A much anticipated sequel in the NASCAR Heat series was released in September of 2018 on PC and consoles, but didn’t get a ton of press until the 2019 NASCAR season started approaching. It was picked up with review articles from the gaming press, but only seemed to get attention on social media with the 2019 patch that included the new drivers and the updated Ford Mustang.

A major criticism is that the patch is not a free DLC. It runs $9.99 regular price but brings you up to date with the 2019 schedule, driver changes, paint schemes, and the Mustang as noted above. For something released just 5 months after the original release, it seems like this first update really should have been included for free. Especially considering they might release Heat 4 in another 8 months.

NASCAR Heat 3 on PS4

NASCAR Heat 3 on XBox One

The regular game only runs $29.99 regular price, so an extra ten bucks still keeps it at a reasonable price point, but it’s just a tad disappointing. If you don’t mind running with some retired drivers and sponsors, there’s nothing really worth paying extra for in the patch. Of course, if you’re that price sensitive you may just want to check out NASCAR Heat 2…it’s only a year older, runs on the same platforms, and received similar reviews. You can probably pick up a used copy for $5-10 since it’s only $19.99 brand new.

On the other hand, if you LOVE fresh content and updates, there are a couple extra DLC choices to consider:

  • 2018 Hot Pass – ($19.99) unlocks all DLC up until December 31, 2018
    • Includes September Pack, October Pack, November Pack, and December Pack.
    • Does NOT include: 2019 Season Update
  • Ultimate Edition ($49.99)
    • Includes Base game, 2018 Hot Pass and the 2019 Season Update

There has been no announcement as of yet on a 2019 Hot Pass release date or price.

Heat 3 Platforms

NASCAR Heat 3 was released for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

Ratings

(at the time of writing…)

PC:
  • Steam: 6/10 Overall
  • Steam All Reviews: Mixed
  • Steam Recent Reviews: Mixed
XB1:
  • Microsoft Store: 3.9/5 Stars
  • Amazon: 4.5 Stars (includes $50 race ticket voucher)
  • Metacritic metascore: 68
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.3
PS4:
  • PlayStation Store: 4/5 Stars
  • Amazon: 4.5 Stars (includes $50 race ticket voucher)
  • Metacritic metascore: 64
  • Metacritic User Score: 5.4/10

Free Demo

If the mixed reviews haven’t sold you, then you should try out the free demo before purchasing. The demo is full featured – a rarity these days – but limits you to competing in 12 races before expiring and forcing a purchase.

If you’re hesitant to even clear the hard drive space for the install, like I was, then you should keep reading. I gave the demo a shot and you can find my tips for maximizing the free demo, as well as my opinion of the game, below.

Get the Most Out of the Demo

Note: I played on PS4 in March 2019. Your experience could be different between systems or patches.

  1. Wait for the full game to download.
    The initial download will allow you to start a “Quick Race”. The only track available was Charlotte Motor Speedway while the download was ongoing. Don’t burn 1 of your 12 races unless you’re desperate to get started.
  2. Change the settings before starting a race.
    By default, your race length is set to 3% of reality. This equated to 12 laps around Charlotte (short, but fine if you don’t mind missing out on pitting strategy), but only 2 laps around the Richmond dirt track…I seriously spent more laps qualifying than racing – WTF. You can set the race length to 50% or 100% and drive for an eternity rather than burning through your demo in an hour. Car damage, caution flags, heat qualifying are also all disabled by default and I recommend switching them on if you want more than a simple arcade racer.
  3. Run a ton of practice laps
    Not so that you get better at the game, though that’s a nice side benefit, but because you can run practice laps for an hour before qualifying. That means the demo could give you more than 12 hours of driving in just practice mode before expiring. Unfortunately, practice is kind of boring…but you can play with the mechanics and get a really good feel for the game.

My Game Experience & Opinion

My First Race was Awful

I ran my first race at Charlotte Motor Speedway as a Quick Race before the download finished – as noted above, I don’t recommend this. There was nothing wrong with the track, but the default settings are awful. It was way too simple and hilariously easy.

I qualified on the pole and won the race the first time I picked up the game. The race lasted for 12 laps and I went end to end in first place. There were no cautions because they were turned off, although the race was really too short to need them anyway. I ran alone, way out front the whole race. I suppose it might be harder for someone who hasn’t ever played a racing game before, but I’m a bit confused as to why the default settings were chosen.

Dirt Track racing is fun, but it’s no Dirt Rally

Once the game downloaded, I tried the mode I was most excited about – dirt racing! “You gotta turn right to go left!” was echoing in my brain. The driving mechanics are pretty solid and it has a really good race feel on dirt. You really do have to turn right to go left, if you’ve gone into the turn too hard and don’t want to get into a wall. I was noticeably bad at running this mode around other cars since I had trouble keeping my lane.

There were two downsides. The first was that I still had the 3% length setting turned on (don’t worry, I fixed it after this one), so the actual race was literally 2 laps long. I drove 5 laps trying to get a good qualifying lap! It’s as if blindly controlling race length by percentage is a terrible idea.

The second downside was that the driving was a bit boring. Dirt track racing shouldn’t feel like a Cup Series race, but it did. Dirt racing should be loose, wild, and fast. Even though it felt very physically sound, there was something to organized about it. The AI cars ran just like they were on pavement and the tracks don’t seem like they were designed for a dirt race.

Ran a truck race at Martinsville and it felt realistic

Finally with my settings fixed, I set into the racing I’m most familiar with – trucks at Martinsville Speedway. Since I’ve been to a bunch of these races in person – tickets used to be $10 for general admission! – I feel like I have an understanding what the race should look and feel like.

