NASCAR '15 Review (Xbox 360)
For a game representing one of the more popular sports in North America, the release of NASCAR 15 has been relatively quiet. NASCAR used to command the same attention as other annual racing games and sports titles. This year, the Gamestop where I purchased my copy had only received two copies for each platform.
Worse, the game comes with a large share of the usual warning signs: last-gen only, later than usual release date, exclusive retailer, budget price, etc. The biggest issue, however with NASCAR 15, is that it's really just a rescind NASCAR 14.
First, I'll direct you to read the review of NASCAR 14. Why? Because developer DMi has indicated through what little press there is that the 2015 version is the equivalent to a roster update. What you got in 2014 is what you are getting this year, with a few changes (paint schemes, new car model, updated schedule, etc). There aren't any new gameplay features or improvements to write about.
This lack of development is too bad, because I find this version of NASCAR to be a sub-par driving experience. The cars handle like boats, requiring you to really jam the joystick to get the movement you want. Maintaining a straight line is more difficult than it needs to be. Even with the assists turned on, I found the driving model to be more frustrating than fun.
Perhaps this is because I'm a bad driver, though I used to love and succeed at the EA NASCAR games. More than my skill, though, is the fact that NASCAR 15, in its static state, fails to include improvements that have become standard in racing games. However, there is at least a rewind feature to mitigate some of the frustration after making that one wrong move.
Of course, with no significant gameplay changes, all of the other issues reported last year persist; most notable is the poor and inconsistent AI.
Now that we are into year two of the PS4 and Xbox One, it is a bit difficult to look at this game without criticizing graphics. Still, the car models and presentation elements are reasonable. As with other elements of NASCAR 15, don't expect big changes.
Commentary seem exactly the same. Lighting is hit or miss, with some shadows looking very bad. Similarly, the crowds are laughable bits of colored pixels.
Overall, though, NASCAR 15 decent looking and sounding game, especially considering the number of cars on the track at once.
Nothing new to report here, either.
In career, you start as an unknown, balance a small budget, increase some technology, and hopefully get a sponsor. It's presented in the most boring and dry way possible, with nothing to actual acknowledge your driver's story. Expect to navigate menus and drive, and nothing else.
Online play, according to the trailer, got some "enhancements," though as someone who didn't spend a lot of time online last year, I can't determine what they are. I will say that my online experience this year was smooth, except for a few times when connection was lost prior to a race starting. In-game, though, everything was fine.
NASCAR 15 isn't a great game, racing or otherwise. With no innovation or improvement to speak of, it's the same game from last year (which I held in slightly less regard than 2014's reviewer). Expect frustrating driving layered on top of a boring career.
However, if there is one saving grace for NASCAR 15, it would be its budget price. If you liked this game in 2014, paying $20 for a new schedule and roster update isn't outrageous.
Learning Curve: The nature of NASCAR and tight driving will challenge you; learning to handle the floaty nature of the cars will frustrate you.
Visuals: Cars and replays look good, though crowds and shadows don't.
Sounds: Really shallow and recycled commentary; the engines really drove my subwoofer and sounded nice.
Online: Same as last year; no major problems. Smooth gameplay.
Score: 5 (Average)
UPDATE: We have updated the developer to be DMi rather than Eutechnyx -- DMi became the new publisher and developer back in January after buying the license. We have also corrected the review to point out a rewind feature being present in the game.