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Nascar Racing 2002 Season is the latest in the series of
Stock Racing Sims by Papyrus Racing Games. As a newcomer into the racing scene,
and in particular the Nascar series this review will tend to focus on the
merits of the game in it’s current form, without any comparison to it’s
To start off, as a racing Sim you will not get far by
flooring the pedal, wildly thrashing the steering wheel and attempting
handbrake turns – in fact this is one of the first lessons you learn in the
driving lessons for Nascar 101A.
Where the game focuses is more on realism in the driving
experience of a 750HP stock car, where car specifications such as tyre pressure
and drafting techniques along with player handling skill make the real
differences in pushing the track limits, and not just various handling and gear
shifting tricks as with other racing games.
There were many things I learnt about car racing from
playing this game that I’m sure even many dedicated racing fans would not know
about, from concepts such as excess accelerating causing a “push” factor onto
the car and causing the front tyres to lose traction, to slipstreaming in a
line of cars to reduce drag and gain precious seconds in a race track. Another
interesting fact is that steering plays very little part in high-speed racing -
the sharpness of a turn is much better adjusted by the amount of acceleration/braking
of the car.
On impressive aspect of this game was the graphics. Often
Sim developers sacrifice graphics quality in lieu of highly detailed and
accurate gameplay design. Not so with Nascar 2002. The quality and detail
displayed is not only in car and racetrack visuals/specifications, but also
shown in environmental and physical aspects. For example in sunny weather, the
extra heat on the road will transfer onto the tyres, and the extra heated tyres
will reduce performance due to a higher wear rate. Even wind sheer has an
effect on the car’s performance.
The developers have put work into creating pleasing eye
candy, not just through small things like tyre marks, smoke, and car chassis
damage but other effects such as accurately rendered moving shadows as the car
travels along the track, as well as sunlight and floodlight reflections off the
cars surface. There are also all sorts of weather effects, from day and night to rain or shine.
Some aspects could have done with some work
however, like the spectators who look like a big cardboard stand had been lined
up along the track, or the sky which had distinct shades of blue in sections –
something a game using 32 bit colour should have been able to avoid.
Running the game on a P3 800 with a 64MB GF2 card, Nascar held
a comfortable 40FPS, occasionally dropping down to the low 20's in times where there were many
other cars on the track. Keep in mind this was with 32Bit colour, and all detail settings
set to maximum.
The sound effects include the vocals of your spotter, who
has a habit of stating the obvious along with providing some useful comments as
to pit speed limits and track times. There are some nice revving noises as well
as well placed sounds of cars you are passing or are been passed by.
The AI of the opponent drivers is not always the best, but
they do make attempts to steer past you if you are going too slow or to go out
of the way if you happen to be sitting in their usual path in a smoking wreck.
They are, however, not very hard to pass once you have the speed and control
right and occasionally do like to crash right into you and make a very fast
recovery while you are still in your 1080 degree spin heading into a wall.
The main aspect of the game is its function as a driving
simulator. You will find if your preference is to keep your foot on the
accelerator, or to race in tracks which look something like a 3 year old kids
art you will either spend a lot of time watching yourself go into spinouts, or
get bored of the game very fast.
All of the in game tracks are replicas of real racing
courses, such as Daytona, Indianapolis and the California speedway. Most of
these courses are simple “0” shaped tracks with slight variations, with just a
couple more adventurous ones featuring an extra turn or 2.
Each course requires specific maximum speeds or amounts of
deceleration on the turns. Personally I almost fell asleep on the practice 20
laps on one of the tracks, which required occasional taps on the left steering
accompanied with slight reductions in acceleration.
Nascar 2002 also focuses on fuel and tyre management, as
well as pit stopping techniques as key elements to succeed in a race. Once the
basic handling has been grasped, methods of minimising pit stop times become
the key to the success of a race. For the expert players, the garage offers a
way to tweak the cars settings to push the most of the cars ability for
individual driver preferences and track types. Included in the garage are
options for maximum fuel levels, aerodynamics, weight bias, suspension levels
and more. To get further into the gaming experience, the car’s exterior design
can be customised using a graphics program and imported into the game.
The game attempts to model as realistically as possible the
physics of the Nascar circuit down to the amount of tape covering the front
grille, or each individual tyre’s temperature after a race.
Attempts to change gears improperly (without decelerating,
using the clutch etc) made rather nasty sounds, but I am unsure as to whether
this ended up causing any actual damage to the car.
Another feature of the game is that for race replays – an
entire race can be recorded and replayed to learn from past mistakes, or to
watch as you gloriously gain victory inches in front of your opponent. There
are several modes available, including overheard and spectator viewpoints.
The game also closely follows the actual NASCAR rulebook,
including enforcing all applicable rules and penalties, including yellow light
restrictions, and the black flag and stop/go penalty. For those who prefer to
worry less about the tiny irritants, the game can be played in Arcade mode, which
handles the same but relaxes most of the rules of the simulation mode.
Not having a force feedback steering wheel, or the
accompanying foot pedals, I could not give this game justice in terms of
handling accuracy as the “on/off” maximums in keyboard steering cannot match
the realism of a real driving experience.
I found the steering to be quite unresponsive, and measuring
acceleration on turns fairly difficult. I can’t make a judgement on how much of
this (if at all) was part of the game design or just the lack of proper
For the uninitiated, the game features driving lessons, from
basic steering controls, to techniques to hints for expert drivers for tweak
settings. There are also track tours, which give a guided tour of each track
and driving techniques for each section of the track by NASCAR legend Darrell
There is a testing session, for lone practice, single race
mode, which includes a practice, qualifying, warm-up and race, or the
championship for an entire season’s worth of racing using a points system. And
as you’d probably expect, there is a multiplayer option using TCP/IP mode or
through Sierra.com included for you to prove just how good you are.
As a gamer without much prior racing knowledge, NASCAR 2002
introduced the fundamentals of realistic stock racing and provided an enjoyable
and interesting learning curve into the game and the Nascar circuit. However,
to truly enjoy the game, a player would require an interest in the finer
technical points of racing. This game is for those avid racing fans, who are
keen to try a piece of the action realistically, rather than someone who is
looking for a quick way to cause mass destruction or trick driving using a car.
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