Stock car racing has a new engine — Unreal 4 — with NASCAR 21: Ignition, and it gets a close-up in this gameplay trailer Motorsport Games released during Gamescom 2021. The first look at the game’s cars shows presentation and detail that Ignition’s predecessor, the NASCAR Heat series, would struggle to meet with the Unity engine.
NASCAR 21: Ignition is a from-the-ground-up effort, Motorsport Games chief executive Dmitry Kozko told Polygon earlier this month. The new publishing label (a subsidiary of Motorsport.com’s publishing company) picked up the NASCAR franchise last year. This year’s game uses Unreal 4 as well as Studio 397’s proprietary physics package for the rFactor 2 racing simulation on PC.
Visual fidelity isn’t the only quality NASCAR fans are looking for here. Motorsport Games mentions that the Fords, Chevys, and Toyotas in the Cup Series will race with different aerodynamics packages — for superspeedways, midsize ovals, short tracks, and road courses, for example. I may be late to the party, but this sounds like a first for me, within the NASCAR games on modern platforms, anyway.
Motorsport Games also is giving attention to vehicle setup, acknowledging that a lot of that data is super-secret proprietary stuff that drivers won’t let you look at, even if they’re investors in your studio (as Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are). NASCAR 21: Ignition is going to pay close attention to a critical component of video game race-planning and strategy, but Motorsport Games promises it will still be one-button easy for those who don’t need that kind of fidelity.
NASCAR 21: Ignition launches Oct. 28 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, with upgraded versions for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launching later (free to those who buy the preceding console’s version).
This is a license that has struggled to draw attention from consumers, or AAA-level investment from publishers, but Motorsport.com seems serious about making this work, at least. We’ll find out when the game launches, particularly as the depth and sophistication of career modes or other features won’t be known until then. But it already looks to be a lot more polished and rendered than the Heat series, which never looked like much, but did have strong racing gameplay.