Out now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, Nascar Heat 5 picks up where last year’s edition left off, albeit with some minor changes. Enough to warrant another purchase? We played the PlayStation 4 version to find out.
Much like the real life sport this year, the development of Nascar Heat had some “off the track” things to worry about. Monster Games left the development of the franchise, leaving things in the hands of 704Games. Despite the transition there’s still a very solid and fun racing game here, but having to dig their way into game code that (partly) wasn’t theirs means that changes are relatively minimal this year.
Obviously, a roster update is part of the package, with all the current teams and tracks accounted for. This isn’t just true for the regular Nascar season, it also carries over to the other racing series that are featured (and were also in Heat 4). Last year’s much-improved career mode makes a comeback, and it includes additional stats for you to keep track of as well as enhanced options to visually tweak your car. Other than that, it’s the same (but quite good) career mode we got last year.
Heavily featured this year is the eNASCAR Heat Pro League, the eSports version of regular Nascar racing, but since the game just launched it’s unclear how much of a thing that is going to be. It’s promised to offer the chance to get behind the wheel of a real racing car, so perhaps that’ll lure people in.
If you enjoy fine-tuning and testing your car to perfection then Nascar Heat 5 has you covered, since this is probably the most-improved area of this year’s game. You can customize your car’s set up and immediately take it out for a spin on the track in the brand new test mode, which feels like a much better option than just taking a car into a race and finding out the hard way that your idea was never going to pan out. With different circuits putting different demands on your race style, having a test mode is a great way of really pushing for that maximum level of performance if you’re a competitive kind of Nascar racer not just looking for an arcade-like experience.
Those who are competitive can also take the experience online, since multiplayer races for up to 40 players are supported in the game. This isn’t new, and if last year’s version if anything to go by then there should be plenty of online activity surrounding race weekends – perhaps even more so now that people are spending more time at home.
It doesn’t matter if you go online or not though, the core racing is still solid. Cars feel like they can take a hit despite going at blistering speeds, while that is also the danger – get hit in the wrong spot and you might find yourself spinning off the track. It makes racing tense and exhilarating, with plenty of overtaking and some diverse AI behavior – some drivers will push hard while others will gladly veer away if things get hot.
Visually, despite the updates roster that includes all the 2020 liveries, this is exactly like last year’s game – casual fans might not even notice the new look that some cars have. It’s a vivid reminder that not much has changed in Nascar Heat 5 – it’s still a solid Nascar game but unless you’re interested in either the eSports league or tuning your car and making use of the test mode this is not much more than a roster update.