Practice was extremely helpful figuring out how to time braking into the turn and accelerating out of it. If you don’t get your speed down and get off the brake, you can’t make the turn. And the race played out the same way it often does in real life, with one driver winning by tremendous margin. Generally it’s some cup driver trying to get his team car some points, but in this case it was me!

Getting stuck in lap traffic was a real struggle. Impatience eventually would lead me to making really aggressive moves to keep moving forward, squeezing between cars or diving into the bottom lane to claim the spot. I absolutely started causing cautions with my aggression and inability to focus on a race for 20 minutes. But that did let me experience some pitting strategy and the punishments for damaging (loss of aero and eventually power) and fixing your car (extra pit time).

Changes from Nascar Heat 2

  • Improved game physics – you actually get a sense of the speed and intensity. Despite my complaints, it’s quite exhilarating.
  • AI – the computer controlled cars will now pit reasonably and also occasionally wreck on their own, not just when you cause it. Vastly improves the realism in single player.
  • Victory Burnouts! – you get free control at the start finish line to celebrate and show off for the fans. It’s fun the first few times, but clearly just a bit of a gimmick. I’ll take whatever adds fun to what can otherwise feel redundant and boring.
  • Dirt track racing! – it needs some work still, but is ultimately a fun change of pace even if your car doesn’t get dirty.

Top Reviewer Comments

Positive Reviews

Mr White 2018 (XBox): Man, just when I thought that 704 Games couldn’t deliver, they blew it away with Career Mode. So much better than last year and the year before. If you’re a hardcore NASCAR fan and racing fan like I am, pick this up, you won’t be disappointed.

PlanetKing (Xbox): NASCAR Heat 3 is a wonderful experience. I love the fact that in career mode you start as a fresh driver with no experience and just do dirt hotseats first season and then eventually own dirt company. The progression is nice as you from there work to trucks and stock cars. Big plus on company management as well. Not saying there isn’t room for some improvements throughout the game. However all and all wonderful job on devs part and special thanks to them for delivering a wonderfully made game that i can spend tons of hours playing.

Igjoemedic (PS4): After reading all the reviews on this game I was a little apprehensive about getting it so I would have something to do while recovering from surgery. I came to the conclusion that those who gave low reviews of the game are hardcore NASCAR gaming fans who are expecting the next best thing to real life, like the sound of the car (which I didn’t think was bad) or being able to make adjustments to the car and how it handles. To me that is a bit technical, I just want to get in and go and not worry about car setup. All in all I enjoyed the game and am just about through with my first full season. Everyone has their own take on what they want from a game and the above was mine.

Anonymous (PS4): Really liked the game. I liked how you can work your way up and build your own team. Although they could put more detail in how and what you can do to build your team. I really liked the dirt series on there as I like how you slide around and it teaches you car control. I think they should add an actual dirt series, like World of Outlaws, even though it’s not Nascar sanctioned it would still be fun (Not made up like it is in this game).

Negative Reviews

Christopher C (PS4): The makers of this game have made this game worthless. It will cheat you every step of the way. I just raced a Texas Race in the trucks. Finished both stages in 1st. I pitted at the end of stage two. The race went long enough to where i had to green flag pit. I did. No other truck pitted. Even though my truck had about a lap of fuel left. I came back out and got back up to 9th. Caution came out. I thought cool now they will have to pit and I’ll be in 1st again. Nope they did not pit. At this point they are 60 laps on fuel and tires. Ok well I should run them down on with their bad tires. Nope they were just as fast. Not a problem. If you get very small damage your truck or car is crap. But the other trucks can have all 4 tires showing from the bent up fenders and hood almost flying off and they will have more speed. They makers of this game have ruined it. Also if you bump another car truck it slows you down and makes them faster. If they bump your truck then you just go into the wall that is it. You’re damaged they are not.

Whiplash2727 (XBox): I have been playing racing games for a long time and the mechanics of this game are trash. The late models don’t drive like dirt cars at all. They need to talk to the greatest dirt car game ever, World of Outlaws Sprint Car 2002, and get advice. It’s sad games that came out almost 20 years ago are better mechanically. As for asphalt it’s just as bad. Talk to Forza….and Dirt to Daytona for tips in handling. The dirt cars with stability of don’t slide or act anything like a real car. I really was excited about a dirt racing game but after 16 years of disappointment I don’t think there will ever be one unless they severely patch this game.

Professional Nascar Heat 3 League

NASCAR has officially launched its first foray into eSports on the Heat 3 platform. A 16 race pro schedule was released for 2019 and any player on PS4 or Xbox1 is eligible to enter. You qualify by posting competitive track times and then teams could draft you into the various levels of competition.

This new league is an attempt to compete with the well established iRacing simulation leagues, which also have a partnership with NASCAR. iRacing acts as a game, server host, and governing body for a huge collection of race series and drivers just need to pay recurring membership fees to compete. The simulations are far more hardcore than the Heat video games, with laser measured track specifications and very realistic vehicle control.

iRacing has been perfecting the simulation since its initial release in 2009. Well known professional drivers have used to service to test tracks they haven’t driven on yet and have given very positive reviews of the experience. The best game drivers have been competing on the platform for years, so pulling them away to compete in a less realistic driving game will be difficult.

The big advantage Heat 3 has is accessibility. iRacing is only available on PC, but Heat is playable on PS4 and Xbone as well. Though, as of now, only console gamers will be able to join the eNascar Heat Pro League. Mainstream gamers without $2000 gaming PC rigs and custom racing setups with wheels and pedals will be able to compete in the Heat leagues…so there is definitely an opportunity for both leagues to exist and thrive.