NASCAR games have been trying to change the way we play them the past few years. They’ve tried adding more realistic or edgy aspects of the sports for us to grasp, but largely with no avail. However, it feels like they may have found common ground with Inside Line. But, crucially, does it live up to the sport fans love, or is this just another game in the NASCAR franchise?
NASCAR: Inside Line manages to present itself far better than many other racing titles on the market, let alone other NASCAR games. You navigate around a garage instead of a menu, a la F1 2010, and NPCs litter the background going about their business on computers and tinkering with cars. The camera angles presented prior to races also make for some of the best intro for a NASCAR game yet, with announcers and angles that you’d normally see on television. Apart from a few glitches here and there when it comes to damage, Inside Line is a rather nice looking game too.
For any NASCAR fan, the main draw of Inside Line is the extensive Career Mode. Spanning various seasons as you work your way up the standings, you can upgrade your vehicle and customise its paint and decals. The further you progress, the more options and sponsors are available to you. Depending where you place in a race also means what sponsorship offers and rewards you receive. Before embarking on a race, you have an opportunity to participate in practice runs that let you get a feel for the course and let you edit your vehicle to suit it best. You’ll also have a qualifying lap and sometimes a duel to determine where abouts you’ll start on the grid.
You’ll also be able to customize the AI difficulty, how long practice laps are, how long a race is, how fast tires ware, how much fuel is used in a race, alter certain race rules, and how much an effect damage has upon vehicle handling. Obviously, this means you have a lot of choice as to how you can play, tailoring your experience to your own preference.
There are also invitation only events in Career mode. These take the form of slightly different race modes, such as Eliminator – which pits you against other drivers as you avoid being eliminated at the end of each lap. Another mode known as Driver Duel sees you having to catch and overtake an opponent within a set amount of laps. There are many other events you can partake in though Career but these are the most common examples.
There are als over 400 challenges for you to complete. Spread across two categories, you have Head to Head races that pit you against the top drivers from various teams on a selection of courses. There’s also the Highlight challenges that see you relive or rewrite NASCAR history from 2011 through to the upcoming 2013 season. Clearly this adds a lot of great content for fans of the sport.
There’s also online play that allows up to 16 players to race one another across multiple race types. You can also choose to race a full race weekend, which earns you credits to continue upgrading your vehicle. There are a couple of blips when playing online though, mostly the lack of players on PlayStation 3 and the dropping of races when you finally do connect. There is a patch planned though, so that should fix many of the connection issues.
NASCAR: Inside Line has a lot of great features going for it that should appeal to fans of the motorsport. In it’s current state the online mode isn’t really worth the time, and while the main game looks nice, it’s also suffering from a lack of polish. This is most definitely a great purchase for fans who are looking for a single-player experience, but if NASCAR has never grabbed you then it really won’t do it now.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Pleasing to the eye as well as the ears – the engine sounds are spot on, but there are few glitches here and there.
Gameplay – 3/5: Fun, but multiplayer issues mar the enjoyment currently.
Innovation – 2/5: A lack of innovation but unique challenges do add fun well after the game releases.
Value – 3/5: Many challenges and a lengthy career mode, but multiplayer is a letdown.
Final score: 3/5