Written for LCD PlayStation magazine c.2000

 

Nascar 2000

Publisher: EA Sports
Developer:
Players: 1-2
Analogue: Yes
Vibration: Yes
Memory card: 1 block
Released:
Price: £39.99
Genre: Racer

Intro
Round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round…

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.
The car handling is also very crude. Although the game does use the analogue option for steering, it is still very slow and jerky, making the cars difficult to control. A certain amount of physical contact is an accepted part of NASCAR racing, but the handling in this game makes it almost impossible to avoid crashing. When you do spin onto the grass, the on/off switch the game has instead of a throttle control makes it very difficult to get back on the track again. The car just skids about wildly, usually ending up pointing in the wrong direction.
What the game lacks in graphical firepower and handling finesse, it more than makes up for in tedious sports-sim detail. There are thirty-four drivers in the game, including some guy called Richard Petty aka ‘The King’, who is apparently a legend amongst NASCAR drivers. I’ve never heard of him or any of the others, but maybe that’s just me. Similarly, there are twenty-five accurately modelled tracks, eightteen of then from the official NASCAR circuit, but most of them are simple ovals with banked corners. These may allow the cars to go really fast, but at the same time they virtually eliminate any opportunity for skilful driving.
NASCAR cars are built to very strict rules governing size, shape, and performance, so the various models available in the game all look exactly the same. There are different colour schemes and numerous options to tweak your car’s performance and handling, but there is really no point, because once you get out on those oval tracks the total extent of the gameplay consists of holding your right thumb on the X button and occasionally moving your left thumb about two millimetres. Even on the seven non-oval tracks the total lack of driver AI from the other cars means you can just barge your way to the front of the queue and stay there until the finish. The cars are big and fast but they handle like whales on wheels, so just sticking to the racing line and taking as few risks as possible is the safest way to finish a race. If you saw the dismal movie Days of Thunder on TV recently, you will know that the only way they could make the sport look interesting was to have Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman doing rude things to each other to liven it up a bit, so the game is certainly realistic. There is also a realistic in-car radio link to your pit manager, but about the only use for it I can think of is to call out “Wake up! You’ve won!” at the end of the race.

Number crunching

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

Score 38/100

 

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.
Modern day NASCAR’s are powerful high tech machines powered by big V8 engines that are capable of reaching speeds of up to 330 km/h.
NASCAR is a registered trademark of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc.