Given a little time, NASCAR 2011's flaws become readily apparent. One of the first issues you may encounter is the inconsistency of caution flags. Minor contact between two AI cars in the rear can trigger an immediate yellow flag, but if you are involved in a 15-car pileup, the flag might never fly. On such an occasion, you might use NASCAR 2011's rewind feature to turn back the clock and try again, though you get only limited chances per race. Or you might continue on, though going from the front of the pack to the rear is frustrating in any race, whether it's a five-lap quickie or a 400-mile marathon. Such tests of endurance highlight other issues, many of them related to the AI. Drivers exiting the pit drive directly into the pack without thought and tend to bunch up and slow down too much around certain turns. The AI performs better on certain tracks than others. For example, on medium difficulty (and sometimes even on hard), it isn't that challenging to grab pole position for most courses and then lead the pack for the majority of the race, even if you hit the wall every so often. On the other hand, you could maintain a good line and top speeds on Daytona and still not qualify in the top 10.
6306977Burn some rubber for extra experience points.None
Off the track, there are a couple of features to keep you occupied, paint customization being at the top of the list. NASCAR 09 let you create custom designs in a paint program like Photoshop and upload them to an online locker; now, you need to do all of your cosmetic configuration in-game. Fortunately, the in-game tools are robust, though to gain access to every sponsor logo, you need to unlock them by meeting certain criteria. Otherwise, you get a huge selection of basic shapes, flags, flames, comical faces, and much more right off the bat. Imaginative players will enjoy creating their own decals using these tools, though you don't have to be an artist to customize a vehicle that would look at home on the NASCAR circuit.
It's a pity that there is no easy way to share your paint schemes with others in the manner of Forza Motorsport 3, though PlayStation 3 owners have already devised a clever workaround for this drawback. That isn't the only area in which the PlayStation 3 release gets the upper hand, however. While both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions let you edit and save race highlights, PS3 players can upload those videos (as long as they are under a minute in length) to YouTube directly from the game. Unfortunately, the uploaded videos are uneven, often resulting in choppy video and audio, even when you select the "medium" quality setting. And neither platform offers a direct way to upload and share the photos you can take. (Though again, enterprising PS3 owners have come up with a clever alternative.)
It's just like your spotter says: easy in, hard off.
If you want to leave behind the inconsistencies of the offline AI, you can head online and seek friendly competition there, though you're more likely to find irritation than inspiration. A simple glance at the leaderboards is the first indication that trouble is just around the bend: most of them show record lap times of just a few seconds, or even zero. Once you've entered a race, the problems become even more apparent. All too often, you might be frozen in place, unable to race, while the few racers able to move intentionally zip about, crashing into the paralyzed competitors. It is difficult, but not impossible, to enter a smooth race, though public matches are plagued by players intent on spoiling the fun with intentional crashes and other such shenanigans. Your best bet is to hook up with friends. Presuming a lag-free race, racing with like-minded individuals is enjoyable as you focus on maintaining the line while swapping positions and slingshotting forward after some effective drafting.
For Sprint Cup fans, NASCAR 2011 is the only game in town, and the more forgiving of you will enjoy your time behind the wheel. The basic racing feels good and is customizable enough that you should find a sweet spot that suits your level of racing expertise. When the game finds its groove, it delivers a good sense of enjoyable tension that rewards smart, controlled driving. Unfortunately, the more deeply you dig, the deeper the hole NASCAR 2011 digs itself into. There's a lot of room for this series to improve, and developer Eutechnyx need only look to the superior NASCAR games of previous generations for proper inspiration.