Motorsport Games has confirmed a new NASCAR game will be ready for 2021, and it will not be a continuation of the Heat series.
NASCAR 21 will represent a fresh start for NASCAR simulations from Motorsport Games and will be powered by Unreal Engine and Studio 397’s acclaimed rFactor 2 physics. Motorsport Games acquired Studio 397 and rFactor 2 in March this year. 2020’s NASCAR Heat 5 was built using Unity.
“What’s really exciting is that we’ve been working with the rFactor team at 397, who have been known for their physics, and also then changing engines from our previous engine into Unreal, and then combining the two,” Motorsport Games’ George Holmquist tells IGN. “Using the Unreal engine just brings the graphics [and] the gameplay into more of a AAA style of game. More than the NASCAR Heat franchise we’ve had before. I think that’s something our customers are looking for. If you’ve seen the screenshots at this point, it’s definitely a step up from our previous franchise.”
Holmquist is optimistic fans will find plenty to like about NASCAR 21’s planned level of visual fidelity and handling quality, but he’s also keen to see players get stuck into the paint functionality that’s being added to this racing reboot – reportedly the “most requested feature outside of the core gameplay.”
“One of the biggest things that fans have been asking for is more customisation,” says Holmquist. “We’ve always had the ability to make a custom car and stuff like that, but we really spent a lot of time bringing a legitimate paint booth to the game. I think this will be one that fans are going to be very excited for. It’s turned out really well. We spent a lot of dev resources on here. We’ve already created a lot of cool schemes, just testing the paint booth right now.”
“The paint booth is the one people have been asking for directly in the community, and it’s something we are delivering on in this first iteration of the new franchise.”
Holmquist is aware NASCAR is regularly viewed as a bit of an acquired taste by people outside the fan community but feels it’s probably one of the most straightforward racing formats for potential new fans.
“NASCAR’s either loved or not appreciated,” concedes Holmquist. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground with fans.”
“From an accessibility standpoint, we actually think NASCAR’s oval racing lends a hand to really get people into our ecosystem, especially with the accessibility options that we’re including in this game.
“I think what’s under-appreciated is the closeness of racing. And the assumption that you just floor the gas and you go around in a circle. I challenge anybody to go to a NASCAR race and then see if that’s what you really feel after, because it’s a whole other thing to see 40 cars go around the track averaging 160 to 200 miles an hour within inches of each other. It’s just a very different experience.”
NASCAR 21 will be the first of Motorsport Games’ upcoming salvo of racing simulations built in the wake of the Studio 397 acquisition.
“So there’s definitely pressure,” says Holmquist. “There’s internal pressure. There’s external pressure. There’s partner pressure. There’s definitely pressure coming down.”
“I think a lot of people think we took a risk changing engines. We could have done what everybody else would have done, right? The easy route would have been to create [NASCAR] Heat 6, add some quality-of-life features, sell it, move on, flip the game again and again and again. It’s just not what we want to do at Motorsport Games. There’s a lot of pressure for this game, as you know, because we have the other games, like BTCC and other licenses coming on board, and obviously this is going to be a reflection to consumers, media – even our partners and future partners – of what our capabilities are.
“And obviously our goal is to create a portfolio of motorsport racing games that people really enjoy and really spread the passion of gaming and motorsports, which are starting to be very similar, especially with esports.”
According to Holmquist, the studio’s approach to NASCAR 21 will become the foundation it builds on.
“Unreal isn’t going to go anywhere,” he says. “The rFactor physics aren’t going to go anywhere but get better. So we also look to the future; that every game iteration – either NASCAR, BTCC, or so on – is going to get better and better. So this is our first flag in the ground.”
“It’s very important for us to ensure this game is of a quality our users expect, and it’s a step up from the Heat franchise.”
Motorsport Games has not confirmed a release date for NASCAR 21 but more details will be revealed in the coming months.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. He’s more of a touring car guy but he really, really likes Days of Thunder. A lot. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.