NASCAR '14 is the second NASCAR game to hit the PC from Eutechnyx after they released NASCAR 2013: The Game just eight months earlier.
There is always the question of whether or not anything has changed when we get yearly sports titles like this, and a lot of people aren't happy with just a livery and drive update - which is understandable. The question is though, has NASCAR '14 actually improved on anything?
The gameplay in the new release is very similar to what we had in NASCAR 2013: The Game - there have been slight changes to the handling but very little else.
There are new improvements though - especially from a career and multiplayer point of view, something that was heavily requested.
To start off with the AI in general (not just in career) have had a major overhaul and they are now a lot more intelligent than they were last year. They will no longer try to move up on your line and have had some massive improvements when it comes to small track, tight pack racing.
They were particularly bad when it came to places like Martinsville and Darlington last year and that has been improved massively, they are now much more aware that going three wide at those tracks isn't going to end well.
I still feel like they need a lot of work though - they have super human ability when it comes to mid corner speed and if they get the slightest tap they seem to just swerve around all over the place and cause a caution or slow an entire block of cars down whilst they take up the entire track.
If you're a fan of the career mode then you'll be glad to see that there have been some interesting changes on that front as well. The way sponsorships work has been changed quite drastically as well as the car upgrades.
In NASCAR '14 the sponsorships now give you a certain budget for each race which allows you to use as many stock parts on the car as you can (by default you are given a completely refurbished car). The sponsors have their own set budget and will last for a given number of races now as well. The relationship with your sponsors will also improve or get worse depending on the sort of performances that you put out.
The new sponsorship system has meant that you can now run a completely custom livery in career, complete with a new livery editor. You can change the car to look exactly how you want, from decals, paint colour and type, and the placement of your sponsors. I'm hoping that we see some awesome looking liveries come out of this - both of which will be available in single player and online.
The final major improvement that I have seen is that the online multiplayer now allows you to run your own private leagues directly from the game. You set your season up and it will keep track of points tallies etc for you - leaving you more time to race and less time to manage the league, verify results and everything else that you have to do.
Other than those improvements I'm sad to say that there really hasn't been much of an improvement to the game at all, and honestly it all felt a bit lazy. You boot the game up expecting a whole lot more than the previous game and everything is literally the same other than the few new features that I mentioned.
As the new qualifying and chase format came too late to be implemented in the game you would expect it to possibly be patched in but there hasn't really been any solid information from Eutechnyx regarding this at all.
Unfortunately I'm not entirely sure what exactly to put here about the presentation that puts a positive spin on it. The game looks exactly the same as it did last year.
The only changes that I see thus far are that the horrible 3D main menu has been replaced by a 2D menu with 3D background but it still feels horribly sluggish.
The in-race HUD has been improved so that you have access to all your information at once instead of having to press a button to change what you're looking at.
Other than that it is the exact same sluggish UI that we had last year with a new "skin" or colour scheme applied to it and that is it.
The textures still look blurry when on max settings and the texture quality on them is no where near what you would expect for a PC title running on "Ultra" this day and age.
In general the whole game seems like quite a bit of copy + paste from last year bar a few new features and improvements.
I can still find at least some degree of fun in the game and have some decent races at times, but I don't see a real need as to why people would have to update to NASCAR '14 from NASCAR 2013: The Game.
If you want the updated drivers and liveries and feel that your league would benefit from the new league management when online then you should probably buy NASCAR '14, likewise if you don't own the previous installment.
However those of you that have NASCAR 2013: The Game currently might want to wait for a price drop on this game before you go ahead and buy it.