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NASCAR HEAT 2 Hands-On Preview, Coming to Consoles this Fall

NASCAR Heat 2

NASCAR HEAT 2 Hands-On Preview, Coming to Consoles this Fall

Here we are in 2017 and fans of NASCAR are still waiting for a title that at the very least matches what was developed and released over a decade ago. The drought is real, and so is the frustration. Our requests seem simple enough, right? Give us a title that closely replicates what we see during a race weekend, and we will open our wallets and hearts with unending support. While series like NBA 2K, Madden NFL and FIFA perennially sell two million copies or more, the best-selling NASCAR title sold just over 1.2 million copies — and yes, that’s the best-selling NASCAR title ever.

Now that being said, we are not without hope. Last year, Developer Dusenberry/Martin released NASCAR Heat Evolution. A game created in part with the beloved developer Monster Games, original creator of NASCAR Dirt to Daytona back in the early 2000s. This year, while under a new moniker of 704 Games, they hope to build on the foundation of the first iteration.

While NASCAR Heat may have may have lacked depth, a few areas in which it did excel were the driving model and competent AI ability. Obviously one does not have to be a certified genius to understand that those two aspects are two of the most important aspects of any racing title.

It is common knowledge that this year’s NASCAR Heat 2 will include the top three series of NASCAR, what is not known to the general public, is how those three series feel and perform on the track. I was lucky enough to sit down with Sean Burke (Marketing Manager) and Matt Dusenberry (Marketing Partnership Manager) of 704 games to talk a bit about what this year’s game entails. I also was lucky enough to play NASCAR Heat 2 myself, and while at this juncture there are many components that were not yet implemented (pre-alpha stage), the foundation is built and showed a lot of promise.

Initially I  jumped into the Cup Series, and raced a couple of quick five-lap races at Atlanta and Miami, and while my time was short, the duration was long enough to notice the AI seemed a bit more aggressive this year, and a little more willing to choose different lines. The weight felt good on the car, and the ability to navigate the pack in a precise fashion felt great. The one thing that did stand out was the AI’s willingness to be a bit more aggressive in the form of stealing an open spot before I could.  The AI seemed smarter and recognized what potential moves were available to be made. Another aspect that stuck out was the fact that, although I was on the default level of difficulty, the ability to pass multiple cars at once seemed toned down. It was still prevalent, but definitely not as easy to do in the original game on the default difficulty, so that bodes well for the users who like to challenge themselves on the higher difficulty levels.

Other Series (Xfinity, Truck Series)

Next I ran the Xfinity Series at Iowa, and it’s hard to describe how glorious it was to see this track on a console in HD. The cars handled a bit similar, and many had no paint scheme yet, but to drive around this beautiful facility created and designed by Rusty Wallace was almost tear-inducing. The track had the feel and look as if you were actually sitting in the car on the track in Newton Iowa, and that type of organic immersion is not easily accomplished.

Finally I took part in the truck series at Eldora because there was zero chance I was leaving the office without racing on dirt. While there was just a minimal difference between how the Cup and Xfinity car felt, the difference was dramatic in how the Cup and Truck felt. The weight, the handling and the overall driving physics made you feel like you were driving a sanctioned Camping World truck around; and while that may seem like a “well it should” type of moment, the fact remains it does feel that way, and it’s welcomed and appreciated. I was surprised with how good the dirt physics felt while driving the truck. While it didn’t require a master-like driving skill and ability of say iRacing, that was never the developer’s intent. Please do not let that last comment worry you at all because the dirt physics felt and looked great, and I have no doubt that this will be an extremely popular series racing online. And for those of you wondering, the answer is yes, all three series will be available to race online.

New Focus for NASCAR Heat 2

After my time with the game was done, I spoke with Sean and asked what the main focus was for this year’s title was? “With NASCAR Heat Evolution, we established a strong racing foundation,” said Burke. “In NASCAR Heat 2, it was all about fine tuning that experience and adding in a bunch of fantastic features. Obviously the biggest focus was adding in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. Adding in these other series involved new vehicle models, new views, new sounds, new physics, new tracks, new drivers, and much, much more.”

