Last Monday, our review of NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PC went live, as DMR Games released the highly-anticipated oval racing title on Steam 24 hours earlier than we expected. It didn’t take long to plow through everything the game had to offer and discover why many of the hardcore sim racing news outlets – including traditionally positive publications such as Inside Sim Racing – were not provided with a review copy; Heat needed another year in development, and was simply not ready to be placed in the hands of the general public. Framerate problems and laughably dated audio highlighted a laundry list of complaints, which combined to form a video game barely worth twenty dollars, let alone the sixty dollar asking price. It drives sort of okay with a controller – much better than the previous Eutechnyx offerings – but there’s just too many technical issues and strange design choices for this title to overcome. Unfortunately, I’m one of those poor souls who couldn’t get a refund from Steam, and I’m left to pray my $60 will go towards a much better outing next year, but everyone else should really steer clear of NASCAR Heat Evolution.
While I was fucking around with the PC release, eventually discovering that online sprint races could be pretty entertaining with a competent group of users, my buddy bought the game off the Microsoft Store for his Xbox One. Throughout the week we’d been shooting each other texts about our initial impressions, and it wasn’t long before his complaints echoed many owners of the console version of the title. I knew the game wasn’t very good from my own experience, but I was still able to have a bit of fun with – just not sixty dollars worth of fun. Dan, who usually is quite accepting of video games regardless of their quality, told me the game was “still in beta”, and that he dropped it after a night of play; trying to forget that he ever purchased it.
I got to try the Xbox One version of NASCAR Heat Evolution for myself at his place this morning, and it immediately became apparent why he had yet to complete a single race; NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is dangerously close to being a scam. The only reason there is not some sort of class action lawsuit occurring, is because consumer product laws haven’t caught up to how people play and enjoy video games.
Brad Keselowski may be my favorite NASCAR driver, but I’m extremely disappointed with how he has handled the promotional aspect of NASCAR Heat Evolution. DMR Games have shipped an unfinished product which does not respect the customers who have paid full price for it, and it’s pathetic to see someone in his position blatantly mislead customers with carefully worded social media posts dancing around the fact that NASCAR Heat is awful. The game’s performance on the Xbox One is downright unacceptable; the only reason you’re not hearing more about it due to the fact that it’s not a Batman game. Now Monster Games claimed NASCAR Heat Evolution would be capped at 30 FPS on consoles, but the reality is that frequent framerate drops and miscellaneous stuttering fits call this value into question – a big deal when you consider how much precision is required for any kind of realistic racing game.
On the PC, these performance woes can easily be rectified by a trip to Memory Express, but Xbox One owners can’t currently do that because… well… it’s a console. A lot of aspects about modern video games are 100% subjective, but application performance is objective. Project CARS on the Wii U was cancelled entirely because it couldn’t achieve a steady 30 frames per second; NASCAR Heat Evolution performs about the same on far superior hardware, but yet it’s on the shelves for sixty dollars.
Visually, I think DMR Games are extremely lucky no consumer laws have been put into place that establish an acceptable base level of quality for any modern video game. All preview pictures you see of NASCAR Heat Evolution have been taken from the Steam release, as the Xbox One version of the title does not resemble any images of the game you see posted online. There is no anti-aliasing to speak of, and as someone who still puts time into PlayStation 2 games on a regular basis, the visual fidelity of Heat falls somewhere between EA’s NASCAR 09 for the PS2, and 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the Xbox 360. If the gameplay is good, I can overlook certain visual elements that aren’t up to par with other products, but Heat is almost eleven years behind the curve, while replicating the performance instability of an original PlayStation offering. It is genuinely surprising just how bad this game performs on consoles from a technical standpoint, and that’s before we address the issues found in the 4,000 word review published last Monday.
But on a positive note, Microsoft will let you get a refund for this game.
With fifteen minutes to kill before NFL Sunday began, and our illegal stream of NFL Redzone running in the background, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just ring up Microsoft and ask for a refund – he was just a tad too stoned to articulate himself correctly. There had been rumors… of sorts… that Microsoft allows one full refund per year of a digital purchase, and even if we couldn’t get one, at least we’d receive some kind of definite answer by talking to a live customer service rep. Again, Dan’s complaints of this game weren’t petty; NASCAR Heat Evolution on consoles is something I have no problem saying is dangerously close to a scam after trying it myself. This game is in such a despicable state, it should not have been allowed to reach store shelves.
While I didn’t catch the name of the guy that helped us out on this one, the Microsoft Support rep that took the call for Xbox Live user FeebleBarbecue today deserves a solid pat on the back. We were connected to a customer service rep in less than ninety seconds, and I gave an incredibly basic rundown of the situation:
“My buddy bought NASCAR Heat from the Microsoft Store, the game’s framerate is all over the place, and it’s several years behind visually. We looked online for a fix or news on potential updates, and messages boards are full of awful reviews saying they’ve taken the physical copy back to the store because it’s so bad. Is there any chance my buddy can get a full refund on his Microsoft Store purchase?”
The call lasted less than five minutes, and our anonymous Microsoft rep asked some extremely basic account info questions just to confirm the situation and enter it into their database. There was no fighting with some Indian guy whose name clearly wasn’t “Mike”, or an older woman who was moonlighting as an escort; our boy instead compared it to the issues seen in the Battlefield 1 beta, and immediately sympathized with the numerous technical gremlins when he saw the game’s release date was last Tuesday.
“It sounds almost the game’s still in beta, cause some of the guys around here are Twitch streamers and they ran into the same things with Battlefield 1 a few weeks back. Now your options are to try and contact the developers directly and alert them of all the bugs you’ve found, or I can just refund the purchase to the credit card…”
Boom, done. It’s obviously not something you can do with just any game that you aren’t fond of, but if you dial 1-800-469-9269 after purchasing an especially monumental pile of shit from the Microsoft Store with a growing list of negative feedback online, the five minutes out of your day to physically call up the Microsoft support line is a surefire way to receive a refund for an unsatisfactory product.