We knew that there would be some sort of officially licensed multi-platform NASCAR title available later this year, but nobody expected an announcement quite like this. Dusenberry Martin Racing have somehow managed to attract the attention of Monster Games – developers of NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona – to bring back the NASCAR Heat series. Dropping on September 13th, 2016, NASCAR Heat: Evolution will arrive on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows Operating Systems.
Previously, development of officially licensed NASCAR titles has been handled by European team Eutechnyx, who forced hardcore American Stock Car racing fans to endure multiple seasons of horrendously broken products. The original NASCAR Heat, released near the end of the 2000 Winston Cup Season which crowned Bobby Labonte as the series champion, is still played by a dedicated group of individuals today – a community which cooperates to the best of their abilities in an effort to release both new and historic mods for those who prefer the physics engine developed by Monster Games.
With that being said, Monster Games have obviously gone through some internal staff changes since the final NASCAR Heat title in 2002, as well as the spin-off project using the same physics engine, Test Drive: Eve of Destruction. The team’s most recent endeavors include Excite Truck and Donkey Kong Country for the Nintendo Wii, so it remains to be seen whether they will be able to pull off an officially licensed NASCAR title with the same precision from their glory days. If they are able to succeed, we’re potentially looking at not only one of the best NASCAR console games in recent memory, the title’s simulation value will be above and beyond what’s available in it’s much more expensive competitor, iRacing. During our review of NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona for a popular Nintendo GameCube emulator, we discovered the fidelity of the physics engine Monster Games had built was so accurate, real-world values could be seamlessly plugged into the game’s Street Stock Monte Carlo and produce blisteringly quick on-track results.
There’s evidence this fantastic physics engine and other oddities which made NASCAR Heat great may be set to make a return. The early preview notes available on the official website indicate multiple types of computer opponent behavior that can learn from your driving are included to accommodate racing abilities of all skill levels – a feature which previous NASCAR Heat games included. Those who continue to experiment with modded versions of the original NASCAR Heat on the PC will note one particular mod manager allows you to import your fastest lap as the AI line – which may be the same system implemented in Evolution – and it’s possible the team at Monster will simply be using the old engine with Eutechnyx car & track models acquired from the transitioning phase.
We’ll be waiting until the end of summer to see if this game lives up to the hype, but compared to our pessimistic view of the situation surrounding NASCAR titles earlier this week, this is a welcome surprise.