The market for retro gaming is huge right now. Since Nintendo have released two retro consoles, Sony recently announced their first and you know there will be a mini PS2 to follow. Xbox users mock PlayStation fanboys for a lack of backward compatibility, which does seem to be a real oversight on the part of Sony. But if I put aside the nostalgia of playing childhood games, and the cool factor of having a mini console by my TV, I do often wonder if I really miss the way games used to be.
Were they any good? Did the simpler controls make for more fun? Does mo-cap and 3D rendering make for better games?
Well wonder no more, with NASCAR Heat 3 you can remember exactly how bad games used to be.
704 Games is the latest studio to release a NASCAR title. The original came out in 2002, NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona, and 2 more titles have followed in the last few years. This is 704’s first go at the title.
In NASCAR Heat 3 you get to take control of stock cars on track and on dirt. While the world of video games seems to be full of increasing levels of realism, maybe some escapism will be fun.
Zero engagement, vague controls and PS2 era-graphics are the order of the day in NASCAR Heat 3.
NB. There are some good points to this game and I will highlight them through the review with the heading HIGHLIGHT.
NASCAR Heat 3 is a standard driving game. You can select between Quick Play, Career mode and Challenges, as well as opt in and out of various championships. The general theme of the game is to progress from driving low budget cars on dirt tracks to getting into the big leagues for big money racing big cars. Big surprise.
Driving in NASCAR Heat 3 is how I imagine it feels to steer an oil tanker or a barge. You dial in a speed, steer left (oval track remember) and then wait for the car to respond. It will at some point but by then you’ll probably find that you’ve reached for a drink or your phone while you wait for something to happen.
As you drive around your pit-coach talks to you through the small speaker on your controller, telling you where other cars are around you.
In career mode you have an agent who tries to get you better deals and some lady from the real NASCAR world keeps appearing in video messages to inspire you. HIGHLIGHT: you can skip these annoying messages.
The graphics on NASCAR Heat 3 are amazing, if you have just upgraded from a Sega Megadrive. There isn’t much to look at on an oval race track, but these are so basic I actually wonder how it got past quality control. It’s easy for me to say this, I am not a designer or artist and I fully accept I couldn’t do any better. But then I’m not making mediocre games and asking people to cough up money to play them.
Early on in playing NASCAR Heat 3 I realised I was invincible to damage so I switched off driver aids and switched on damage.
HIGHLIGHT: if you damage your car enough you don’t have to finish the race.
The sound track on NASCAR Heat 3 is excellent (genuine, no sarcasm this time)! Lots of anonymous bands play big rock tunes through the menus sections and races which are perfect for high-octane racing.
They add a driving guitar line and screaming vocals to the general sounds of the game which are, no surprise, awful.
The engine noises are purely synthesized, there is no rumble or burble of the engine. I’m a big petrol-head and love the sound of a V8. NASCAR Heat 3 sounds more like my kid got an old electric drill and started pulling on the trigger like his life depended on it.
HIGHLIGHT: You can turn the engine noise right down and listen to some decent rock tunes instead.
The length of time you could spend playing NASCAR Heat 3 depends on a number of factors.
Quick matches and default race length restricts you to 5 laps so, HIGHLIGHT: the races are really short. But if you want full realism and a platinum trophy, you’ll have to do the 500+ lap races that occur later in the game.
If you are a real fan of NASCAR and you are invested in the drivers, this game may resonate more with you and spending 4 hours driving in circles could be right up your street. Any game that has championship structure and promotion will make you want to level up and progress. We all like to succeed, therefore getting a new drive or team, or even moving up a rank is exciting.
Imagine this, spend hours playing this game and then you can get a car which goes in circles even faster!
NASCAR Heat 3 is aimed at a small market of hardcore NASCAR enthusiasts. If it had been released on PS2 it would have appealed to a certain group. 20 years later and with the diversity of games available I really don’t know who will be excited by this
All joking aside, if you’re a fan of NASCAR and want an easy game which is loud and brash and uncomplicated this is it.
HIGHLIGHT: I’m not and I don’t which means I don’t have to play it again.
Let me be clear. NASCAR Heat 3 is not the worst driving game I have played. But seeing as my first computer used tapes, had rubber keys and displayed only 8 colours that really isn’t saying much.
NASCAR Heat 3 gets a well-deserved Thumb Culture Trash Award.
Disclaimer: We were kindly given a review code to play this game.