Game Review

NASCAR Unleashed Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Christopher Ingram

Gentlemen, please don’t start your engines

Over the years, the high speed competitive sport of repetitive left turns, otherwise known as NASCAR, has fuelled the hearts of racing enthusiasts around the world. In some places, you can hardly step into a crowded area without seeing some sort of branded paraphernalia. With young drivers like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano tearing up the tracks and ushering in a new generation of fans who've grown up in the gaming era, NASCAR Unleashed is looking to put your favourite drivers in the palms of your hands in a high octane arcade racing experience that’s sure to please all. Or is it?

Once upon a time not too long ago, annual NASCAR game releases were a big deal for the gaming industry. Sadly, the games got stuck in the pits and have remained there ever since. Back in its heyday there was a PlayStation title that tried to stand out from the rest of the simulation games on the market: NASCAR Rumble. Driving away from the circle tracks and onto the streets, Rumble took the cars where they had never been before and the end result was an entertaining ride that boosted itself apart from its competition. Unleashed brings a similar arcade style to 3DS, but with NASCAR fans both new and old craving a title that’s faithful to the franchise, Unleashed simply doesn’t deliver.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the starting line: this isn’t a typical NASCAR game, instead it’s a below average arcade racer with NASCAR thrown in as a lure for fans. Whether you’re racing at the Talladega Super Speedway or Daytona, after the first turn you’ll find yourself veering into some absurd drainage ditch, dirt road or random series of uninspiring streets – briefly ending up back on track to start the next lap. Needless to say, the NASCAR ‘feel' is unleashed, flying right out the window within mere seconds from the start line.

A few oval tracks are thrown into the mix, but it’s here where the game’s laundry list of problems can be fully realised. Drafting for an extended period of time gives you a shot of nitrous boost to blast you right through the pack, flipping cars into the air as you plough through, often putting you right to the front. This isn’t a problem: it’s when you’re in front and find yourself being repeatedly bumped into until you lose control and spin out, finding yourself right back at the end of the pack, that you’ll realise just how shoddy the AI is. The game tries to compensate by placing random challenges throughout each race, asking you to collide with opponents, make rivals collide with objects and more. Completing these awards you extra boost to blast you right back into first place and then the cycle continues until you hopefully cross the finish line in the lead and take home the chequered flag.

Making matters worse, the controls just aren’t up to snuff either. At best they're adequate: on circle tracks when you aren’t playing bumper cars they suffice, but racing on the narrow streets that make up the majority of the game, the sluggish controls will find you bouncing off the walls to steer more often than not – damaging your car in the process and making the controls even worse. Repairing damage can be done in two ways: drive head-on into a wall to destroy the car, or try to manoeuvre the extremely narrow pit roads. Taking the pit road option gives you yet again another boost to help regain lost time, but most trips down pit road end up like a bad pinball game, losing so much ground in the process that trying to catch up with the pack isn’t even feasible. Wrecking for repairs nearly always becomes the better option: you’ll even find yourself respawning at race speed inside the pack and sometimes even in the lead.

It’s not all entirely bad though: the game does hold a surprisingly great sense of speed and frame rate, and has a subtle 3D effect too, with a suitably rocking soundtrack to accompany it. There's a decent single player mode with plenty of unlockable content and of course, the NASCAR drivers and their cars are in the game. But again, none of this helps out anything when the muddy graphics drown out the 3D effect and the gameplay is so severely lacking. This is all before we even get to the last cardinal sin that Firebrand Games has slapped into the game: road dividers. Yes, these abominations are near impossible to see most times – thanks to the muddy graphics and fast speed — and even when you do, you’ll most likely be bumped into them by another car and find yourself at a dead stop with severe damage. Another saving grace is missed: sadly the multiplayer is limited to local play only and extreme difficulty spikes make sure that few will ever complete the single player career.


Sometimes developers try to make a great game and it just doesn’t pan out the way it was planned. These games usually have quite a few enduring qualities, but NASCAR Unleashed is flat-out lacking in nearly every single aspect. Strip away the licence and this is nothing but a forgettable arcade racing title in 3D, but with the licence it becomes a steaming pile of shovelware aimed directly at unsuspecting NASCAR fans. No amount of boost Firebrand Games tries to use, NASCAR Unleashed still reeks of the pits and you should stay far away from the stench.

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User Comments (36)



StarDust4Ever said:

Maybe adding some Bananas, Shells, 'Shrooms, and Stars, or even rocket launchers could have made this game better? Sorry, but if I'm gonna wreck stuff, I'll do it MK7 style!



AVahne said:

So to repair your car, this game encourages you to suck at driving?



TKOWL said:

Aww, I actually liked the NASCAR games as a kid. Too bad their quality has diminished over the years.



Chris720 said:

NASCAR Unleashed still reeks of the pits and you should stay far away from the stench.

Lol'd. Wasn't interested and I wasn't going to buy it anyway... but this hardens the fact this game sucks.