For many fans of the title, scouring the internet for information about this year’s title is not uncommon, so I spoke to Sean about what might be the most surprising element of this year’s title to the community? “[The amount] of focus and work we put into the Career mode of NASCAR Heat 2. We’re not ready to talk about it just yet, but fans can expect news this summer.”

And that answer lead me to my last question of the day, which was what is the one aspect of this year’s title that 704 Games is most proud of with NH2? “I wouldn’t say there’s one particular feature we’re proudest of, but more of a collective feeling of accomplishment. It’s all about the fans for us. We listened to fans in the months following NASCAR Heat Evolution’s release. Players will be impressed with how many of their requests we were able to pack into NASCAR Heat 2.”

Final Thoughts On Our Time With NASCAR Heat 2

While I can’t talk about everything I saw just yet, what I can say is that I am extremely excited to get back to the office in late July and play the newest build, which will be close to the final build. There were a lot of positives to take from my short time, and potentially the wait may be over for long-suffering NASCAR console video game fans. There is still a lot of time between now and the release date of September 12, but all things seem to be trending in the right direction for this year’s title, and we can only hope that the final product will put many of the community’s concerns and wants to rest — finally.

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  1. I'm excited to try the truck series.   This was a great article and it highlights your love for NASCAR and how you want a game to simulate it.  Looking forward to this title in September.
    Looking at the screenshots from Homestead and Eldora, they have a late afternoon look to them. I'm hoping it fades into the early evening and into the night. 
    Nice write up.
    Can any early indications be given at this point to what (if any) driver assists were added to the driving model? I think in the other thread with the video interview that was hard to hear it sounded like the 704 Games Rep mentioned addition of assists and such.
    Early indications sound like they've done a lot of improving to the core game itself in addition to adding the NXS and CWTS. I'd have thought they'd be out there touting those additions already. I get it, release is a ways away but you have to think they know they hurt themselves pretty badly with last years release in the rough, limited shape it was. Sure, lots of potential, but a lot to be desired too. Better frame rates are a must as well, the game really struggled to keep up if you used the rearview mirror, or there was an on track incident. That's got to be improved too.
    Just was wondering if there's any addition information that can be provided in regards to those items at this point since you spent time with it.
    The talk about the AI being more aggressive concerns me a bit. I saw some indicents last year where the AI get pretty aggressive at driving underneath you if you leave the lane open, but they seem to do it at speeds and car control that seem to defy the physics of racing. Almost as if they were being aggressive just for the sake of making you pay for your mistake and they could do so with no repercussions. I'm all for better, harder racing AI, but I need their cars to be operating under the same sets of physics rules as mine still. There was nothing worse in last years game than getting a small tap from an AI driver and spinning wildly out of control, but when giving the same tap to an AI driver they're stuck to the track like a tank. It's the thing I think I love most about F1's AI... and F1 is obviously not a rubbin's racing kind of racing (lol) but if you have slight contact, the AI car is likely going around out of control, and taking damage just the same way yours is.
    Other than that, it sounds promising, just have to be careful here because it sounded that way too last year, and I was pretty disappointed. Had fun with it once I accepted it for what it was, and learned to live with the fact I paid premium price, for a not so premium offering. There was fun to be had, you just had to be patient and overlook all of it's flaws. So I'm optimistic, yet cautious.
    brandon27
    Nice write up.
    Can any early indications be given at this point to what (if any) driver assists were added to the driving model? I think in the other thread with the video interview that was hard to hear it sounded like the 704 Games Rep mentioned addition of assists and such.
    Early indications sound like they've done a lot of improving to the core game itself in addition to adding the NXS and CWTS. I'd have thought they'd be out there touting those additions already. I get it, release is a ways away but you have to think they know they hurt themselves pretty badly with last years release in the rough, limited shape it was. Sure, lots of potential, but a lot to be desired too. Better frame rates are a must as well, the game really struggled to keep up if you used the rearview mirror, or there was an on track incident. That's got to be improved too.
    Just was wondering if there's any addition information that can be provided in regards to those items at this point since you spent time with it.
    The talk about the AI being more aggressive concerns me a bit. I saw some indicents last year where the AI get pretty aggressive at driving underneath you if you leave the lane open, but they seem to do it at speeds and car control that seem to defy the physics of racing. Almost as if they were being aggressive just for the sake of making you pay for your mistake and they could do so with no repercussions. I'm all for better, harder racing AI, but I need their cars to be operating under the same sets of physics rules as mine still. There was nothing worse in last years game than getting a small tap from an AI driver and spinning wildly out of control, but when giving the same tap to an AI driver they're stuck to the track like a tank. It's the thing I think I love most about F1's AI... and F1 is obviously not a rubbin's racing kind of racing (lol) but if you have slight contact, the AI car is likely going around out of control, and taking damage just the same way yours is.
    Other than that, it sounds promising, just have to be careful here because it sounded that way too last year, and I was pretty disappointed. Had fun with it once I accepted it for what it was, and learned to live with the fact I paid premium price, for a not so premium offering. There was fun to be had, you just had to be patient and overlook all of it's flaws. So I'm optimistic, yet cautious.

