NASCAR Heat 5 has taken to the track. Does this year’s build top the leaderboards or fall behind the pack?
If it feels hard to believe that it’s been a year since the last NASCAR Heat game, that’s because it actually hasn’t been a year. NASCAR Heat 4 launched in mid-September 2019. This year’s run at the cup has been pushed up to July, which may satisfy sports-deprived fans. But it comes with the distinct disadvantage of giving developers less time to make improvements.
If you read my review of NASCAR Heat 4 last year, you may recall that I said that it was a fairly solid racing game with some key flaws. Near the top of the list of complaints was the fact that it was buggy and had performance issues even on a PS4 Pro.
While I haven’t encountered any bugs in NASCAR Heat 5, the game does still chug along sometimes, just not as bad as last year. These performance hiccups are all the more annoying when you consider that, to begin with, the game is not very visually impressive. So it’s not like it is pushing the hardware to the extreme anyway.
The Career Mode is basically the same. Once again, it is broken into four different tours. You’ll play in the Xtreme Dirtcar Series, NASCAR Gander Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series. Unlike last year’s game, I did not see the option to start in whatever tour you want. You work from the bottom (Xtreme Dirtcar Series) up to the NASCAR Cup Series.
I actually find the Xtreme Dirtcar Series to be quite fun. You play on dirt tracks, which tend to be short tracks. The races are fairly exciting as the cars pack together tightly as you drift around corners. After your first few races, you can start a new season. You either join a team or create your own.
The setup and even the menus are practically the same as in Heat 4. You start each race with practice laps and a goal time to both help you get acquainted with the course and set a goal time. You’ll get a handle of the sharpness of the corners and whatnot.
After you finish up with practice laps, you then need to qualify for your starting position. This matters so far as you will want to place within or near the top 10 in order to finish in the top 3. I have won races after qualifying in the teens, but it’s pretty difficult to do unless you play something closer to a full race. The third and final stage is the actual race.
Winning races or placing near the top of the pack earns you money. You’ll need that to start your own team. Just as in last year’s game, you can also earn money from sponsorship challenges. If you do decide to start your own team, the game has a basic team management system. It’s not overly complex. For me, I think it’s more fun to just focus on the races.
Just like last year, NASCAR Heat 5 has both online multiplayer and offline split-screen. Neither has been improved in any major way. In fact, the online multiplayer is a bit of a train wreck – or since this is NASCAR, let’s call it a multi-car pileup.
My complaints haven’t changed from last year. For starters, the game only employs a lobby system. That may be fine for private matches, but it’s not the best for public matches. They need to at least add the option for matchmaking.
The second major problem is also recurrent from last year. Watch the online match that I raced in below. There are yellow flags roughly every 15 seconds once the race resumes after a crash. This is more a problem of certain online players ruining the experience for everyone, but it nonetheless ruins the experience.
NASCAR Heat 5 is a modest improvement over NASCAR Heat 4 in terms of performance. And unlike last year, I did not encounter any bugs. Beyond that, though, I honestly cannot tell the difference between the two games. They haven’t innovated in any notable way.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.