Have you ever wondered what it felt like to be strapped into a 750 horsepower stock car, and drive down a straightaway at 200 miles per hour, only to whip around a corner and drive right back the other way. NASCAR Heat by Hasbro Interactive puts you into the driver's seat of a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car, and sends you out onto the track facing some of the best drivers in the sport. NASCAR Heat features 26 officially licensed NASCAR Winston Cup drivers, and 19 NASCAR Winston Cup tracks, including the world famous Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR Heat is the first simulation in recent years to include Daytona International Speedway in its line-up of tracks. This is one of the most prestigious tracks in NASCAR, and hosts the Great American Race, the Daytona 500 each year. Fans of the sport have missed out on this track in all recent NASCAR Simulations, including NASCAR Racing 3 by Sierra and NASCAR 2000 by Electronic Arts. NASCAR Heat also includes such favourite tracks as the high speed Talladega Superspeedway, as well as the high-banked Bristol Motor Speedway. However, NASCAR Heat is missing two tracks due to licensing restrictions, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway. NASCAR Heat features some of the most realistic tracks ever produced in a NASCAR Simulation. The tracks were modelled exactly to the specifications of their real life counterparts, and even the smallest details have been included. The infields of the tracks have been detailed to the fullest, even to the extent of the race logos being printed in the infield grass. On tracks such as Daytona, you have the option of racing during the day in the Daytona 500, or under the lights at the Pepsi 400. Superb lighting effects make racing at night very realistic, and the paint schemes on the cars gloss under the lights.
NASCAR Heat features an all-new physics model, never seen before in a NASCAR Simulation. This is much improved over the physics in Sierra's NASCAR Racing 3 as the car tends to bounce around more during races, compared to the more still feeling you have when driving with NASCAR Racing 3's physics model . During crashes, the car can catch air if turned around at high speed, mainly at tracks like Talladega and Daytona. While driving through a corner at speed, floor the gas out of the turn and watch your rear tires spin as you sit backwards on the track. Touch the apron with your tires while driving though a corner, and the car will whip around so fast you will have no chance to realize what has occurred until you come to a rest on the track. To put it simply, this physics model is tough. Driving at superspeedways is not as easy as many may presume, as the cars like to bounce around on the rough surfaces. MGI has modeled the drafting and slingshot effects very well. Get out of the draft for a second, and you will lose a lot of time. If you draft behind an opponent for several laps and then dive low, you will "slingshot" ahead of the car in front of you , an incredibly realistic attribute of the game.
The computer-controlled opponents in NASCAR Heat are some of the best ever created. MGI was well known for its great AI (artificial intelligence) in its previous title "Viper Racing", and they have improved this in NASCAR Heat. Cars race you hard, and any chance they get to grab a position from you, they'll take. Get out of the draft at Talladega or Daytona, and the computer cars will swarm you, sending you to the end of the draft in a hurry . It is not uncommon to see the AI cars racing three wide at Talladega. There are , however, a few minor problems with the AI in NASCAR Heat. One of these is the lack of AI wrecks. During a real NASCAR race, there will usually be several incidents, but very rarely do the AI cars crash on their own in this game . You usually have to bump them rather hard to get them to crash, and when they finally do, they tend to drive away rather quickly. Another small problem is that , while pitting under cautions, the AI cars often bump you in the rear while entering the pits, causing you damage.
NASCAR Heat offers multiplayer support, but it is not nearly what that of NASCAR Racing 3 offers. There are very few features for multiplayer included with NASCAR Heat. Players are required to obtain the IP address of the race they wish to connect to, and connect using the built in TCP/IP feature. The big problem with this is that there's no great method of obtaining an IP address. A few third party programs have been released to obtain a list of race IP's, but nothing has been very successful to this point . One major problem with NASCAR Heat Multiplayer feature is the inability to have cautions during multiplayer events. One great feature with NASCAR Heat's multiplayer capabilities is the ability to join a race while in progress, and act as a spectator of the event until another race begins.
