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NASCAR Thunder 2003 Review
publisher: EA Sports
developer: Tiburon Entertainment
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Oct 16, 02 (released)
|» All About NASCAR Thunder 2003 on ActionTrip|
Many car racing fans believe that the true essence of racing lies in the ability to keep your car in balance and drive it through the bends, while still outrunning your opponents on circular tracks with not more than five or six bends per track. I personally find this as interesting as knitting a relatively monotonous tapestry. Still, there are many who are inclined to disagree, and the real proof for this is the immense popularity of NASCAR in the US. It is even more popular in the states than the No.1 car sport - Formula 1. the numerous tracks all around the continent and the huge audience that frequents them clearly state that continuously driving and turning leftwards has some charms, whatever they might be...
Round and round we go...
Spinning on a NASCAR track is never a good thing.
EA Sports is well aware of the popularity of these races, and has thus produced a number of NASCAR video games over the last couple of years. NASCAR Thunder 2003 is the latest title in the serial, and it appeared for all modern gaming consoles and PC.
There are two highly important things that influence the overall impression with these games: track authenticity, and car behavior. For the game to be successful, the player has to really feel like he is taming a powerful beast capable of reaching 200mph. I can fortunately report that the developer, Tiburon did its best in both aspects using their new ISI engine. Just like in the earlier NASCAR simulations, the experienced players will be able to tweak up their cars as much as they want (you can even manually set the pressure for each pneumatic, which can be crucial for certain tracks due to their shape), and the less experienced ones will be able to happily drive the races without actually having to mess with barely legible terms. I would advise all newbies to use computer assisted breaks, stability and acceleration. There are a lot of players you can select, and you will even be able to choose what banners they will paste on their cars. The impatient players like me will immediately go for the Quick Race mode and pick one of the tracks (my first choice was the Watkins Glen - due to its shape). After some practice, you will be ready for the first real race. Players who never before played a NASCAR simulation will have to spend some more time adapting to the game, as the cars here behave a bit different than the cars in other driving simulations. The automatic gear shift can work a bit funny after a sudden stop, and if you want to play with the manual gear shift, you will have to have another arm implanted first. The cars will mostly act in a realistic manner obeying all laws of physics. I said mostly as the cars don't really do what they are supposed to if they hit each other at speeds higher than 160mph. Was this an attempt to make the game easier for less experienced players?
Your opponents on track act fairly intelligent and they will try to avoid you in all possible ways. This isn't always the case though; sometimes they will just rush into you even if there is enough space to go around you. If they come to a chain car crash, they will slow down, but rarely ever go around it. If you try to block an opponent from gaining advantage (what happened to fair-play?), it will still try to do so without scratching against you, which makes AI still quite good for this type of games.
The game utilizes the new ISI engine, which should provide far better graphics than it does. It does display fairly good shadows and reflections, but the textures are simply too blurry and insufficiently detailed. NASCAR Racing 2002 was a lot better in this respect.
Resolution can go up to 1600x1200x32, which only slightly improves image quality. The particle effects look good both when you hit the breaks or another car, but the surroundings are extremely poor, not to mention spectators or trees on the sides of the tracks. Car models are definitely the most impressive graphic elements in the game, especially when you watch them from the swingman perspective. When you switch to the cockpit camera, you won't be able to see much and the driver's hands will look like two ugly pieces of wood. The only thing I couldn't figure out in this game is why they included the broadcast view. Several solutions irritated me from the very start, like the rear view mirror located at the top of the screen and the list of racers that appears when you pass a checkpoint, both of which block your view. But not all is lost... for instance you can pick a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo ;-). Thanks to the vertex-based damage system you will be able to wreck your car in a practically infinite number of ways; your wheels and parts of plating will fly off, the plating will get dented... damage effects look rather good and what's more, they influence the behavior of the car (if you turn that option on, that is). Just remember: wanting to experiment with the ways you can demolish your car won't win you the race.
As for the sound effect, things work better here than with the graphics, and the engine will have the recognizable 8000 rpm engine sound. Still, when you play the game from the swingman perspective, the engine sounds pretty much the same regardless of weather you are driving at 50 or 180mph. when you're in the cockpit the sound is far better, and it even makes locating the cars around you fairly easy.
The game features a multiplayer mode supporting up to 16 players over LAN or internet.
OIverall, I don't know what to think of this game really. Even though it is not as interesting as Formula 1, NASCAR Thunder 2003 can be intriguing. The large number of different tracks, some of the greatest names in racing and the smell of petrol you "feel" after being in the cockpit for some time are reason enough to play this game. I only hope that the inconsistent graphics won't spoil your enjoyment too much.
A lot of tracks, challenging, two tracks have more than six bends, cockpit sound;
Graphics are not as good as they should be, few details, the sound in the swingman view.
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