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NASCAR The Game: Inside Line - Wii Review

Game Info
NASCAR The Game: Inside Line

Wii | Eutechnyx / Activision
 | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Classic Controller; GameCube Controller; Wii Wheel
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Review
27th November 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

In the spirit of healthy competition, some of the most treasured wins are those secured under the threat of well-matched rivals. Narrow victories indeed make participation and top-tier placement all the more gratifying, hence why clearance standards are implemented in the professional sporting world to help foster such outcomes. As one of the world's most recognized brands in the field of motorsports, NASCAR has built a reputation on the lasting appeal of its high-octane races, as well as the huge community following that has accompanied its growth in acclaim and immersion into pop culture. To then translate these regulated standards of tense racing to the videogame space seems like a formula for success -- one that multiple development teams and publishers have tried to perfect on multiple occasions, to varying levels of success. Even with the yearly entries, the popularity of these games is still very much reserved to an audience that may not be niche by definition but isn't completely mainstream either. As such, for those who may not be passionate about motorsports, it can be a tad difficult to make a case for the uninitiated to suddenly be grabbed by dynamics that more or less convey a consistent feel across each release. For what it's worth, though, NASCAR The Game: Inside Line does a competent job of occupying these conditions and developing them to a place that even non-fans of the sport can rightly feel content over.

    Simulating as near-full of a NASCAR experience as you can get without delving into humble beginnings, Inside Line puts you in the cockpit of a fresh-on-the-track racer, assigning you to the same brackets that real-life veterans such as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are a part of. As intimidating as it may sound to be in the presence of such champions, being the underdog in the competition allows you to witness a personal progression that may not extend as far into the past as when you were picked up by talent scouts, but still aids in sensing accomplishment for endurance to the virtual cause. The main focus of Inside Line is the Career Mode, where you'll be taken through a fairly lengthy, multi-event campaign consisting of both standard and special events (e.g., Driver Duels) that will incrementally put you in line (no pun intended) for the championship title. Doing well will earn you leaderboard points that are used to measure your competency level against some-40 participants who have spent much of their lives training for the series. Of course, with added success come grubby sponsors who want nothing better to have their brand represented when you enter the victory lane, and you'll have opportunities to earn spending Credits by reaching benchmarks they set for you. 

    
Your calendar is a great tracking tool, less for comparison sake and more for feeling fulfilled about your placements, without being disparaged for complete failures or times when you come up short. Events are organized in a linear fashion so as to portray a developing season, so while you do have the option to skip ahead to future events, this will result in the ones that come before it having simulated results. And for anyone bent on learning from their mistakes, that simply won't do. With each venue, you'll have practice rounds to provide a feel for the car settings you've chosen, and to learn where to hug the corners and where to focus on conserving speed, putting forth as little movement as possible in certain situations. This is especially applicable in the case of Superspeedways, where you have to be more conscientious about your throttle use. Qualifier rounds will determine initial placement in the monitored race, which makes it important to aim for pole position (lingo for taking point) by setting a good time.

    Performing well in the final step is where it all counts. Almost like what would happen if a student were to yell out answers in an examination room, standardized rules will quickly call for a re-do for position-compromising crashes that were your doing or the fault of a rival colliding with another competitor. You may be thinking to yourself that this would get annoying, like someone who depends on rules would say "Regulation states..." every time you're on the verge of doing something against the rules. Having the rule book shoved in your face prevents you from getting careless and also serves to respect the safety of the other participants. This isn't a no-holds-barred kind of race, and that's something that should be noted for anyone looking to get into Inside Line with abrasive motives to knock out the competition through brute force or somewhat unethical methods.

    
Controls are easy enough to understand, with the Wii Remote + Wii Wheel combo being the most encouraged control method. Under this scheme, the basics you need to remember are as follows: tilt is used for movement, the 2 Button is your throttle, 1 is to brake, and Minus is to reset your car. The game allows you to use the Nunchuk, Classic or Gamecube Controller if you prefer, but I personally didn't bother with these configurations -- the former seemed less user-friendly. As you drive out onto the track, the screen will display such info as your lap number and position (incorrectly confused in the manual as one being the other), damage and fuel indicators, track map, and the relative distance in time between you and the persons directly behind and in front. Underneath the car is a small radar that tracks the positions of cars near you, allowing you to anticipate enemies coming in from behind, thus behaving almost like a rear-view mirror without having to change the camera view.

    The cars themselves are generally okay-looking, and through what is referred to as the Daft Wake effect, you can observe wind coming off cars as they travel at optimal speeds. But at the same time, vehicle bodies do not have the most attractive-looking quality to them, or have particular glossy or reflective surfaces when sunlight hits -- some textures don't take too well to it and essentially respond by shielding their eyes. Looking at the environments you're in and the different landmarks cameras focus on when showing track overviews, Inside Line looks a bit bland and strangely empty in places, despite the supporters that make up the "hustle and bustle" in the bleachers along the right. The audience stands and the steel beams off to the sides load progressively as you drive and don't always have a strong look to them. Additionally, there are areas where looking at the road beneath your car and nearby shadows sometimes look like they are at a stand-still or have a jumpy, flip book-esque look in how they are displayed on-screen.

