NASCAR Heat ranks in the middle of the proliferating pack of racing games. Decent graphics and sound, and a full complement of NASCAR drivers and cars, gives the game initial appeal, but questionable gameplay ensures limited long-term usage. Featuring the hottest drivers from NASCAR's 2000-2001 season, the design gives you control of the best (and some of the worst) drivers on the Winston Cup circuit. Unfortunately, sluggish gameplay is akin to losing down force on the back straight at Daytona.
Despite more than a dozen tracks and drivers racing amazingly fast cars, winning races is nearly impossible. Player-controlled cars rarely seem to travel as fast as those controlled by the AI. Jeff Gordon may have the fastest car on the real-life circuit, but the computer-generated "24" car in NASCAR Heat seems to be stuck in second gear. Even practicing in dozens of races doesn't seem to make a difference for the human-controlled stock car -- it simply won't move as fast as most others on the track. Just finishing in the top 10 is a modest goal and good achievement.
NASCAR Heat's multiplayer function is promising in concept but weak in execution. If you think that cars controlled by other humans will be limited to equivalent speeds, think again. Showing remarkably bad foresight, Infogrames failed to set up a web-based server for multiplayer game support, an important facet of nearly every other similar game released during the same timeframe. This leaves gamers no option but to setup competition on a LAN or search the Internet for public servers.
Freeware server packages are available online that support the game, but the interfaces are clunky and don't automatically connect to races, and finding a viable connection to one that works is a near impossibility. Gamers who want multiplayer action should plan on networking their computers to that of a friend who also has a copy of NASCAR Heat.
During actual racing, the cars and tracks are at times boxy and ragged, and the visuals aren't nearly as smooth as they should be for a 2000 release. The static driver selection screens and track previews, though, feature photo quality. Sound is decent but unimportant, though engine noises are replicated nicely; commentary is, fortunately, kept to a minimum.
Because of the weak gameplay, most gamers, apart from diehard NASCAR fans, will play the game only a few times. Being behind the wheel of a stock car should be an exhilarating experience, but NASCAR Heat leaves you cold, as the cars just aren't tuned up to maximum performance.
Graphics: Graphics are pedestrian at best with nothing innovative to set them apart from the standard of the genre.
Sound: Ambient sounds of stock car racing are included, but aren't integral to the game.
Enjoyment: Gameplay simply isn't very much fun, as it's nearly impossible to win races against computer-controlled drivers. While multiplayer games promise to be enjoyable, finding one on the Internet is difficult.
Replay Value: The overriding appeal of the game is the appearance of so many NASCAR drivers. Despite sluggish gameplay, fans will enjoy the chance to race as their favorites.
People who downloaded NASCAR Heat have also downloaded:
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, NASCAR Thunder 2004, NASCAR Racing 4, NASCAR Racing 2002 Season, NASCAR Thunder 2003, NASCAR Racing 3, NASCAR Revolution SE, NASCAR Legends
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