The National Hot Rod Association has an official video game again thanks to GameMill Entertainment with its new release, NHRA Speed For All. But, for the most part, it’s wide of the mark.
The National Hot Rod Association has an official video game on store shelves again, physically and virtually. America’s sanctioning body for championship and sportsman level drag racing, the NHRA is most commonly referenced when talking about the top level Funny Car, Pro Stock and Top Fuel ranks.
It feels like it can last an eternity, but most races only last for a few seconds. Pull up to the line, wait for the lights to go green, floor it and hope to make it to the other side first – that’s the drag racing lifestyle. Historically, NHRA races have taken place on a quarter-mile strip, but in recent years, that length has been shortened from 1320 to 1000 feet. Not so much a quarter mile anymore, but it’s close enough.
NHRA Speed For All provides a slice of that race day feeling to the casual drag racing fans in the gaming sphere. While it’s most likely not something that would be utilized by a professional drag racer like John Force or Ron Capps, it can lend itself as more of a game to kick back and celebrate the series with.
There are five different cars to get up to speed with, starting with the Super Modified and then advancing to the Pro Mod. If you’ve watched NHRA on TV or travelled to an NHRA event, you likely know the Pro Stocks, Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters as the most common championship-level series. There are also Pro Stock Motorcycles, but unfortunately, those aren’t included in this title. Sorry, bike fans.
In getting from point A to point B, different classes will react differently under nuances between vehicles, as well as race tracks, weather and other variable conditions. The control scheme is pretty straightforward, even if it can’t be adjusted or changed in-game. While it might seem easy to punch the trigger and let it eat, often you’ll need to have the right setup, right temps, and perfect shift points.
When starting a career, players start in the amateur ranks with the Super Mod, learning the ropes of how to properly manage a team competing in the NHRA ranks. From the people, such as the driver and crew chief, to the parts, pieces, and research and development, there’s way more than just letting it rip.
It can get somewhat overwhelming at first, but almost everything involved in setups, upgrades and even the aspect of racing comes with brief tutorials or descriptions that can point in the correct direction.
The actual racing aspect is basic, but it does at least reward those who tune their setups, have proper tire conditioning and can react properly as the car gets off the line and up to speed. It might be a viable option in the lesser cars, but even then, players will need to learn to regulate the throttle trigger.
Before even reacting to the Christmas tree of lights, you’ll participate in a common practice – the burnout. This practice gets the tires to the proper temperature and lays down rubber for grip off of the line. Getting the tires too hot will result in failure, and not enough heat might result in a loss of grip.
Some car classes feature manual shifting – similar to Street Outlaws 2 (developed by the same Team6 Game Studios team), there’s a light that signifies when to shift, hitting it right will get you a better overall time while missing it early or late will slow you down. Don’t cross the median line, hit the barrier or go too early, these will result in disqualifications.
In the career mode, each race event is derivative. There are three race days: the first day is practice, the second day is qualification and the third and final day is elimination racing. Players need to qualify to place in the bracket. Winning four brackets will earn a Wally and a good chunk of points.
After each pass down the strip, players will need to work on their cars. Either repair or replace parts to get everything back to tip-top shape, but some things can only be replaced for a fee, and players will only get a limited amount of “time” to do the repairs or replacements.
Parts can totally break, too. You don’t see it much on the opposite side of the lanes, in fact, I haven’t come across an instance yet where an opponent was riddled with parts failures. Fixing, replacing, or straight-up upgrading these parts will happen both during and between events.
Do be careful though, as if you end up spending too much money, bankruptcy is real and will end your season early. It won’t shutter the team forever, but it won’t be a healthy play for the advancement of your team’s growth.
There’s a lot to look forward to in this title, but if you keep digging, you’ll be sure to stumble upon some of the shortcomings as well. While the Career and Quick Race options work alright, the rest of the main menu options leave a lot to be desired.
One big opportunity missed has to be online multiplayer. While there does exist a multiplayer section, it’s asynchronous, which means you battle others online but not at the same time. For example, I could go on and set a time, another player could find me later on and race against what I previously did. This is a common practice in many mobile games, but for a console release, that’s definitely a letdown.
Local split screen multiplayer is thankfully a thing that works, at least I was able to get that going on my PlayStation 5. The split is vertical and no features are lost in the moment. I’m not sure why something like this couldn’t be implemented online, it seems like this would be a perfect addition.
I was able to try things out on both PS5 and my regular home PC. While I fully admit my PC is not great, it should be able to handle the title in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, there’s no means to tune that as the PC version has a complete lack of visual options to tweak.
The inability to change graphics settings on the PC meant that my specific hardware constantly overheated during my play-through, which is unfortunate. For me, that’s not something not uncommon, but with different games, like GRID Legends, I could make it work with graphical adjustments.
On PS5, I was able to change the graphics between performance and quality, which I get that with it being a 4K gaming system. Another seemingly quick fix that would have been welcomed for PC users.
Whatever way the graphics were configured or the platform I played on, it felt like there were times when I was playing two different games. I’d get beautiful, stunning NHRA scenes in one shot, such as pre-race on the strip, and then the next, it looks like I was playing it on a PlayStation 2.
Controls are another aspect that isn’t customizable. Even if you wanted to get your wheel and pedals hooked up for drag racing, the NHRA Speed For All UI only tells you what each controller does and doesn’t provide any way to change it.
I can personally overlook some of the wonky prompts that occur. The announcers just spew whatever, and a lot of times it doesn’t match up with what’s actually happening. One particular issue I had was when an announcer announced I had won, but actually, I had flipped across the line and collected the other car.
It does kind of kill off some of the immersion. I also noticed that if you play split-screen, the announcer will have something to say about both the left and right-screened driver… at the same time.
A final gripe with the title has to be regarding the lack of manufacturer support. Makes such as Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge are huge parts of each team’s brand and identity. Some top drivers and teams fall on the sidelines of the official NHRA game as well, not even included or playable.
For example, not only is the entire Pro Stock Motorcycle division forgotten, but top level drivers such as Leah Pruett and Mike Salinas from Top Fuel, Matt Hagan from the Funny Cars, and Aaron Stanfield are all missing from the title.
Not every venue on the 2022 calendar is included, either. Namely, places attached to some real tracks like Sonoma and World Wide Technology Raceway are left out.
I am sure some diehards might read this and disagree with many sentiments I have towards the title. For casual fans, it’s a good base and can provide a good number of hours of entertainment.
However, there are definitely a lot of things that just seem rushed, or missing, or just plain wrong. Why bother having the Four Wide National tracks included if you can’t partake in Four Wide drag racing? Why are the graphics locked to the max settings and yet only half of the time it looks good?
Keeping an open mind about it, it may provide great fun to NHRA fans and casual racing game enthusiasts.
While the NHRA Speed For All incidents are quite spectacular, we’ve seen some recent American racing game titles… *cough*… crash and burn even worse. While I wouldn’t say NHRA is an overall failure, it just lacks in a ton of areas, and the most unforgivable has to be the lack of multiplayer support.
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad game, as it does provide a great amount of single-player playability for someone who enjoys the real-world sport. It just could use a little more finesse to get it to where it needs to be.
|Developer||Team6 Game Studios|
|Release date||26th August 2022|
|Available platforms||PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S|
|Versions tested||PC and PlayStation 5|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.