    Don't be scared by the word aggressive. It was only slightly, and mostly in the form of taking a spot that was open - as they would in real life racing. The AI was solid(again) in my time playing the game.
    We did speak about all the assists and options that were added for the user in-game, but I will let them flesh that out when they are ready.
    This all sounds great so far. I was an early adopter of last year's game and while I did end up getting my money's worth, there were definitely areas that needed improvement.
    I'm wondering about the technical aspects of HEAT 2, mainly the inconsistent frame rate that plagued last year's version. I realize there's only so much they can do in a year, but if 704 manages to squeeze all of this new content in and get closer to the 60fps mark, we could have a really great NASCAR game in the making.
    Has anything been done with the physics and wreck/damage detail? Seeing cars flying 30' in the air after a collision is a huge eye sore. And if a car gets T-boned at 200 MPH neither car should be recognizable.
    Godgers12
    Has anything been done with the physics and wreck/damage detail? Seeing cars flying 30' in the air after a collision is a huge eye sore. And if a car gets T-boned at 200 MPH neither car should be recognizable.

    Yes - from what I was told that damage physics/model has been redone with results that they described as "much better" implementation and results. Now that had not been implemented yet in the version I played, but I will def report back on it when I visit in late July -
    bluengold34_OS
    Yes - from what I was told that damage physics/model has been redone with results that they described as "much better" implementation and results. Now that had not been implemented yet in the version I played, but I will def report back on it when I visit in late July -

    Thanks for the updates. I think we have some fairly critical but diehard NASCAR gamers on this board, I'm definitely one of them. 704 seems like they're doing the best with what they've got, as long as they continue to move the series forward in significant ways they'll have my purchase.
    Great article, Bob, thank you :y220e:
    I like what I'm hearing so far, but I'd like to see more about how the game is coming together technically. I've been getting quite spoiled by the F1 series for smooth gameplay, presentation and graphics, and this game, frankly, needs to hang with that to get my wallet open. If it can do everything else well but can't stay solid and smooth, I'm not in.
    HDR/4k is not even a demand I have for this series; just a smooth steady frame rate and graphics at least ALMOST as good as F1 2016. Hopefully presentation values overall in that arena as well with sound, broadcast style replays, etc.
    I am figuring you are holding off commenting on the graphics, in all fairness, until you play a later build and I'm fully understanding of that. I will await further word on my concerns with your future articles on this.
    Thanks again, Bob. Like I said...a lot to like so far but my biggest boxes still need to be checked.
    Really hoping for an engaging career mode. Probably the only way I'd buy it. Back in the day they used to do career mode quite well where you had to earn your way up through the ranks.
    I really enjoy individual sports for career modes (i.e. boxing, nascar, tennis, etc.). You can make them really expansive. Kinda like Fight Night Champion. It was cinematic, but fun because it foused on YOU. Would love that in Nascar. Having things like rivals, sponsorships, etc.
    Lieutenant Dan
    Great article, Bob, thank you :y220e:
    I like what I'm hearing so far, but I'd like to see more about how the game is coming together technically. I've been getting quite spoiled by the F1 series for smooth gameplay, presentation and graphics, and this game, frankly, needs to hang with that to get my wallet open. If it can do everything else well but can't stay solid and smooth, I'm not in.
    HDR/4k is not even a demand I have for this series; just a smooth steady frame rate and graphics at least ALMOST as good as F1 2016. Hopefully presentation values overall in that arena as well with sound, broadcast style replays, etc.
    I am figuring you are holding off commenting on the graphics, in all fairness, until you play a later build and I'm fully understanding of that. I will await further word on my concerns with your future articles on this.
    Thanks again, Bob. Like I said...a lot to like so far but my biggest boxes still need to be checked.

