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NASCAR2001 is this years update of EA Sports arcade racing game based on the famous American stock car racing series. Being an officially licensed title it benefits from having all the cars, drivers and tracks included.
First things first, the graphics in this title are excellent, especially when considering the large number of vehicles and circuits depicted in the game. The polygon models of the cars themselves are great - the numbers, paint jobs, and the sponsors are easily recognizable and readable. Track graphics are terrific as well, with the inclusion of wear points, skid marks and even scuffing on the walls.
There's an option to allow the cars to become damaged, which adds greatly to the realism and forces you to be a little less reckless during your scrapes with other vehicles. I found it a little strange that the front of the car seems to stay in perfect condition no matter hard you smash it and wondered if this was a concession made to the manufacturers, or just sloppy programming..?
The on-screen display shows your speed, gas gauge, and has NASCAR timing to show your best laps and your place in the race. Overall, a very user-friendly HUD.
On the sound front, I was a little disappointed that there was only two background music tracks included, but at least they can be switched off before driving you crazy.
When it comes to gameplay, this has something for everyone...
If you want to have the "true" effect of racing in a NASCAR season, you can turn on all of the features, including a full 200 lap race with normal pit stops. This really ups the level of difficulty, realism and your tolerance levels. For example, if you run out of fuel, you're done unless you can coast to the pits. Flip the car, and you're done.you get the idea.
For those of you who can't be bothered with all of this realism, you can do some "quickie" arcade style races and concentrate on just having some fun.
One of the few shortcomings I found while playtesting NASCAR 2001 was the lack of any real feeling of how the car was going to react. Consequently I found myself crashing into walls since I didn't get the feedback that my tail end was skidding out, or tires were shot. Games such as Ridge Racer 4 use the vibration feature on joypad to let you know the car is about to break away - hopefully EA will make sure this gets added into the next update.
There are three levels of driving competition you can choose from: Rookie, Veteran or Legend. I was quickly able to overpower my competition in Rookie mode. So switching to Veteran mode, I found a whole new challenge. One swipe against the wall and you get to watch the field take off ahead of you, a couple more and the pack is out of view... so keep races short and simple until you master the circuit, or prepare for some lonely laps.
· NEW TECHNOLOGY: A brand new game engine with enhanced graphics, car physics, and challenging computer AI model
· MULTIPLE SEASON "CAREER" MODE: Create a driver and see if you can triumph as a series champion in multiple seasons.
· TOP DRIVERS: Over 30 drivers including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
· MORE TRACKS: Daytona and 18 other NASCAR tracks with both day and night racing, plus bonus fantasy road courses
· CREATE A DRIVER: Choose the car color, model, number and sponsor for your own NASCAR ride.
· FULL OR "TRACK PACK" SEASON: Race a full or half NASCAR season or choose to compete on track packs: race just on short tracks, road courses, speedway fantasy tracks, or superspeedways
Number of Disks: 1
Number of blocks used on Memory card per save: 1
Maximum number of Players (without a multi-tap): 2
Multi-tap compatible (max players): No
Link-cable compatible (max players): No
Split screen multi-player option (max players): Yes (2)
Other accessories: None
Dual Shock Pad Digital Button compatible: Yes
Dual Shock Pad Analog Stick compatible: Yes
Dual Shock Pad Vibration compatible: Yes