Summer racing is on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One! The officially licensed NASCAR Heat 5 lets players speed into full seasons in a personalized career plus varied challenges, split-screen races, and online multiplayer races. Player modes are career, Race Now, Race Modes (challenges, championship, split-screen, and the new test session), Online Multiplayer (including a new online challenge mode), and My Cars.

This solid racing game utilizes 38 authentic tracks, notably improved load time (compared to the previous version) a news feed (activated on the main screen), and a selectable music library to choose your victory anthem (songs viewable in the options section under audio).

New editions from the previous installment include a new single-player track testing mode, online challenge mode), pit stop improvements, a painting booth, and in-race did not finishes (DNFs).

The races start with a practice and qualification (both skippable) then the main race. Official game means official racers, so players can choose familiar drivers plus selectable designs and vehicles.

Players customize their own cars including vehicles from the NASCAR Cup series, NASCAR XFinity series, Gander series, and Xtreme Dirt Tour. The available season pass ($29.99) includes four downloadable content packs releasing in July, September, October, and November 2020.

The robust online features display leaderboards, active races, active lobbies, races today, and lifetime races. Take on up to 40 players in long races with several laps that will test your gameplay endurance. No connectivity issues at all here in the early stages, which is a great relief compared to other online experiences.

The career mode includes an agent who guides players through decisions. This agent does n’t really act as a tutorial or hint giver, so newbies will want to research “hot seat” and other terms a bit. Performance statistics are plentiful as players can check their status (including “hot seat” possibilities), earnings, schedule, and fan base.

The simulation elements are great, especially making friends and rivals, but more fan noise and an established (even controllable) pit crew would have been a nice improvement. More communication/”chatter” with this crew would have been great and helped increase the strategic elements of NASCAR racing and the monotony of the longer races. Replay options are also available.

The controls are customizable and utilize the Unity engine. With practice, players can easily get a nice handle on a vehicle. Don’t depend on vibration feedback here. Just check your visuals and ease up, especially on the dirt tracks which are a notable career mode hurdle for newbies. Overall, small, constant adjustments will keep you from losing control so take advantage of the optional practice time before qualification.

In the Options, players can make separate adjustments for player 1 and player 2 (for the fun split-screen sessions), which is a convenient feature that saves time and hassle. The challenge level for beginners (casual) is perfect, then increases to normal, hard then expert. The AI is particularly impressive so veteran players can definitely get a more involved experience.

Developed by 704 games and published by Motorsport Games, NASCAR Heat 5 comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and is available in a Gold (Tony Stewart features in the cover) or Standard (Chase Elliott cover) Edition. The Gold Edition includes bonus spotter voices, paint schemes, and career mode opportunities. Rated E for mild lyrics.

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