NASCAR '14 Review (X360)

Deep Silver

We're now four games deep into Eutechnyx's - now called ETX Racing - run with the NASCAR license.  Each successive game has definitely been improved and was better than the one before it, but they have never really gotten everything right to put a complete package together.  NASCAR '14 follows that same pattern.  It has more cars and teams than ever, and loads of modes to play through, but the action out on the track still isn't quite right (fun, don't get us wrong, but not quite there), which kind of puts a damper on everything else.  Find out more here in our full NASCAR '14 review.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Deep Silver
  • Developer: ETX Racing
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Racing
  • Pros:  Loads of difficulty settings; nice presentation; lots of content; some fan-favorite Nationwide teams included
  • Cons:  Drafting sucks; tough to find balance between too easy and too hard; still no minor league circuits

Features and Modes

NASCAR '14 features all of the real tracks and teams from the upcoming NASCAR season.  Drivers are on the right teams and everything is as it should be.  It doesn't feature the new elimination-style Chase for the Sprint Cup format that will be used starting this season at launch, but it and any other new rules will be patched in.  Also interesting is that while the game doesn't feature the Nationwide or Trucks series (a downer), some of the more popular Nationwide drivers and teams are actually included to use here, which is appreciated.  We'd love to be able to play the actual Nationwide series and move up the ranks, but having a handful of popular teams available is a step in the right direction at least.

You can play quick races on any track with any team you want (and all of the liveries are open from the start!), play a career with a custom team, play a single season, or even a single Chase for the Sprint Cup 10-race championship run.  Career mode is more in-depth this year as you now can do research and development to spend your winnings on in order to improve your car and team throughout the season. The livery editor has been improved as well and lets you make just about any design you'd like.  The NASCAR Highlights mode also returns that will let you re-live key moments from the 2013 season.  New 2014 season highlights will also be added, but you'll have to pay $5 for a new content pack each month.

Online play has been improved with 16-player leagues featuring custom seasons, and special attention has been given to try to eliminate jerky and juttery looking car movements as well as improve accuracy on collisions and hit detection.  Playing online also eliminates some of the problems we have with the A.I. mentioned below, since you're playing with real people. 


Out on the track, NASCAR '14 is the best playing game from ETX Racing yet (NASCAR 2011: The Game, NASCAR: The Game: Inside Line), but it feels like there is still something missing.  The cars have weight to them and actually feel pretty good to drive, and things like warming up your tires before you just slam on the gas really do make a difference.  We struggled with finding a good balance between realism and fun, though.  There are loads of difficulty and handling settings you can use to make the game play how you want - all the way from a totally realistic sim all the way down to an arcade-style demolition derby - and at the extreme ends of that spectrum you can get exactly what you want. 

It was in the middle between the two, where we would prefer to play, that finding the balance was tougher.  The default A.I. is really aggressive this year, and if your lines aren't perfect every lap you're either going to get left in the dust or wrecked.  But when you tone the A.I. difficulty down even a little, the game becomes way too easy.  The difference between absolute white knuckle can't-blink-or-you'll-screw-up concentration on every single corner and being able to breeze by the A.I. with ease was only a single notch or two on the difficulty slider, which doesn't give you much wiggle room if you're trying to find the middle ground. 

You do eventually learn to race the right way, but it is tough sledding for the first 5-10 races you attempt before you get there as the difficulty curve is just brutal.  Or you can just say "screw it" and turn off yellow flags and damage and run the A.I. off the road on your way to victory.  Whichever way you want to play to have fun, we're grateful that there are options at least.

One thing that can't be easily fixed with a difficulty slider is the drafting on tracks like Talladega and Daytona.  The precision required to actually stay in the draft is absolutely nuts, and with the A.I. being as aggressive as it is, all it takes is one tiny mistake where you don't hold your line and the entire field parts like the Red Sea and passes you because no one will actually pull up behind you and draft with you.  And when you fall all the way to the back, good luck catching back up because the losers in the back are too slow and/or dumb to actually draft properly and catch you back up the pack.  Every other track is just fine, but having to draft at Talladega and Daytona is just no fun.  It does make me really respect the real drivers that drive these races.  It is exhausting to have to concentrate that much and be pretty much perfect for that long, and they're doing it for real. 

Graphics & Sound

Visually, NASCAR '14 isn't much to look at.  The cars look good with mostly the right sponsors (some are missing, though, for obvious alcohol or other license-related reasons) and 43 of them all driving around is pretty impressive.  The tracks don't look spectacular, but you can't see much anyway.  I do like the presentation touches like the pre-race festivities and victory road stuff afterward.  It really makes a difference.

The sound is also pretty solid.  The Fox TV announcers have a little pre-race thing they do and DW says "Boogity boogity boogity", so it is all pretty legit.  Most of what your spotter says has been recycled from past games, however, which gets repetitive pretty quickly.  The engine sounds are also fine, but monotonous after a while. 

Bottom Line

All in all, when you get the settings dialed in to the way you'd like to play, NASCAR '14 can be a lot of fun.  It is never on the same level of balanced pick-up-and-play where everyone can have fun like EA's NASCAR games were, but it is decent.  I just wish there was some happy middle ground between sim and arcade, because we really struggled to find it.  Presentation and content-wise, NASCAR '14 is easily the best NASCAR game on Xbox 360, and the gameplay is solid enough.  Not great, but solid enough you'll have fun with it.  NASCAR fans should at least give it a rental.