such, I was looking forward to no less than what I was promised: a true, next-gen return for Nascar Heat with modern trappings and expertly tuned gameplay made possible by no less than five Sprint Cup drivers working personally on the game with developers.
My expectations have not been met. In fact they were dashed rather rudely, and I feel like we've been duped by Monster and DMR. I found it extremely difficult to put serious time into this review because the game simply is not fun to play. A discouraging majority of the reviews so far on Steam are from disgruntled sim racing fans who claimed that they had seen everything they needed to see within the first 20 minutes of playing, and they're requesting refunds. I can't say that I blame them - this game is not worth $60.
Perhaps Evolution's biggest failure is its presentation. I kept seeing screenshots and thinking to myself, "Well, every game can't be Driveclub and look amazing in photo mode. I'm sure it looks much more impressive in motion." It doesn't. There are a number of graphical shortcomings and distractions that continually put me off, and sometimes they even affected the gameplay.
While driving, you'll notice two fixed and distinct detail horizons that precede your car no matter which of the three views you're using. Right in front of your hood you'll notice the point at which the road begins to render in a finer, more granular detail. Beyond that point things get a lot less detailed, and there's another noticeable breaking point about 35 yards ahead of your vehicle where fence details constantly pop in, and beyond which the road becomes a gray blur.
Frame rate is also all over the place, and it makes the game feel like an awful mess. Sometimes during a qualifying lap, when you're the only car on the track, things will roll along at 60 FPS on a straightaway. During turns the frame rate will dip down rather jarringly, but it's nothing I wouldn't mind getting used to if I were having fun. When there are 39 other cars on the track, forget about it.
Monster Games' main selling point for Nascar Heat Evolution, besides the fact that real racers were working on the game alongside them, was the realistic and competitive AI. We were sold exciting races with guarantees of three and four-wide sweeps that would have us on the edge of our seats. In my experience, it's during those moments of nail-biting three-wide jostles that the game slows to a stutter, with the frame rate dipping down into what is undoubtedly the low teens. When you're trying to delicately steer your way up out of the apron and back onto the track on the tail end of a tight turn, sudden frame rate drops like that can completely throw you off.
I thought that maybe this was an issue exclusive to the PS4, as games made in Unity often times don't get along with Sony's console (for whatever reason). After perusing other players' impressions on Steam, however, it's clear that this isn't a PS4 problem; it's a Nascar Heat Evolution problem.
I can hear some of you already, chastising me for expecting this humble revival of an older series made with Unity to compete with the likes of Forza, Driveclub, and Project Cars. Well, you're damn right I do! You pay $60 for those games, and Dusenberry Martin Racing is going to make you pay $60 for Nascar Heat Evolution, so the comparisons - even for things like graphics and performance - are completely justified. Evolution doesn't hold a candle to those games visually, and the gameplay doesn't hold up very well either.