The sound effects in NASCAR Heat are some of the best. The game begins with a video and introduction sequence, and then music begins playing in the background while you navigate the menus. When you hop into the drivers seat and step on the throttle the engine sounds begin, some of the most realistic ever captured. These are simply brilliant, and the wreck sound effects are even better. The screeching of tires as the cars impact the wall and other cars is extraordinary, and makes the player feel like they are in the middle of an actual accident. The sound effects are one of the best parts of this game.
The graphics in NASCAR Heat are top notch, with full shading, and high-resolution textures. The tracks are smooth, and the cars look very realistic. We were surprised to discover how good the graphics looked on the older Voodoo 3 2000. Hasbro has gone down into the small details, including full motion captured pit stops, and spark effects, which are most visible at night. Animated flagmen and track warning lights are also an added bonus. Hasbro has scraped down low into the dirt to make the small details a big improvement.
NASCAR Heat includes a unique feature called "Beat the Heat". This straps you into the drivers seat in the closing laps of a race where you are required to complete a challenge to win metals. Some of these challenges include last lap shootouts for the victory, avoid the wreck in the last lap of the Coca-Cola 600, and battling in a severely damaged car to the finish line for a win.
Another feature in NASCAR Heat is the Race the Pro feature, where you race against the best lap times of real Winston Cup drivers. Can you beat Bobby Labonte's best lap?
The damage model in NASCAR Heat is based on the one included in MGI's previous title Viper Racing. This is one of the best damage models ever produced, as every crash is different. Although unable to obtain side damage, players can obtain roof damage if they flip and roll over onto their roof. This damage model is very unique as cars can even lose their tires and, once seperated from the car, will continue to roll across the track on their own . Animated roof flaps deploy in crashes, and look very realistic. However, there are a few minor problems with the damage model. It takes a rather large impact to obtain damage. Damaged cars cannot run up to speed with the rest of the field, which is very realistic, and un-repaired front end damage can lead to overheating and blown motors.
The interface in NASCAR Heat is very easy to navigate, and options are easy to change. The user manual included is not very thick, but gives the average player tips on how to setup the car and how to configure the game. Installation was simple with no errors or problems of any kind, and joystick/wheel configuration was just as easy. Hasbro has included a special joystick configuration window, which allows players to change everything on how the joystick/wheel functions, including button/axis assignments, and throttle response controls.
NASCAR Heat includes a full-featured garage area where players can setup their car for the race and qualifying. Players can tweak and modify almost anything on the race car, including gear ratios, spoiler angle, and tire pressures. Multiple setups are easily saved and can be switched between practice sessions just before the race. This is a great feature as players make those last minute adjustments to their setups before the green flag drops.
NASCAR Heat includes a paint kit, which allows users to customize their cars. This is much easier to use than the one found in NASCAR Racing 3, and even the least talented painter can produce professional looking cars due to the unique shading automatically applied to each car. Third party utilities can also be used to create cars and import them into NASCAR Heat. One minor problem with NASCAR Heat's paint kit however is the lack of modification players can do with the headlights and taillights on the cars, as well as the limit of one custom car at a time.
Hasbro Interactive has recently released a patch for NASCAR Heat, which includes many updates to the game, such as the implementation of more multiplayer capabilities, and a great improvement to the damage model included with the game. Some other features included with the patch are improved artificial intelligence, and a few minor bug fixes.
Overall, NASCAR Heat is an excellent game, which is enjoyable for everyone to play, from very young children to full-blown NASCAR fans. Hasbro has included many unique features never seen in a NASCAR Simulation before. With easy installation, spectacular graphics, and a physics model never before seen in a NASCAR Simulation, Hasbro has done an excellent job, especially considering this is their first attempt at a NASCAR Simulation. Hasbro has hit the nail right on the head with NASCAR Heat, and it can only get better from here.