Review: Going for the Sprint Cup like a bandit in NASCAR Heat 5

T was a dreamer. Since the beginning of his journey on Earth his desire was to drive racing cars. His parents moved early from Brazil to the United States where his passion for NASCAR started to grow. He identified with the suffering of its drivers, who got dirty in the mud in oval amateurs and who dreamed of reaching the throne of NASCAR. Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, and Jeff Gordon became his idols.

At the age of 18, T received an invitation from a racing agent, a neighborhood friend, who without skills on the track, decided to try his luck outside the asphalt. Harvey was only a little older than him, despite looking much more than it appeared. At 22, he already knew most of the Xtreme Dirt Car teams, the gateway to future NASCAR drivers. Since many teams needed to save money, having a car helped fill gaps in some races of the season. They started looking for a team that T could join and participate with in a race and get their attention.

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Making headlines like no one else can.

It was not easy. With 5 races into the season and no invitation, they were almost giving up on the idea when the owner of Queen-City Racing — a midsize team — answered one of their calls. It was finally showtime! For those unfamiliar, the Xtreme Dirt Car is the first step on the path to NASCAR. Next it would be the NASCAR TRUCK SERIES, followed by the sweet redemption of finally reaching the main series and the awakening of the great drivers. They knew that he had plenty of work ahead of him.

In the Xtreme Dirt Car they raced on tracks full of mud, with cars skidding and hoping not to hit the track guardrails or of life, since opponents could also act as rails on bad laps. The only problem from that is having to deal with them via social media. Qualification was not easy, but they still managed to place 19th. Even with ups and downs, the race was very good and T finished 13th. The next race would only happen 5 weekends later, but the wait would be worth it. He would participate in the traditional Wrangler 100 in Bristol.

That race was practically flawless. He started in 9th place, way better of a better position than the team’s intended goal. It was exciting from start to finish. After 15 laps T took the lead. The driver in first place had trouble passing latecomers and he decided to take the advantage. Eventually, their lack of experience weighed in and he finished sixth. The team was ecstatic with the result and said they would give him a spot next season.

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Hanging out at the pit lane.

The storyline above shows a little of the emotion that NASCAR HEAT 5 has provided me. NASCAR is not loved by everyone who likes racing: true fans are part of a small niche usually restricted to North Americans. For this reason, the fact that the franchise focuses on career mode should help racing fans feel more a part of the sport. It’s amazing in regards to how comfortable it sets you in and how you’re treated as a real driver.

An actual plot is not something that should be fundamental in a racing game, but NASCAR HEAT 5 makes use of it in a masterful way, which helps hide the various problems that the game presents. It is far from providing the best experience in this regard, but I had so much fun with it that it was easy to look past other issues with the game, like the dips in framerate that happen even in a light game such as this while playing in 4K. It would also help if the graphics could see a little more polish, and mainly some of the images that appear while the game is loading, with many of them not in 4k. Interestingly, the track asphalt is another interesting point worth touching on: it started to bother me visually after a while as I noticed some strange marks on it, probably caused by low optimization as my car speeds up.

All would be amazing were it not for a crucial factor in the analysis of a sports game: the ghost of the predecessor. NASCAR Heat 4 marked an era for the franchise, which prompted 704Games Company to use the model from the last game to make NASCAR Heat 5. For those who played the previous NASCAR Heat in 2019, NASCAR Heat 5 will look like a reskin of the one that came before it, even with added improvements to opponent AI, the overall gameplay and the menus. The old saying goes that you shouldn’t change a winning team, but they could have improved it a little more in this case.

I did it!

NASCAR Heat 5 provides casual players a very fun experience for those without a steering wheel. That’s especially true when it comes to the many oval circuits, where fine tuning prevails and having precise control of your car can make the difference in losing a pole position or even a race. 

Another challenge you’ll face will be finding crowded rooms in multiplayer mode with no free slots which can impair the experience of those looking to have fun with friends online. The only way to avoid this is to make a group beforehand and try to connect at the same time.

But let’s get to what really matters. I imagine you must be wondering what happened to that young NASCAR driver T, who started his career at Xtreme Dirt Racing, right?

The season ended and he got a contract with the best team from the previous season, and even we won a rival, Tony Stewart. The trash talk between them on social media was so intense that he thought Tony would purposefully ram his car during a race. His first victory came in the second race of the season after an intense fight on the track, round and round with Kelly Kates, one of the most talented opponents in the category. They’re now in the lead of the championship after half the season and have already received two invitations to race in the NASCAR TRUCK SERIES. It looks like they’ve almost in paradise, but there’s still a long way to go.

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