NASCAR is polarizing if we’re talking about international appeal, and I understand this. I personally like the blunt and outwardly genuine nature of the sport, and NASCAR Heat 2 tries hard to bring the racing action to the forefront and vie for recognition.
The first game was fun yet sparse, but did show that Monster and 704Games were on the right track. You’re thrown right into the race which affectionately known as the ‘hot seat’, as you climbing your way from the bottom with no credentials and up the ranks with cash offers from real-life teams.
Upgrades and perks are regulated to two elements: momentum boost which simply awards for clean driving and strong finishes, and a star system that judges the overall quality of team rides. If you thought the previous NASCAR Heat entry wasn’t streamlined enough then you’ll happy to know that this offers a more immediate feel and challenges, however this also takes away the intricacies of managing teams altogether.
The career mode NASCAR Heat 2 is there and the flow is straightforward to a fault with everything else jettisoned for gameplay. You’ll have to participate in every event which comes off as a bit rigid, despite the effort of spicing up the variety in regular seasons of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and NASCAR XFINITY Series and dirt track races NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a first within the franchise. Many will appreciate the effort and commentary but the grinding nature of it all takes away some of the excitement outside of the Championship mode where you can jump right into the fray, with two-player split-screen play being another novelty.
To be honest, it’s mostly about the rivalry system and butting heads with drivers you may bump off the track one too many times, or steal a victory away from. It is one of the more enduring and entertaining aspects of Heat 2 when you piss off another racer, because they’ll remember your actions and often times return the favor. In this aspect, the essence of NASCAR comes to the forefront as an irate Jamie McMurray plowed my car right into the sidewall.
The challenge mode is another welcome distraction spanning across 29 objectives, many of which are interesting twists to a formulaic game. All scenarios are short, sweet, and get down to business against NASCAR legends—best of all you can do it any order—regardless of difficulty or tact.
Graphics on the aesthetics of cosmetic damage and general environment of featured speedways are the primary focus. Traded paint and interior cockpits are appropriately done and time of day adds some freshness if you’re more into evening exhibitions, it doesn’t break the mold but the subtle details are enough not to distract from the action.
If you liked the prior NASCAR Heat Evolution then you’ll probably like NASCAR Heat 2 just as much. We observed Monster Games and 704 take its weaker points and bump up the content where needed, especially in online multiplayer and immediate satisfaction in exhibition events. It’s hard to see the improvements if you’re in it solely for the career mode but it’s far from no-frills if you consider yourself a die-hard NASCAR fan.