The white flag is up and I don't care.
It is not good when your favorite aspect of a game is its abundant product placement. NASCAR 2011: The Game on Wii excels at delivering blurry graphics, frequent load times, and a mostly adrenaline-free racing experience. Activision’s first foray into NASCAR gaming on Wii is an underwhelming effort that racing fans should not seek out.
In the main Career mode, players get to enjoy all 36 races featured in the 2011 Sprint Cup season and not much more. All of your favorite NASCAR racers are selectable including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Fans of the in-depth career modes found in older NASCAR games will be disappointed by the lack of customization and extra features. Unlike the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the title, players can not make tweaks to improve their car, enjoy online racing, or create their own custom paint jobs (a few cars do have additional pre-set paint schemes).
The game features a selection of unlockable invitational events that offer a nice change of pace from the main career. These challenge events vary from drafting behind specially marked cars to surviving an eliminator race where the car in last place disappears after a small period of time. You can earn special in-game NASCAR coins in the invitational events that commemorate legendary racers.
Almost every available Wii control method is available for driving the assortment of automobiles. Racing with the Wii Wheel functions as you would expect and the Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and GameCube controller offer analog stick precision for those who don’t trust motion controls. Most of the strategy in the game deals with finding the right moment to pass an upcoming car. It’s easy to make a horrible mistake and spin wildly out of control. However, the game does allow you to rewind time and correct things a few times per race. Close races can be fun, but it’s very easy to be either stuck in last place or have a dominant lead in front.
Those desiring realistic crashes and physics will be disappointed. A car flipping is an extremely rare event and the game fails at providing a realistic feeling of impact. In real life NASCAR, you of course don’t want crashes to occur, but it’s disappointing that this video game can’t provide some nice-looking multi-car pileups. The visuals and physics honestly pale in comparison to racing games released over a decade ago such as the Papyrus-developed NASCAR Racing 3. Objects in the distance use very low resolution textures that switch to marginally nicer looking ones when your car approaches them. Fans of trees made of cardboard will love the racetracks lined with them. The one commendable achievement graphically is that over 30 vehicles are shown on screen at once at a smooth frame rate.
NASCAR 2011 is the only option on the Wii for those desiring a realistic depiction of the popular racing sport. While the game controls moderately well and features the occasional moment of fun, the lackluster and repetitive campaign along with a weak physics engine and graphics, do a great job of making the overall experience a poor one. Racing fans that need to take a spin around the Daytona International Speedway are recommended to find one of EA’s NASCAR games on GameCube or just head to their local Dave & Busters and play some Daytona USA.