NASCAR 2011: The Game review

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NASCAR 2011: The Game review

NASCAR as a videogame is a tough sale. The hardcore Budweiser-jacketed crowd demands complete driver and team authenticity (heaven help you if you get Dale Junior’s car number wrong), while the sport’s close-quarters pack-racing dynamic — on predominantly left-turning ovals — often intimidates casual racers.

UK-based developer Eutechnyx recently scooped up EA’s discarded NASCAR gaming license, and its maiden NASCAR 2011: The Game release — hyped as “the most realistic NASCAR game ever developed”— is a blend of attractive visuals, impressive track and driver accuracy, and various flawed gameplay features.

The game’s single-season Career mode — staged on all 23 tracks from the current NASCAR calendar — delivers some compelling roundy-rounder action, with enough A.I. and driving-model adjustability to keep these fender-to-fender 200-mph chess matches surprisingly gamepad-friendly. The solo game boasts impressive track fidelity, authentic motion-captured pit crews, and a nifty proximity-radar assist, but you’ll find some annoyances in your personal Chase for the Cup — notably an overmodeled drafting effect (where catching the slipstream of a nearby car jets you ahead faster than a nitrous bottle) and faulty caution-flag programming that completely ignores some crashes.

The 16-player Xbox Live game is the real tire-buster, though. Out-of-control cars wrecking on the front straightaway before the green flag ever flies (when everyone’s vehicle is still under A.I. control) sabotaged almost every online event we attempted. Eutechnyx may well have patched the problem by the time you read this, but at launch, NASCAR 2011’s multiplayer game was all but unplayable.

For a first-time effort, NASCAR 2011 has lots to like. But it needs some serious behind-the-wall garage time to get its setup right.

On Xbox 360

+ Features every licensed track, driver, and team from the 2011 NASCAR season.

- Caution flags don’t always fly for flagrant crashes.

- Broken, unplayable multiplayer game at release.

? How did Danica Patrick get elevated to full-time Sprint Cup NASCAR driver?

7.0

 
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