Nascar Thunder 2002
Review of Nascar Thunder 2002
EA Sports has updated their NASCAR offering for 2002 to include a larger field of participants and all of the tracks currently in the Winston Cup circuit. Thankfully, they have also worked on last year’s embarrassing graphics slowdown. Now with the HUD, rearview mirror, in a full pack of cars, you can pass the grandstands without the graphics either slowing down or getting crude. That feature being fixed at least helps to improve the experience with this title.
Starting the game definitely gets you in the mood with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” playing during the setup and menu selection. As usual, you can choose quick start with any driver and any track (including a make your own car feature). Quick start and career modes both have practice, qualifying and full race features. 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 has the normal fuel run-out, damage that can knock you out of the race, etc. If you so desire, you can just do some quickie races of 10 laps or percentages of the real race. They default to the arcade which mode lets you live on and on no matter how many times you crash (you do have to press R2 to repair severe damage, though). Even in these shortened races you can turn on the fuel, damage and other reality features have a dose of reality.
A new feature is how much assist the AI engine gives to your car. Turn it all off, and the car becomes extremely difficult to control. Keeping it on allows you to negotiate the curves and maneuver better. As you progress through the game, I’m sure you’ll want to experiment with this feature to find what best suits your abilities. My belief is this would be much more noticeable with the G-Force wheel than with standard controllers. Why? As in last year’s game, one shortcoming I found to this is the feedback to the dual shock controller. There is no feedback on the thumbstick of the G-Forces on the turns and the push as you accelerate out of a turn. The feedback is improved somewhat, but still hard to gauge when the back end is ready to give out and slide into the wall. Frankly, the benchmark of racing games is still GT3, and the handling is very weak in comparison to that title. You’d think it’d be better since there is only one type of car with similar handling characteristics.
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. In veteran mode, one swipe against the wall and the field takes off ahead of you, a couple more mishaps, and goodbye! Don’t choose long races in veteran mode until you can consistently win or place in the shorter ones.
The AI has been improved in the driving modes. The other drivers remember if you clip them, cut them off or bump them. They return the favor in kind as soon as they get the chance. One aspect of the AI that I found less believable was the way the cars seem to part and you can somehow squeeze between two cars that didn’t have that much room in between before. That was more prevalent in rookie mode, so I guess the game is set up to be more forgiving.
The graphics on this are extremely functional, but not breathtaking. Once again, comparing to GT3, there is much room for improvement. The sheer number of tracks they are duplicating are done very well. The cars are extremely detailed and just about graphically perfect and the game manages to display the whole field of drivers on screen at the same time. They do add the feature of smoke in the air, tire marks where you skidded on the track and full damage on the car. The damage feature is much more realistic, now you see chunks of metal and plastic fly and the damage to the cars is much more realistic and in line with the rules of physics. If youre an avid NASCAR® fan, you will quickly recognize all of the cars in your competition. The numbers, paint jobs, and the sponsors are easily recognizable and readable. There are some sponsors that are noticeably missing. For example, Dale Jr. has Dale across the hood—I thought he was my “Bud.”
The sound effects are good, but nothing special. I am not impressed with some of the sounds used. The engine sounds are not the high-pitched whiny type that you hear on the TV when watching NASCAR. The sound of the cars hitting the walls is improved and more realistic than before, so there is an improvement. Your pit crew sends you various instructions and comments over the radio, and that sounds like the tinny radio voice. The comments do tend to repeat themselves in certain situations.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Nascar Thunder 2002' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Downey © Absolute PlayStation
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