Slapshot said:

@StarDust Believe it or not, the PlayStation game that I mentioned in the review, NASCAR Rumble, did indeed have weapon pickups similar to Mario Kart. I think adding them into NASCAR Unleashed would have made things even more chaotic though.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Firebrand ? After all the greatness that Trackmania is ? Well, guess these guys have to pay bills too.
A shame since it sounds pretty good in theory. I also like the idea of random challenges if they weren't just used for boost.
More great arcade racers can never hurt though, bring 'em on.



Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Christopher I'm just wondering...in your conclusion paragraph did you intend to say "unsuspecting" instead of unexpected Nascar fans? Or did you mean that the target audience was an unexpected group?

I'm a little confused here.



sykotek said:

Seriously...what took you guys so long, it just dropped in price and I almost bought it cause I noticed it was from Firebrand Games and wanted to get my Ricky Bobby on.



ToneDeath said:

Though I wouldn't buy a NASCAR game anyway, it's a shame to see Firebrand apparently fail like this. On the DS they were to racing games what Shin'en was to shoot 'em-ups, and I was looking forward to seeing what they'd achieve on the 3DS. Hopefully they're not out for the count just yet.



Slapshot said:

FYI guys, Firebrand Games did do a good job with the HD versions of the game and if you're in need of a good NASCAR fix, then you can look to their HD version of NASCAR Unleashed. The 3DS iteration of the game just didn't pan out too well at all.



Radixxs said:

@10: Maybe 35 years ago. Do some research before regurgitating stereotypes, 99% of the drivers in the series today are from anywhere but the south. In fact, most of the drivers are from California. NASCAR is more of a sport than football will ever be, and I am personally sick of seeing and hearing things such as this.

The old Playstation games were ace, glad to hear the HD versions of this one turned out alright.



SyFyTy said:

yeah, I got this, he's right, it's like the cars are on Helium, they float off the track in accidents and fly likea feather in a fan, horrible, just horrible. F1 though, now that's better than the review.



StarDust4Ever said:

@Slapshot: Weapon pickups in general make boring racers more fun, but nobody does items like MarioKart. Best MarioKart clone I ever played was Diddy Kong Racing (N64).

You claim crashing your car will actually repair it and get you racing again much faster than taking the pit lane. Sounds a lot like the "racers lining up to plunge to their deaths" Maka-Wuhu exploit on MK7 wifi.

Is there really no penalty (besides losing time) for totalling your vehicle? In a real race, that's an automatic DNF.



theblackdragon said:

@StarDust: Actually, that move is more analogous to diving off the edge of a track in order to avoid a blue shell and/or recover from it quicker, and you'll note that the multiplayer in this game is local only (meaning if someone were actually attempting to use a glitch to get ahead, the other person could reach over and punch 'em for it if they wanted). Nice try, though.



Slapshot said:

@StarDust I do agree, weapons and arcade racers equal great fun, but if the controls and AI are both bad, then it still everything is still a mess.

As @tbd said, great try though.



AutumnShantel said:

I definitely wouldn't want weapon pick ups in NASCAR games... As it is, I wish I could turn them off in MK7 sometimes. I always enjoyed the NASCAR games we had for the N64 and GCN... Go Jeff Burton! <3



Urbanhispanic said:

I was never a fan of NASCAR games and for Firebrand Games to churn out this piece of flaming shovelware will make sure no one who is curious about NASCAR games in general will give it a chance.



thanos316 said:

i loved the nascar games back on the gamecube . i think it was nascar thunder, or i may be wrong by which system it was out for but that was a great game. developers need to make a great sim base nascar game and maybe throw in some street level mini games. placing nascar on this crappy title is not good for nascar. hopefully we get a great nascar game next go around..



Dodger said:

My friend's little brother got this. His brother is on my friend list and this was his favorite game for a few days but it quickly changed when he got the 3D version of Star Fox 64 3D.



Nilkad_Naquada said:

@radixxs: He was most likely referring to the target audience.... in which case he's 100% right. and how is racing more a sport than football? and, more importantly, why is there a conversation about sports on nintendolife? it's like the stuff of nightmares... anyway my cousin got the game and having played it i disagree with this review. i think the game deserved a lower score. it is quite literally the worst racing game i've ever played, and that's coming from someone who's played ben 10 galactic racing and that crappy shrek racing game the name of which i can't remember... so yeah this game sucks. the best racing simulator i've played is top gear rally for game boy advance. give it a look. it's good.



Radixxs said:

@26: The target audience is traditionally those who reside in the southern states, but that does not mean the whole sport revolves around "rednecks." I am far from a redneck and I have been a NASCAR fan for 10 years. The technical aspect of the sport with the aerodynamics of the cars is fascinating. And there are many fans who do not reside in the south.

