Back in April, indie developer Bryan Blackford and his company Speedway Labs LLC released a top-down oval racing title dubbed Speedway Ringer. The title was free on Steam and it felt like a great base of a simulation style game that could eventually be.
Now, Blackford and Speedway Labs have taken that based and created a new game, less on the simulation side and more based on an arcade title. DRAFTYCAR is the name, and this draft-based racing game harkens back to an old browser-based flash game called NASTYCAR. It’s unlicensed, but it feels like a NASCAR game.
Draftycars’ models resemble a mix between NASCAR Stock Cars from the Generation 3 and Generation 4 eras, what some consider to be the golden age of superspeedway-style racing, and that’s pretty much what this game is, except you’re going in a straight line. It’s only $6.99 on Steam, so I downloaded it and spent a few hours digging into this new potential way to lose a couple of hours.
All the DRAFTY details
It’s simple enough. When one opens up the game, there are five menus on the loading screen to choose from. Race is where players will play, Leaderboards shows both the most wins in the world and the fastest wins in the world, Controls to see what buttons to press, Settings for some changeable options, and Quit.
There are two game modes in Race, Official and Custom. Official mode is the same settings for all drivers, while Custom allows players to fine tune settings for the AI, including the strength of the draft, the bubble effects and drag options, among other adjustable features.
Races done in Custom will not count towards the leaderboard. There are three tracks in both modes – Mountain Run, Forest Run and City Run – each with their own night setting, although all that seems to change is the scenery and nothing else.
The City Run is great in both modes, but Forest Run at night is a fantastic visual sight with the lightning and rain. Unfortunately, in Patch 1.70, the “Category 5 Hurricane” was temporarily removed. Again, it doesn’t affect anything in terms of the way the tracks race or AI reacts, it just looks cool.
While the custom races do take some time to figure out the best settings, and players can also get the OG top down view in it, the Official races are actually really good and competitive. Plus, when players win those, they get to see their name on the board in win total and their fastest winning time.
What works well
The mechanics of the game are pretty true to what NASTYCAR used to be, just at a bit more fast-paced and with some key differences. DRAFTYCAR’s graphics, for as basic of a racing game, are really decent. The Unreal Engine shines in different environments and conditions.
The cars look cool too, most of the paint schemes based around classic schemes from NASCAR past and present. Of course, none of them are licensed, so they are all fictional liveries. There’s a full field of 43 cars on the track too, which harkens back to the years before the NASCAR Charter System, how big fields used to be.
Players can definitely tell who these cars are based upon, but that’s the point for most lifelong fans of NASCAR. Shoutout to Chris Overland on the work on these paints schemes.
What could be improved
I think there are a few key missing elements to the title that could help the longevity or fun factor of the title.
With the Official races requiring the chase camera view, I think a rear-view mirror would be a great addition. When leading, players really never know where the runs are about to develop behind and sometimes are just a sitting duck. The top-down view alleviates this to a point, but this is not available in Official.
If that camera view could be made usable in official, then it would be another story. Some of the small things that NASTYCAR had, such as a speedometer and tach, a spotter that gave some interesting dialogue, and a results page with a field rundown and some stats would be great additions as well.
Also, the controls are what they are, but tapping the keys to keep turning as opposed to just holding a key down seems like it could be a win. I haven’t tried my controller yet, but it’s cool to see the integration on the controls page.
I know that unlike NASTYCAR, Speedway Labs probably won’t go near naming actual drivers. However, maybe it could be like a Discord discussion on making up some great fake names to go to battle against. Also, the ability to change paints would be a fun addition. It seems to be a thought, at least from the trailer.
Finally, the physics seem to be really good for an arcade racer. Maybe if the cars could pack up less, maybe if the player could move around opponents more and maybe if the way the runs came were a little less predictable, this could be a fantastic challenge each and every play-through.
DRAFTYCAR is like one of those games where if you’re bored and need to kill some time, it fills that void nicely, similar to how NASTYCAR used to be back in the day in High School. I’d actually love to see this as a mobile game at some point, it’d be the ultimate time killer.
For the price though, and knowing that developer Bryan Blackford is doing this as a passion project more than anything seems like a job well done and something all Superspeedway-style racing fans can get behind.
Although, the crowd that’s already making jokes at NASCAR fans for only making left turns might not find it as interesting, especially knowing there’s not a single turn, it is all straight all the time. To each their own. I think it’s a great little racer that provides a neat strategic aspect not found in many games today.
DRAFTYCAR is available NOW on Steam for $6.99.