NASCAR Heat 2 comes out on September 12 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and developer Monster Games continues to build out the franchise since taking it back last year. The game adds two racing series – The Xfinity and Camping World Truck series – as well as local, offline splitscreen multiplayer (head over here for more details on all that). Naturally, the new racing series impacts the game's career mode, but that's not all that is being added in that department. Monster Games is augmenting your career path with rivalry and momentum systems that hopefully add more nuance to your race schedule.

CAREER MODE

  • The career mode starts in the truck series. As you go through your initial season you'll get Hot Seat Race offers in the next series. Meet the criteria in these and you could get an offer to jump up to Xfinity at the end of the year. When you accept a contract with a team, you take over one of their cars and replace that driver. Overall, there are no driver retirements, and the other drivers will stay in their series and do not migrate up with you.
  • You can race in multiple series at once, and even do a multi-series race weekend if the schedule aligns.
  • You can stay in the same series if you want.
  • Brad Keselowski stopped by the Monster Games office and helped the team with one big aspect of NASCAR Heat 2: Driver rivalries and friendships. Both are naturally formed by how you treat drivers on the track.
  • The rivalry system has a ramp-up period so you're not going to see a driver go crazy if you have one run in. Tempers will boil over, however, the more you go at it. Driver relationships cool off somewhat between seasons so rivalries and bad feelings between drivers are not permanent. The studio says it wants to also make it so large wrecks at a plate track, for instance, don't make you a bunch of enemies just because you got caught up in The Big One.
  • You also get driver feedback from Keselowski and others via a message system, both as a way to help you and give some driver flavor to the mode. Messages about your rivalry status with a particular driver pop up after races.
  • Monster is currently working on other ways to involve the drivers in your career.
  • Team momentum is earned by strong finishes at the track from week to week. The idea is your strong performances lift your team members and crew ultimately giving you stronger, better performing cars.
  • In general, the longer you stay with one team, the better that team gets. This allows you to build and improve one of the lower-ranked teams in real life. This replaces the last game's facilities upgrade function.

NASCAR games have attempted rivalry systems before, and it'll be crucial that the game rides that subtle line between being noticeable and appropriate while not impacting your racing so much that you're getting dumped constantly. Similarly, in the absence of a traditional upgrade system, getting the momentum right and that feeling that your team is getting more proficient from season to season is important. Perhaps the X-factor in all of this is how the drivers are integrated into the career mode. Hopefully, it's more than a few recycled messages, as this aspect of the sport hasn't been well represented in past video games, but is one that can help set this iteration apart.

Finally, take a look at a new developer diary from Monster Games covering NASCAR Heat 2's career mode.

Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

EA TIBURON OUTLINES MADDEN 18 CFM CHANGES 

It's too bad there aren't more wholesale changes to CFM (something I wrote about in an earlier edition of The Sports Desk), but a few tweaks to this year's mode could have noticeable implications. The team has done a lot of fiddling with XP awards and general progression/regression of players. I'm intrigued to see how these tweaks impact players' growth, trickling down and affecting whom you draft and resign. I also expect the new approach to injuries to impact franchises in a welcome way. We'll know for sure when we review Madden soon. Expect the review before the next Sports Desk.

 

IMPRESSIONS OF THE NBA LIVE 18 DEMO 

I recently played through the NBA Live 18 demo, featuring the first initial segment of The One mode called The Rise. This intro takes under two hours to play, and explains the mode's complex progression system, shows off its live-action ESPN First Take videos, and gives you a good taste of the title's gameplay – albeit with a lower-rated player.

Here are a few thoughts I had on the demo from my experience.

Not a Fan Of The Linear Skill Tree 
You get skill points for your performance that you use to buy skill tiers. For example, at the start I pumped skill points into my two primary skills as a wing shooter: 3-Point Shot and Mid-Range Shot. Each skill has its own progression path, but unfortunately it's mainly linear. The first couple tiers of the 3-Point Shot give you new shoes and a shooting animation. The fifth one gives you a +3 percent to your shooting. I wish I had the choice to spend the points on what I wanted, instead of having to buy some shoes just to get to the upgrades I really wanted. I also was enticed to spend points first on the Mid-Range Shot skill first simply because it gave me a skill bonus quicker than the 3-Point Shot, even though it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I asked senior producer Mike Mahar if the team had considered making this progression less linear, and he said yes, but suggested that perhaps that was something they'd do in the future.

Wait on the Loot Crates  
As you text with NBA players during The Rise you'll get the option of picking a text that gives you a loot crate or one that gives you Hype and RP points. While the immediate satisfaction of a loot crate is understandable, I'd take the Hype/RP. It's not hard to earn another loot crate, and the stuff in there is often pretty generic. Thus, bank the Hype and RP, which will open up better loot tiers later on.

Tighten Up Feedback & Progression 
While playing The One mode you earn points for your performance on the court. One of the things I noticed during the demo that needs to be tightened up is that the game often didn't award or dock points correctly. Bertz has already talked about how he was docked points for making what were, in fact, good decisions, and I can say the opposite happens as well. There were multiple times when points were not taken off for obvious bad decisions on my part. In all, however, I thought the early progression wasn't bad. I'm not a good basketball player, and even though on average I was scoring a game rating in the high 60s (you start the game at 65), I was still able to progress my character, afford loot crates, and get through the challenges.

 

RELEASE LIST 

Madden NFL 18 (PS4, Xbox One) - August 25
F1 2017 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) - August 25
Everybody's Golf (PS4) - August 29
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, 360) - September 12
NASCAR Heat 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) - September 12
NHL 18 (PS4, Xbox One) - September 15
NBA 2K18 (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, PS3, 360) - September 19
Project Cars 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) - September 22
FIFA 18 (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, PS3, 360) - September 29
Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One, PC) - October 3
GT Sport (PS4) - October 17

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week

NBA 2K18 Demo Coming September 8 

NBA 2K18 Dev Diary Covers Graphics Improvements 

NBA Live Tracklist Announced 

James Harden is NBA Live's Cover Star 

A First Look At DDS: Pro Football 18 

Super Mega Baseball 2 Gets New Release Date