Written for LCD PlayStation magazine c.2000
Publisher: EA Sports
Although it is really just glorified stock-car racing, there is something totally American about NASCAR. In fact, you could describe it as the baseball of motorsport. Like baseball, the idea behind it is very simple. You take a bunch of enormously overpowered sports cars, paint them in a range of lurid colours, and then drive them around in a circle at very high speeds for about two hundred laps. Like baseball, nobody understands the rules or the point of the game, but this doesn’t seem to matter. There is almost no overtaking, nobody ever seems quite clear on when the race starts or finishes, but at the end of it the drivers are treated like royalty and the commentators talk in numbers for an hour or two. Like baseball, nobody else on the planet is even slightly interested in it, but the Americans think it is the greatest motorsport in the world. NASCAR 2000 from EA Sports perfectly captures the essence of the experience, and I’m absolutely sure it will sell in vast quantities here in the UK. Oh yes.
Days of Blunder
However, this is a game review, not a Yank-bashing session, so I’ll fill you in with a few details. As a game, NASCAR 2000 leaves a lot to be desired. The graphics engine is nothing special, especially when compared to things like Ridge Racer Type 4 or F1 ’99. The cars suffer visible damage, and there are simulated shadows, but that’s about it for the clever stuff. There are several camera angles to choose from, but only two are actually any use. Although there is a good sensation of speed from the bumper-cam, the low angle makes it impossible to spot upcoming corners. There are no weather effects, and the lighting effects on the single night-time course are barely deserving of the name.
As is often the case with many sports sims, especially American sports sims, the statistics have become more important than the game itself. The whole thing is reduced to a series of numbers. Lap times, championship points, gear ratios and fuel weights have their place, but somewhere along the way there should be a game in there to make the numbers mean something. If the central core of the game isn’t fun to play, then the whole thing becomes pointless and you might as well be doing maths homework. NASCAR 2000 isn’t fun, partially because of the disappointing graphics, partly because the cars are crap but mostly because NASCAR racing is a very boring sport. It’s just the same thing time after time, without even the weather to make things more interesting. If you want excitement and fun in a driving game then get Driver, or even TOCA 2. Touring cars may not reach two hundred and thirty miles and hour but at least they race in the rain occasionally.
The cars are big and fast but they handle like whales on wheels
The roots of NASCAR racing lie in Southern America in the 1930’s during the prohibition. Smugglers transporting moonshine whisky had to battle each night to outrun the law, and often worked on their cars and modified their engines to avoid being caught out. When a dispute arose between two of the moonshine runners about which of their cars was fastest, they solved the issue by holding an illegal race – and stock car racing was born.