    
In season races where starting positions are affected by preceding qualifiers, the way it commences is with all cars already moving at a steady speed around the track, and when you next cross the starting line, you'll take manual control. But this transition isn't always smooth and I often found a jitter occurring as the game triggered off the "auto-pilot" function. The framerate isn't that great either and can get bad in places, to the point that sometimes instant replays look smoother than actual gameplay. Some tracks seemed to be slightly off in the physics department as far as the car moving from the inner lane to the outer curves. To try and put it into words, it's as if the car were a box on a slant, with different elevations on either side of the vehicle and the road being perfectly straight in the middle. There were also times when the controls (specifically the left wheels) would lock up, and even when I was consciously aware of it and had tried to prevent it from happening, it still would throw me off guard and, oddly enough, the Driver Assists wouldn't kick into gear to prevent early signs of skidding. Perhaps it was my car configuration that needed even more improvement, but I can't say for sure. Overall, though, the presentation is definitely the weakest part of the entire package, all things considered.

    Putting you through the paces with as much realism as possible, the competition in this game is pretty fierce (and adjustable) and, as you'll discover, making up for lost time is often a grueling, even hopeless exercise. That is the nature of Inside Line's gameplay, where scraping the edges of the track barriers, driving through a tuft of grass, or getting nudged near the back wheels can throw your position all out of whack, and to be clear, this is rarely ever to hilarious results -- so, again, quit thinking sadistically if you're still inclined to feeling that way even after my earlier point. Success requires a very delicate balance of knowing when to floor it and when to ease up on the gas, and not taking relentless risks that could wind up costing you the race. That lead that you were previously trying to secure or that gap between you and the leader that you were trying to shorten can be devastated pretty easily. What is more, if you wipe out and try to resume control, because everyone is traveling at such fast speeds, trying to rejoin the huddle is bound to compromise your safety.

    
These are pretty unforgiving circumstances (or so you'd think) upon inspection, but what will change your view is the presence of a Rewind feature. With the game joining the sponsors in tracking your performance, this feature will allow you to return to an earlier point in time prior to a crash or spin, like you would be able to in a replay -- only here, it's with the goal of trying again without having to give up on what has up 'til now been a good performance. It's a very welcome feature, to be sure. I mean, who needs to threaten the competition when you can give yourself second and third chances. Exploitation of this feature is somewhat discouraged by having players pay for additional retries beyond what is given for free in each race, but the number of Credits required is so small it'll be easy to concede, even if you're trying to save them for a new upgrade.

    When you tire of the Career Mode or just need a break from the pressure, there are additional racing modes for single-player and split-screen play. The most notable of these is the Challenges area, where you can experience historic NASCAR scenarios and either affect the turn-out or ensure that things actually come to pass as they should. Other points of interest include the Race Shop, where you can purchase various trinkets for your garage; the Rewards menu, which presents new paint schemes (which can't be previewed beforehand) and other goodies that you can spend Credits on; as well as spots dedicated for upgrades with fairly simplified conditions and more advanced, performance tuning. Multiplayer in the Wii version is limited to local split-screen, which I normally wouldn't complain about if I didn't feel online would greatly add to the experience in driving that tension forward with added authenticity. So that's most certainly a shame.

    Delivering a more skill-based form of circuit racing, NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is an experience that commands its participants to exhibit unwavering motions so as not to destroy their chances of winning. But thanks to some welcome features and good setup, this doesn't ever feel overly restrictive or incapable of being influenced. It walks on a fine line of being exciting one minute and a tad irritating the next, but never outright frustrating, giving it enough balance to be a family-friendly title that parents looking for something different for their kids may wish to explore. Inside Line may not give your gaming portfolio a new sense of identity if you've never before ventured into the series, and sure, this model can still be improved upon in the future. But in facets concerning gameplay, its commitment sets a good example for the very expectations it sets for players.


20/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Governed by rules but not restrictive, realistic AI that proves satisfying to defeat, rewind feature will be used quite a bit
Presentation 5/10 - Car models look okay at best, some tracks are bland, road surfaces don't look great at times, framerate gets bad
Enjoyment 4/5 - Balanced difficulty, competitive feel is very much felt, doesn't overwhelm but still makes advanced features available 
Extra Content 4/5 - Challenges catered to NASCAR fans, sponsor-related and other accolades to aim for in your progression, no online

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System


Review by KnucklesSonic8



NASCAR The Game: Inside Line
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