NASCAR The Game: Inside Line

NASCAR_The_Game__Inside_Line_Xbox_360boxart
5.7 Overall Score

Graphics | Accurate NASCAR Drivers/Tracks

Unavoidable Collisions | Erratic AI | Not Accessible to New Players

Written by on December 7, 2012 in [, , , , ]

NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is a game by Eutechnyx that plays much more like a sports simulation title than an accessible racer. While that may be a fine thing for those desperate for that level of fidelity, as a relatively new series (this being the second entry by the same developer) there’s still a ways for it to go before it meets Forza realism standards. In the mean time, the game has difficulty pleasing gamers on either end of the spectrum.

Inside Line makes a solid first impression with a rocking sound track and fun bits of trivia to occupy players during load screens. Once you load up the game for the first time you are taken briefly through the various portions of the garage, where you can select from single races, pursuit of a career or engage in online play. But once you spend some time tinkering with the custom color scheme of your car you’ll meet your first point of frustration – while the game guides you to the paint section, what it fails to explain (ever) is that these custom paints (and decals you purchase with in-game credits) can only ever be used in the single, one-off races.

Once you’ve come to terms with your milquetoast white and yellow car, participating in the first few practice laps of the career mode give a bit of hope. The cars themselves handle well and look nice out on the track, and once you’ve driven a few laps the game will offer a setup supposedly tailored to your performance, which determines what level of features like steering assistance or anti-lock braking you have. These options can all be changed, but one issue you may come to find is that because you aren’t actually sitting behind the wheel of a real car, it can be difficult to feel what it is that’s going wrong in any particular situation, so adjusting any of these features is really a matter of trial and error.

Getting the hang of going around the track without colliding into walls doesn’t take long at all and by the time you ace your first qualifying lap to earn the number one pole position, you may think you’re ready for the big leagues. But you’re not. The first race of the game takes whatever confidence you had and grinds it deeply into the tarmac.

While you can adjust all sorts of options like AI difficulty, tire wear, damage, fuel consumption or penalties, regardless of what you select there are fundamental issues that prevent both casual and serious racers from really enjoying the game. Needless to say, turning everything to a setting that ought to be the easiest does not eliminate the performance gap that exists between your basic car and the ones being driven by the computer players, nor does it explain the erratic behavior of the AI.

If you are more serious minded and regard NASCAR as a sport, you’ll be disappointed to see other cars on the road do absolutely nothing to avoid collisions with your car. Rather than just providing general interference with your racing lines, the computer often drives as if your car is not even there, completely sideswiping you when going into turns or forcing you to spin out whenever you have a slight lead on the inside of a corner. Even with no cars next to you, those behind don’t seem to be content to just draft off of you, but will press forward as though it’s their goal to get into your back seat.

If you can manage to avoid the pack long enough to actually race without penalties, you’ll find that the other cars accelerate quicker off the line and force you to lose position too easily. It isn’t simply a matter of not knowing tactics or strategy, but feels more like the other racers have already been gifted with the various car upgrades you can only purchase from the garage once you’ve completed a few races and earned enough credits.

The game does feature online play but the racing community is largely missing. Entering a lobby or trying to find a quick match most often produces no results. But even were a match to start, serious gamers always run the risk of facing opponents who treat the game more like Demolition Derby than a NASCAR race. It is a problem endemic to the system – turning NASCAR into a sixty dollar Xbox Live title makes it accessible to the masses, but without providing any training or tutorials to teach new players anything about the game’s technical systems the roads are more likely to be filled with bad drivers than good.

While the entire system is something that can be mastered eventually with enough perseverance, it’s something to be said that people expecting a straight racing title will be disappointed, while NASCAR fans looking for a realistic simulation of their favorite pastime will find the behavior of the other cars too unusual. Consequently, while possibly trying to please a majority the game ends up being a disappointment for just about everyone.

A copy of NASCAR The Game: Inside Line was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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Author: Patrick Cassin View all posts by
Patrick has been playing games since the days of Pong. To support his video game habit he got his BA in English. Then he cut down some trees, put out some fires, rescued some dolphins, got paid to go to prison, and arrested someone's horse. Now he writes the things he imagines that you LOL at.

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