    Appreciate it Dan - holding off on quite a bit until I play that final build. Like I mentioned, so much is trending in the right direction -- just need to see where it's at when it crosses the finish line. I'll have one more article out with a final preview before retail drops -
    OPDriver
    Really high hopes for this years game. Hope the physics and damage are better as Bob said.

    I think you will appreciate all the upgrades in this years title quite a bit. Like I mentioned before, when I go to the office again in July, I'll write up the last preview before the review - it will be much more extensive in detail.
    Oh man, if that's the spotter audio for another year...
    It's very cool that they're giving away race tickets with purchase, but unfortunately it probably speaks to the current popularity of the sport more than anything.
    bluengold34_OS
    I think you will appreciate all the upgrades in this years title quite a bit. Like I mentioned before, when I go to the office again in July, I'll write up the last preview before the review - it will be much more extensive in detail.
    Can't wait to read it.
    cjacks17
    Really hoping for an engaging career mode. Probably the only way I'd buy it. Back in the day they used to do career mode quite well where you had to earn your way up through the ranks.
    I really enjoy individual sports for career modes (i.e. boxing, nascar, tennis, etc.). You can make them really expansive. Kinda like Fight Night Champion. It was cinematic, but fun because it foused on YOU. Would love that in Nascar. Having things like rivals, sponsorships, etc.

    I couldn't agree more. Nothing feels better than beating out that rival who's been careening into you over and over on the final lap, and being rewarded with a fantastic sponsorship and a great looking paint scheme. I loved how the PS2 versions of NASCAR worked, and wouldn't mind just a slightly more expansive versions of those. Right now, it seems like the NASCAR games look pretty, but, don't really have the dynamic rivalries, the off-race "interactions" with other racers depending on how you behaved to them on the track (including getting into a fight with you after the race, if you really screwed them over), landing top sponsorships after a great season, etc., that made NASCAR feel more like a dream experience of emerging as a racing legend, rather than just Gran Turismo/Project CARS/etc. with a specific set of tracks and cars.
    Ferretferret
    I couldn't agree more. Nothing feels better than beating out that rival who's been careening into you over and over on the final lap, and being rewarded with a fantastic sponsorship and a great looking paint scheme. I loved how the PS2 versions of NASCAR worked, and wouldn't mind just a slightly more expansive versions of those. Right now, it seems like the NASCAR games look pretty, but, don't really have the dynamic rivalries, the off-race "interactions" with other racers depending on how you behaved to them on the track (including getting into a fight with you after the race, if you really screwed them over), landing top sponsorships after a great season, etc., that made NASCAR feel more like a dream experience of emerging as a racing legend, rather than just Gran Turismo/Project CARS/etc. with a specific set of tracks and cars.

    You and I are on the exact same page.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    It would be nice if we could race the new Xfinity and Truck tracks with Cup cars.
    I'd like to be able to create a custom season and include the additional road courses as well as Iowa.
    Does anyone know if we will be forced to race with the new stages rule or will we be able to run the full race without taking breaks? If we have to do the stage method I'll probably never buy another nascar game ever.
    JMD
    Does anyone know if we will be forced to race with the new stages rule or will we be able to run the full race without taking breaks? If we have to do the stage method I'll probably never buy another nascar game ever.

    Well, given the fact the video interview posted earlier (either in this thread, or another?) shows a race run at Dover that was about 8 laps long, and it had no stages, just a quick 8 lap race, I'd have to assume you have the option.
    Id guess though in Career mode, you probably won't have that option because it's part of the points system for determining the season champ. Unless you have the option to use old season scoring, and current (new) rules. I mean, it's part of the sport now, it's how they run the events, so I'd assume it's going to be there in some way, shape or form for sure.
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