NASCAR 21: Ignition
From "Heat" To "Ignition," A NASCAR Series
In order to explain how a game like NASCAR 21: Ignition exists, one needs to go back to the 2000s, a far better time for NASCAR games. In 2000, the first Nascar Heat was developed by Monster Games as a fairly decent entry in the NASCAR franchise. Since then, the developer was responsible for future entries up until Dirt to Daytona two years later. In 2016 a publisher company known as 704Games would enlist Monster Games 14 years later to "revive" Heat. Starting the new series with NASCAR Heat Evolution, the rebooted franchise never seemed to capture the spark the original left behind.
The last game that Monster Games would develop for the Heat reboot would be NASCAR Heat 4, with Heat 5's development switching over to 704Games. The publishing rights would now be held under Motorsport Games, as the name would suggest, seeking unification of "Motorsport Games." Shortly after the release of Heat 5, Motorsport Games would buy a majority stake in 704Games. This makes Motorsport Games both the developer and publisher of NASCAR 21: Ignition. Despite its interesting history, how does the game stack up as the sole license holder for NASCAR?
This Is Going To Be A (Sadly) Short First Take
Unfortunately, not well and that's not getting into the bugs on launch. Hours after many fans complained about several bugs affecting gameplay on launch, Motorsport Games released a hefty patch. While the patch was intended to fix the glaring issues, it didn't save the game for what it was; A rather dull NASCAR experience. While its positives may be limited, the gameplay is responsive for a racing game of this caliber. The cars aren't difficult to control, which may be a turn-off for veteran NASCAR fans. For casual racing fans like myself, it's a hit or miss. Most of the difficulty affects how the car behaves over the AI it would seem.
The game has a paint editor mode, allowing players to create their own livery from the paint job, number colors, and decals. A complaint that I do have is that I wish that the car editor mode had online liveries that could be shared and downloaded. I can understand why this wouldn't be the case as that would open the door for copyright infringement. However, if almost every racing game that has a livery editor has the ability to share and download, why doesn't this one? The car selection is also limited to three dealers. A Chevy Impala, Ford Mustang, and Toyota Camry. For the most part, each car behaves the same and is just cars the drivers happen to be driving at the time. There are many active drivers for players to choose from although the decision to choose veterans by default would have been awesome.
Turn Left For 500 Laps, Or 2 If You Don't Have The Time
Another limitation I felt NASCAR 21: Ignition had was the lack of track variety. That's not to be confused with the number of tracks available, as there are quite a few. Mainstays such as Talledega, Daytona, and Darlington exist. Newcomers including Nashville and the newly sanctioned CotA are featured in Ignition, yet the lack of weather options is disappointing. To my knowledge, players can only race in clear skies, partially cloudy, and overcast conditions. I didn't see an option for night racing and the sky conditions hardly mattered. In fact, overcast made the game look worse.
As I was driving in CotA, I realized how far the graphics lacked in quality, including the textures of the course and the sky itself. While the sky is overcast, players are treated to a muted grey blob in the sky. It looks like an early PS1 skybox and something I would excuse if this was the first NASCAR Heat. This is a 2021 game compared to a 2000 game, however, and it looks awful the more the player looks at the environment. When cars are going over 190 mph, checking the lack of fidelity doesn't cross most players' minds. However, when the sense of speed is lacking and the AI is predictable, players will tend to notice the ugly as it stands out.
The Yellow Flag Goes Out To NASCAR 21: Ignition
Unfortunately, this is a pass and not a good type of pass. Rather than passing opponents to the checkered flag, NASCAR 21: Ignition stalls at the pit stop. Reused assets for each race, from its intro sequences to the droning of the spotter, plague its presentation. The cars lack any merit of soul or grit. The career is just as barebones, stripped of any noticeable content. That's the best way I can explain NASCAR 21: Ignition. It's a barebones experience, stripped without much for a NASCAR or racing fan to enjoy.
NASCAR 21: Ignition is available on PS4, PC, and Xbox One.