Review by Jerrynsteph4eva
"Fancy destroying your least favorite Nascar driver? Go ahead, but it may not be as fun later."
Truth be told, I'm not a huge Nascar fan. I enjoy watching it occasionally and playing the games, but I couldn't explain to you how drafting scientifically works nor can I tell you how to optimize your car for each track. So when I saw there were two new Nascar games made by Activision (and cheap at that), I decided to pick them up. While Nascar 2011 is certainly geared more towards the fans and gearheads, Nascar Unleashed is geared more towards casual fans. Why is that? Read on.
Nascar Unleashed is the second game Activision has made since acquiring the rights to the Nascar franchise from EA and certainly not your average racer. Rather than tweak your car's internals to optimize track performance or calculate when you may need to pit next, you'll be focusing on boosting your points and getting turbos, ramming your fellow racers into walls and off the track. While Nascar 2011 tries to be a simulation racer, Nascar Unleashed is most certainly an arcade racer. Think of it as the NBA Jam/The Bigs of Nascar in which you focus not on realistically emulating a sport but rather play an exaggerated sport full of turbos and massive wrecks you can drive away from.
The first thing you'll notice when you turn it on is the graphics. Truth be told, I haven't seen graphics like this since the PS2 days and though I'm not necessarily a graphics freak, it honestly looks like they merely ported over a game from the sixth gen to the Xbox 360. Normally this would never be an issue in my book but the developers were so lazy when designing the graphics that it truly feels like this game should have came out 10 years ago. It's hard to ignore, especially if you're unlucky enough to have purchased this for full retail price.
Another thing you'll notice is that the driver selection seems to have been chopped from 2011's list. This isn't really a bad thing as pretty much all the popular drivers are present and accounted for, but it's worth noting if you're planning on playing as someone that isn't widely popular.
The gameplay is what sets Nascar Unleashed apart from the previous Nascar titles. The gameplay is more mindless fun than the other titles, though it can get boring after a while. While the game is still about racing Nascar cars and trying to win first place, it's certainly faster and more action packed, removing most of the slow or strategic elements of Nascar racing. For example, it skips the qualifying and there is no such thing as a yellow flag. The bulk of the gameplay revolves around racing as your favorite racer (or the custom racer), unlocking new paint schemes as you bash, drift and turbo your way to the finish line. As you race, you'll be rewarded for smashing into other drivers, drifting around corners, breaking objects and creating mayhem as you work your way towards the finish line. The more mayhem you create, the more your boost meter will fill, giving you a massive burst of speed that destroys practically anyone in your way. Be careful, however, as the more you torment each racer, the more likely they are to become your rival, making them target you as you race past them. You can even become the rival of another racer if they destroy you, tagging them with the Revenge sticker that rewards you for destroying them back. While pit road is still in the game, it's much more efficient than it's real life counterpart. In fact, you don't even have to stop and wait for your car to repair itself, your pit crew will magically repair your car to full health as well as give you a free boost, even if you're zooming at full speed past them. It's actually in your best interest to pit pretty much every lap in this game as the only disavantage of pitting often in this game is missing out on a few achievements until the next race.
The career mode of the game is interesting. Rather than the weekly race at a different track, you're presented with a tournament style bracket that lets you choose which race you want to play, each with different requirements. For most races, it's simply complete the two goals and finish above 15th place. However, some can become challenging, requiring you to make a set number of rivals per race and even place in a specific spot. This isn't so hard when it asks you to win the race, but when it asks you to place in 5th or other odd places, you'll find yourself frustrated. After completing each race, you may earn a bonus race, which is more or less the same but with extra stipulations (such as only three other racers who start off as rivals or the like).
As you race, you may find that the game gives you a random challenge. Usually, it's something simple like "Bash X Cars", "Run into X Objects" but with a catch: you only have a set amount of time to beat the challenge. Success usually means a ton of turbo, so it's generally a good thing to try to accomplish what they want. It does, however, break up the monotony and keep each race unique and interesting.
Unfortunately, there is no online mode in Nascar Unleashed. It does try to make up for it by giving you offline co-op with another person. This is where the real fun begins as you can either help each other finish career mode as good teammates or turn it into all out war by going after each other each race. It certainly keeps you on your toes when you know your friend is on your tail and determined to wreck you and can lead to hilarious situations ("Hey! I was pitting! How did you blow me up?", "Ha you wrecked me and I STILL won!"). Unfortunately though, it's only limited to two players, so don't invite all your friends over for a Nascar party.
However, while the game is fun at first, there just isn't enough incentive to keep coming back to play it. The Nascar tracks are done well, but the rest of them are somewhat boring and not worth noting. You'll also find that while it's fun to bust up your fellow Nascar racers, it grows old rather fast. The unlockables are nothing more than extra paint schemes for your cars and nothing worth playing to unlock. Plus, with no online multiplayer, you're stuck with the less than brilliant AI that can easily be beaten.
For you achievement hunters out there, the game offers fifty of them that are pretty easily obtained (especially since there aren't any online achievements, given there's no online in general). While some may take some work to accomplish, the game isn't terribly difficult and can likely be beaten in a week or less. Just make sure to invite a friend over to help you play co-op as several of them are based around co-op.
If this game had been released ten years ago, it surely would have been much more popular. With no online play, two player co-op and it's behind-the-times graphics, this could have easily been a great PS2 title. Unfortunately, though it's hard to believe, this game came out less than six months ago and it's hard to justify paying full price for it. Sure it's fun for a while, especially if you have a friend over playing it with you, but at it's core, it's simply a kart racer with bland tracks and no weapons. If you can find a deal on this game, it's worth picking up for a boring weekend. It's certainly worth a rental to see if you like the arcade style gameplay. Unfortunately, if you're looking for a decent racing game that will keep you occupied for quite a while, you may want to look elsewhere. It may not be a gem, but it'll keep you entertained for a while.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/12, Updated 04/06/12
Game Release: NASCAR Unleashed (US, 11/01/11)
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