If you’re a hardcore gearhead who loves realistic racing games, you will probably be interested in checking out NASCAR the Game: Inside Line for PS3. Developed by Eutechnyx, this is a sequel to NASCAR the Game: 2011. If, however, you purely enjoy the simple pleasures of racing around a variety of tracks, this game may prove to be frustrating. Yes, zooming around the track is ultimately what you do in Inside Line, but the difficult control and maneuverability take some of the basic fun out of it (maybe I’m just nostalgic for Pole Position).
Players of Inside Line can jump in and start racing right away or they can choose the career mode. The latter allows them to embark on a journey from rookie driver to experienced pro. The game is probably most fun specifically for fans of NASCAR, and, as suggested above, may prove challenging (if not unplayable) for the more casual racing game fan.
The most agonizing aspect of Inside Line is the maneuverability. Even in the easiest mode, the car can be very difficult to steer. The slightest slipup often causes the car to careen into the barriers or other vehicles (which at least provides some entertaining replay clips). Even just the slightest weaving on the track can slow the vehicle down, resulting in many last place finishes until you get the hang of driving. The learning curve is fairly steep.
Crashing into other cars and the barriers also causes the player to get a caution. Too many cautions results in the cars being realigned to restart the race at whatever lap they’re on. This drags the momentum of the race down to a punishing pace, adding much more time to each race. It must be pointed out that cautions can be disabled in order to avoid this process. Needless to say, getting the driving basics down in order to race competently can be a tedious process.
Once one gets the hang of driving, the game has a good deal to offer. Choosing career mode will start the player as a rookie driver who must prove himself by qualifying for races and earning sponsorships. As drivers rise through the ranks, players can customize their vehicles with upgradable components. Players are allowed to race as, and against, well-known NASCAR drivers on realistically rendered NASCAR tracks. As a casual racing game fan, for the most part I didn’t find that the different tracks offered all that much variation. True NASCAR buffs though will likely appreciate having these 23 real tracks replicated for the game.
It should be noted that there is a big saving grace for those who want to quickly jump in and play. Players have the ability to set the levels to which their car will be damaged. This, of course, throws realism out the window when you’re driving a car that’s impervious to getting smashed. But it can save a lot of headaches if you just want to explore the game on a superficial level. The many perspectives offered while racing—whether you want the appearance of being directly behind the wheel or one of several out-of-car views—will also have an effect on the realism. But then again, the graphics in general aren’t really that striking. Everything looks okay, it’s just that the very nature of the game lends a certain monotony in the similar-looking vehicles, tracks, and general surroundings.
NASCAR the Game: Inside Line has plenty to offer lovers of car racing, especially those who appreciate detail in the simulation. Personally I found the realistic mechanics of driving to be a tough challenge that made it difficult to become fully vested in the game. It is a title well suited for anyone who wants a highly involved racing experience in which drivers learn the finer points of the sport, while building a career over several seasons. I hate to dock any game points for being “too true” to the profession it is portraying, but on the other hand, in the end it is a PS3 game and not a stand-alone racing simulator. I wanted more pure fun out of it, but that would involve dumbing it down, surely disappointing those who want the realism that Eutechnyx invested.
NASCAR the Game: Inside Line is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: Wii and Xbox 360.