Over recent years Monster Games have seen their development minds fully concentrated on the NASCAR series, with their Heat titles having grown in stature from year to year. 2020, however has seen them move that focus from the tarmac to dirt, with Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing. The game still deals with oval racing, just in shorter formats, with a bit of mud flying and featuring the iconic Tony Stewart front and centre. But has the move paid off? After-all, just because an icon is attached, it doesn’t mean we’ll be witness to a top of the range experience. Thankfully though yes it has, and this is a game that will appeal to not just fans of the Sprint Car series’ or oval racing, but quite possibly general motorsport fans in general.
Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing has seen Monster Games work with the Sprint Car and NASCAR legend Tony Stewart to allow for a fully authentic, pretty deep, dirt racing video game. And no matter whether or not you decide to strap yourself into the starting cars of the All Star TQ Midgets, prefer the mid-range option of the 305 Sprint or go all out with the winged beasts in the 410 Sprint series, this sprint car racer is one that delivers the thrills.
As you would expect to hear from any racer worth its salt, Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing on Xbox One provides career and championship opportunities, quick race options, and both split-screen and online multiplayer options. Yet it is the career where you’ll want to start matters, because it’s that which provides the most immersion.
Your first task is to set up a team and play around with various starting options. You then listen in to a brief introduction of what is required of a potential champ from Stewart himself – before seeing him pop up with further interjections and old-school race video throughout. The TQ Midget series then opens its doors to a new racing champion. Spread over 14 races which whisk us off to all manner of different oval tracks from across the United States, we get the chance to compete against AI competitors in the hope of crossing the finish line first, raising some bucks and eventually lifting the crown of TQ Midget king.
Each of the races is split down into further segments and these really need to be taken in should any form of success be found. The Practice sessions allow you to get to grips with the handling of your vehicle, using specific time goals to push out sponsorship payments should you be fast enough. From there the qualifying sessions take place, which dictate the starting lineups for the concluding A Main event. With multiple levels of qualifying to partake in, this could in theory get fairly lengthy before you ever get to properly race for the big bucks, but due to the short nature of each oval, and the power of the machines you are racing in, there is never a moment when you’ll be left wanting, with each and every race over in just a few minutes should you wish for it to be. For those unaccustomed to what oval sprint racing entails, expect a single lap of a track to be over in anything between 12-30 seconds.
And if you do require longer more concentrated efforts, then the chance to shift up the difficulty and various game settings can see you racing round for up to full 100% distances, over multiple tens of laps. The whole settings thing is quite deep with Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing too, and this is a game that you can amend to your own liking, dropping on or taking off various driving aids, utilising a steering wheel instead of controller, or allowing the AI to come across as trickier opposition. I have to applaud Monster Games for the amount of variety and detail they are allowing gamers to enjoy with this racer, and whilst the overall experience really does consist of going round and round on oval tracks forever more, it’s nice to be able to make it as simple, or as complex, as you wish.
Winning races brings cash and glory, but it is the former you’ll be most appreciative of, as this then allows you to upgrade your little racers in numerous ways. With sponsorship and race challenges constantly in play and providing additional cash earning opportunities, taking home race winnings is quite possibly the most important element of this racer. Pocketing that cash and then ploughing it into better engines, a new chassis, suspension elements, racier tires and – when on the 410 series – new wings, will enable you to go faster and take down your opponents with greater ease. There are a ton of upgradeable options split over three class types and so the more money you earn, the better the parts you can buy and utilise, with each working across a variety of terms of performance hits and durability stakes.
The latter of these, the durability of parts, is equally as important to keep an eye on as every race you take part in will have an impact on your engine, tyres and so on. Being able to swap in and out parts as these deteriorate is essential, as is the opportunity to run quick running repairs for when cash is low. See, sprint car racing isn’t just about going fast – it’s about keeping your car in decent nick too.
From the TQ Midget series the chance is there for you to move into the faster vehicles once the seasons come to an end, buying in to the 305 and 410 sectors. As you would expect, these provide faster, quicker, more volatile cars for you to harness the power of, with the bigger series providing a larger range of races. It has to be said, the content included in Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing can be huge.
Of course, all of this will only be worth taking in should the racing itself be decent, and I’m pleased to say that Monster have delivered an okay job here. Again, being able to modify things to your own liking is key, but no matter what difficulty you decide to play on, you’ll find fast, intense racing action throughout. The cars are a joy to jump into and pretty much handle as you would expect a stupidly powerful tiny machine scrabbling around on dirt to do.
It looks pretty good too, and even though the likes of Forza and DiRT have nothing to worry about from a visual perspective, Sprint Car Racing comes across as decent enough. The cars look good no matter which of the three cameras you use – behind the car, bonnet, or cockpit views are all available – and the stadia themselves have just enough detail to allow immersion. It all runs pretty smoothly too although it has to be said that on a couple of the smaller circuits there is considerable slowdown when a lot is going on. It’s never enough to want you to switch off and take a break, but there is occasionally a hit on the performance levels.
In terms of the audio which accompanies these visuals, things are a bit less effective. The cars sound alright, and there is the usual tyre screeching and engine sounds that you would imagine. But the commentary that plays throughout, and straight after each race segment is severely limited with a script that seems to have been written on the back of a post-it note. And the same can be said about the backing soundtrack – one track on repeat is all we have. It’s a huge shame that this repetition comes into play.
All of these elements are true no matter whether you are playing through the main career, picking and choosing your own race types with the Quick Race, or delving into the online and split-screen multiplayer opportunities. Unfortunately though should you be looking to show the world your racing skills then you may find things limited somewhat. While there are lobbies and races taking place, as you would expect from a slightly under-the-radar niche product, there aren’t an awful lot of players getting involved. And when you do get into a race, it can sometimes be hit or miss whether or not it is a smooth experience or not – lag, jumping cars and a poor overall online experience have all been seen here. If you can put up with that, then you’ll have a good time online.
The local split-screen tries to make up for this but again that sees some restrictions, the most notable one being that there is a limit to the camera type, with players only able to race with the behind the car view. As someone who primarily prefers a bumper or cockpit view, and has worked their way through the full careers on Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing via those methods, being pushed into this unwanted view is a tough one to take. I understand the reasoning, but again this just points to the multiplayer aspects of this sprint racer not living up to the offline elements.
But all that said, if you’re a sucker for jumping behind the wheel of a car and going round in circles all day, think that Tony Stewart is an utter legend or just love a bit of good old fashioned motorsport then Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing on Xbox One delivers the goods. Yes, this isn’t going to be a game that pushes the very best racing titles for any crown but it certainly does the job provided of it and I’ll admit to being pretty shocked at how much fun it has provided. And fun is what we want and need in life, and for that reason motorsport fans should definitely consider a purchase of Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing.