NASCAR returns to console video games, with the Unreal Engine
Stock car racing returns to consoles and PCs this fall and, fittingly enough, there’s a new engine under the hood.
NASCAR 21: Ignition, made in Unreal 4, will launch on October 28 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. This is the second NASCAR title released by the new label Motorsport Games, an affiliate of the global media company Motorsport Network, best known for its Motorsport.com website.
“It’s a product we’ve been building for over two years; it’s a product built from the ground up, ”Motorsport Games CEO Dmitry Kozko told Polygon in an interview.
This is an important statement, because last year NASCAR Heat 5 was largely a short-term repackaging of the game from the previous year. The development cycle has also been affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the abrupt end of construction of the game by Monster Games.
The NASCAR Heat series, which runs from 2016 to 2020, was built into the Unity engine, which gave its components a no-frills look. NASCAR 21: Ignition “does not have any of the Unity components,” Kozko said. “It probably has nothing but a few concepts from previous games released by 704 Games.”
Motorsport Network has been co-owner of 704 Games since 2019 and became the majority owner this spring. Motorsport Games has also finalized the acquisition of Studio 397, maker of the high-end PC racing simulator. rFactor 2. The deal came about after Studio 397 and Motorsport Network teamed up for two pandemic events, the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans event last June and the Spring Formula E Race at Home Challenge.
The point is that the Studio 397 technology will also be part of NASCAR 21: Ignition. “What’s hiding under Unreal is the physics of rFactor,” Kozko said. “Of course, the main thing is not to do it like a simulator, where only the drivers would understand how to make it work, but to bring it and make it accessible to everyone.”
Considering NASCAR’s uneven history as a video game license in the two generations of consoles since the departure of EA Sports, Motorsport’s decision is an unexpected doubling. Kozko bluntly admitted that the previous series “does not compare to the modern triple A [development] standards. … I’m not sure why no one has come in to make the right investment to create this type of title, but I’m happy to be the one for the next decade with our licenses.
“That’s why we started off with a blank slate and said, ‘If we were to take the latest and greatest technology today, from the biggest guys – EAs in the world, what would we do? ? Kozko said.
Motorsport Games will take this approach for other large-scale racing licenses, some of which have had limited presence in video games, if ever. The Indianapolis 500, which has not received AAA treatment since Codemasters IndyCar Series 2005 for Xbox and PlayStation 2, will also arrive on consoles and PC under Motorsport Games in 2023.
Kozko’s division will also make licensed games for the 24 Hours of Le Mans – which got a close-up in the 2019 Oscar nominees Ford vs. Ferrari – and the British Touring Car Championship, which the basis of the Codemasters series which has become Grid. Le Mans (actually the flagship event of the FIA World Endurance Championship) is scheduled around the same time as the IndyCar Series game, Kozko said, with the BTCC game coming in 2022.
“I have a lot of play [developers], guys with 20 to 30 years of experience, each. I have people who made Forza Horizon great, and stuff, and I’m very proud of this team, ”said Kozko. “And I’m also proud of the non-gaming team that is part of our group of passionate people who will help challenge the norms in these games.”
NASCAR 21: Ignition will have an upgraded version for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 sometime after its October launch, and buyers of the older version of the console will get a free upgrade, Motorsport Games said. The game brings back basic game modes, like a multi-season career, online multiplayer, or race in the current season as one of the sport’s actual pilots. A press release released on Thursday also outlined better customization options for the drivers and teams created. The game’s broadcast presentation is supported by commentary from MRN Radio, the longtime NASCAR-owned radio network.
“We were born from a media company, which only speaks to this audience and serves its passion,” Kozko said of Motorsport Network. “We believe that our business, by focusing on building a portfolio of different racing disciplines, we could have an economy of scale opportunity here to create very, very good experiences.”
List file is Polygon’s news and opinion column on the intersection of sports and video games.