The concentration it takes to control the cars, which are not very easy to control at all, let alone the pure physical shape you must be in to withstand the extreme G-forces endured at some tracks and wheel around an extremely heavy, under-sensitve stock car make it more of an athletic sport than football, where completely out of shape men can stand there and block people. Only half the team is in any physical shape.

And if you don't want to converse about sports, then don't. It's not a mandatory discussion. The game is a sports game, licensed by one of the largest sports in America. I am simply calling out one of the many, for lack of a better word, idiots who go around spewing stereotypes and sparking argument.



Slapshot said:

@Radixxs I not only live in the southern part of the United States, I live in the Deep South! The notion of southern people and NASCAR is indeed true and not stereotypical. Actually, many of them are very proud of their lifestyles too. They actually stay in tents at the races and party like it's Woodstock the entire weekend of the race. Though, I don't fall into this category by any means, I do know a few people that refer to themselves as "rednecks" with pride.



Radixxs said:

@28: Well, where I live, NASCAR is quickly associated with "white trash" and the term rednecks is used almost as derrogitively as he "n" word. So you can see why I would be touchy on the subject. The sport obviously originated in the south, but I take issue with everyone assuming all NASCAR fans are the derrogitively connotated redneck.



LztheQuack said:

@Radixxs: No offense, but driving a car is far from a sport in my opinion. I'd accept cheerleading as a sport because you have to be fit to do that stuff. Nascar...not so much.

"NASCAR is more of a sport than football will ever be, and I am personally sick of seeing and hearing things such as this." I'm sorry, do you even know what the term means? It's probably not what you think it is.



Radixxs said:

@30: Driving a car that goes up to 200 mph for up to 4 hours isn't a sport? It gets extremely hot in the car, and some tracks have tremendous G-forces. It isn't just cruising around a highway. Any break in concentration during those 4 hours can cost a driver the entire race. Just controlling an extremely heavy car at such speeds is exhausting, let alone all other factors. To endure these conditions and still be concentrated and skilled enough to try to win a race requires a driver to be in top physical shape. If this isn't a sport, I don't know what is.

But I guess if you consider cheerleading to be a sport, there's no point in trying to reason with you.



theblackdragon said:

@Radixxs: all right, all right, that's enough... The original comment didn't even say NASCAR wasn't a sport — it called it a 'non-athletic sport', which makes enough sense to me since it doesn't rely on people being able to run, jump, swim, or anything else along those lines. And yes, some of us 'rednecks' don't mind the term at all — hey, if the shoe fits, y'know?

let's get this conversation back to the game at hand now, if you don't mind :3



StarDust4Ever said:

Nascar as a sport requires the rider to be at least moderately fit: Could you honestly see a fat man fit into one of those bucket seat / harnesses? I'm 270 pounds and I can ride a bike very well, but I'd probably have a lot of trouble fitting into one of those skinny racing seats. Ditto for NFL pro linebackers.

Also, if a NASCAR can handle an oval course at 200mph, (something a Porsche or Ferrari probably couldn't do) surely it could navigate a winding country highway (provided the pavement is smooth) at least as well or better than a typical 4-door sedan?

LOL, I'd like to see someone drive a NASCAR for 10,000 miles without replacing the tires! The road tires they sell at Wal-Mart have a 60,000 mile warranty!



IceManPJN said:

I found a couple gripes with this review. The problem isn't with the review of the game itself, but with the lack of understanding of the subject matter here. Namely, the author of this review knows nothing of motorsports.

1) "NASCAR, has fuelled the hearts of racing enthusiasts around the world." This is basically wrong in two ways. First, NASCAR doesn't appeal much to racing enthusiasts, but rather to NASCAR enthusiasts, which aren't the same. 97% of NASCAR fans aren't interested in the whole driving/racing portion of NASCAR, but in watching a bunch of cars going fast and wrecking, which isn't the same as enjoying racing. Few racing enthusiasts care much for NASCAR. Secondly, it isn't really a matter of "around the world". Yes, it technically airs in over a hundred countries and has viewers in those countries, but they're basically token viewers. NASCAR is essentially still just a North American thing, and mainly just a US thing.

2) "With young drivers like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano tearing up the tracks and ushering in a new generation of fans who've grown up in the gaming era..." Clearly the author is disconnected from racing gamers and real-world motorsports. NASCAR's fan base remains primarily in older audiences and while the average age of gamers is in the upper thirties, when last I saw, older NASCAR fans don't seem to account for very many of these older gamers. Younger generations, which grew up with video games, aren't adopting their parents' or grandparents' interests in NASCAR. NASCAR themselves have addressed this issue openly. NASCAR games sell relatively poorly, with non-NASCAR, non-oval racing titles being by far the strong-selling racing games. Racing gamers want road/street racing, not ovals. Yes, this particular game addresses this fact by leaving NASCAR's ovals, but that doesn't change the fact that NASCAR is an oval sport and that racing gamers generally don't care for ovals. So, Cup drivers aren't ushering in anything with younger gamers.

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