NASCAR: The Game feeds the NASCAR video game need

I was more excited than most for the release of NASCAR: The Game 2011. It’d been a long time since there was a playable NASCAR game on the market — the last two efforts from EA Sports were incredibly weak — and I was sick of playing NASCAR 07 when I needed a fix.

I’ll be honest, I was so excited for the game that my expectations were pretty low. All I wanted was a NASCAR game that I could pick up and enjoy and not feel like I had to spend 90 percent of my time perfecting my setup just to be competitive.

And on that front, NTG is the real deal. The game looks impressive — when racing at Las Vegas I got flashbacks to the third week of the season — and each track and car is incredibly rendered. I picked a driver, hopped into the game and I was competitive.

The racing is authentic, and the controls are pretty pure for only using a controller. If you get down on the apron in the corners, the car bobbles and you have to slow down to regain control and not push into the wall off corner exit. You can run the high line with authority and pinch drivers down inside of you and prevent them from getting runs off the corners.

The car feels stable, but not so stable that you feel you can simply mat the gas at any point and not pay the price by smashing the wall. Consistent corner entry and braking points are imperative, just like in the Cup Series.

But there are some flaws. When I said I was competitive, I actually meant "really good." On the hardest AI setting possible, I won in my first race at Kansas.

While there’s a testing option, there’s no practice option in any game mode, meaning that the only time you take to a track with other cars is during a race. AI cars tend to get bottled up and sluggish off of the corners, meaning that you either have two options when behind a pack of cars at non-plate tracks: you can either smash into them or pass them all in a flash. Not very realistic.

The draft is vastly overstated at non-restrictor plate tracks. Sometimes cars in 35th place were running the fastest laps of the race because of the draft. However — and inexplicably, according to the laws of physics — the draft really only works if you’re the trailing car.

You can mimic the two-car draft at Daytona and Talladega, but you can only gain spots as the follower. If you’re the lead car, you quickly find yourself going less than 190 MPH and losing touch with the leaders. And cautions are bizarre. I can only remember the caution coming out once for crashes I didn’t cause.  (And you can race as Jennifer Jo Cobb and Danica Patrick in the Cup Series. Never mind the fact that they’ve never actually, you know, raced in the Cup Series.)

But I have to give the developers at Eutechnyx a lot of credit. They had 18 months to work on the game and are working on a patch for 2011 paint schemes (and hopefully gameplay issue fixes). What they’ve accomplished in that short of a timeframe is very impressive, and this is a great baseline for following editions of the NTG series.

Should you buy it? If you’re looking for a new-generation console NASCAR game, yes. It’s still fun enough to be playable for months and while you may have to crank up the difficulty level, you’re not going to go out and dominate every race. It’s not perfect, but what is?

Or if you don’t want to buy it, you can win it. If I get to 1,000 followers on Twitter by April 25th, I’ll give away a sealed (and signed!) copy of NASCAR: The Game 2011 for XBox 360 in a Twitter contest that evening. So what are you doing? Click here and follow me on Twitter for your chance to win!

(Note: a copy of this game was provided to Yahoo! Sports for review purposes.)

NASCAR: The Game feeds the NASCAR video game need

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  1. james robinson says:

    i need me a setup for talladega nascar the game 2011


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