NASCAR The Game 2011

Preview: Let's circle the wagons

You're snorting with derision right now. We can hear it. Stop it, it sounds disgusting. You're wondering what we're doing dedicating a whole page of this fine tome to an American sport that's only watched by people called Cletus who have an unconventional relationship with their sister. But we have a theory and, like most good theories, it was formulated in the pub after a few pints of fizzy liquid.

That theory is that NASCAR games are the survival horror of racing games. Whereas most racers are about chasing down cars and chucking one up the inside when you get to a corner, games based on oval racing are different.

The corners are immaterial - sometimes there are only two per track - so it's all about delicately nosing your way through an undulating pack of 43 cars that are all travelling at over 150mph. And it's tense, knowing that one wrong move will cause the sort of rapidly unfolding pile-up that would have Sheriff John Bunnell leaping up and down in mock outrage. In other racing games you just don't get three cars trying to fit into a single corner at the same time - the margins for error are microscopic.

Of course, those enormous crashes are all part of the appeal, which is why Eutechnyx is focusing an awful lot of technological horsepower on making the game's wrecks as realistic as possible. Apparently, the flimsy sheet metal that these stockers are dressed in will tear off the chassis 'like cloth' when you have a high speed argument with an opponent. There'll be a Codemasters-style rewind system as well, which will allow you to pore over the mess you've made in super slo-mo. Also featured is a 3D paint shop that will let you create a Forza-style garish paint-job for your ride and, presumably, slap premium sponsor decals like Cheez-It all over the bonnet.


There'll also be an experience points system that will reward you for working with your team-mate (as opposed to punting him into the wall, just like everyone else) and skilful driving. Eutechnyx reckons it's nailed driver personalities, so if you're familiar with Dale Earnhardt Jr's driving style, you'll recognise his as distinct from Tony Stewart's, for example. We're hoping they'll be noticeable enough that even if those names mean absolutely nothing to you, you'll develop rivalries based purely on in-game friction.

While it might be a gargantuan task for Eutechnyx to make the British interested in a distinctly US-centric motorsport, we're certainly intrigued by massive multi-car crashes, 16-player multiplayer, and slick damage models. Can Eutechnyx do for NASCAR games what Codies managed to do for rally games with the DiRT series? We'll find out in February.

The verdict

Looking good

Xbox 360
Racing / Driving