NASCAR Thunder 2002 (PSX) Review
The sport of auto racing has been taking its knocks in the past years.
People say the sport is not only boring and repetitive, but also very
dangerous. The deaths of a few marquee drivers certainly did not help
that image. Fortunately, the decline in popularity has not affected the
frequency of racing video games.
I did not play Nascar 2001, but I am a proud owner of Gran Turismo and
GT 2 on the PSX and I watch Nascar racing on television. I also have
been enjoying the Need For Speed series for three or four years, so I
know what a smooth racing experience feels like. I also rented Nascar
Heat for the PS2, but I can't say my experiences were enough to deem me
an expert in EA racing games. Nonetheless, I am an eager racing fan
wanting to see how Thunder 2002 will stack up with the competition.
Thunder 2002 aspires to be the most authentic racing title out on the
market. Let's see if the game accomplishes that goal or is burnt
Presentation/Graphics : 90
Although EA is notorious for putting a heavy emphasis on jaw dropping
graphics, the PSOne is on its last legs and I wasn't expecting much from
this game in the department of eye candy. What I saw on my television
when I started playing the game was amazing. An EA title demonstrated a
certain level of savvy in piecing together a very nice looking PSX game.
For starters, the cars are very detailed. The many logos of sponsors
and companies will make their way on to your favorite racer's car. I
was surprised to not encounter too many of the "jaggies" that us PSOne
gamers have become accustomed to. The car models are very similar to those of the Gran Turismo PSX series (p.s. that is damn good).
The tracks are also very good. You are immersed into the slab of
pavement from the moment you take that first practice lap around the
track. EA did a nice job of putting the right amount of detail in the
tracks and its environment. Rest assured, there are no ugly looking
sprites ruining your race atmosphere. The tracks take on a new level
when Race Day comes around and the stands are filled with hoards of
fans. The hollow, vast stadium turns into a cozy, intimate frenzy. My
adrenaline was pumping.
During a race you will see sparks fly when you bump into other cars and you'll see the burnouts on the road. I guess if I had to choose one
word to describe the graphic of Nascar Thunder, that word would be
smooth. I believe that is the greatest compliment you can give a game
in terms of graphics.
Presentation/Audio : 62
Average at best. The normal racing game sounds are rehashed and even =
though the atmosphere of driving a race is cozy and intimate, the sounds =
are not. When a car bumps into a wall or peels out, the crowd will give =
a very subtle "ooh" or "ahh". The crowd shows very little emotion and =
that is unfortunate because Nascar fans are as crazy as they come in the =
Interface : 80
Overall, you have a nice selection of gameplay options in Thunder.
There are only two game modes, single race and season mode, but both are
very in-depth. The EA mystique of having an outstanding season mode,
full of options and stats, is definitely upheld by Thunder.
As soon as you choose Season Mode, you are immediately hit with a number
of variety of options for the season. Although it sounds like one
gameplay mode, season mode splits off into different types of seasons.
For example, there are eight different types of seasons you can race
with: Road Course Challenge, Superspeedway Shootout, Short-Track
Challenge, Full Season, Full Season w/ Fantasy, Half Season, Half Season
w/ Fantasy, and Custom. Each type of season touches base with each type
of Nascar racing.
After selecting what type of season you want to venture into, there are
three difficulty levels you can choose from: Rookie, Veteran, and
Legend. You can also choose the level of car damage in a race, the
frequency of engine breakdown, race length, and pit scaling.
Once you have made your gameplay options and season mode choices, you
will find that there is a plethora of stats being tracked in your season
mode. There are player stats, season standings, and user records.
There are Thunder Cards that you can attain by winning races and
completing various tasks in the game. The cards can be used for car
enhancements and can unlock tracks. There is also a Hall of Fame that
you can be inducted into and the Track Records are tallied from each
Gameplay : 85
Nascar Thunder aspires to be the most authentic racing title on the
market and there is no doubt that it accomplishes that goal. The first
thing that I noticed was the road physics. I completed my first race at
Daytona Beach and there are patches of sand coinciding with the track.
The moment that my car touched those sand patches, the friction of the
car immediately changed spinning me out of control. I also noticed the
difference of racing on a track that had that "bowl" shaped track. Once
you got up on those edges you could feel the balance of your car change.
I know that my observations may seem elementary and corny, but I have
played many racing games where it feels like you are cruising on the
Interstate for the entire race.
The gameplay rating would drop to about 15 if it were not for my Analog
capabilities on my PSX controller. I know that there is not many
controllers left out there that don't have analog capabilities, but if
for some reason you don't have analog, I would suggest not buying this
game. Steering with the D-Pad is damn near impossible. Unless you have
a steering wheel, analog is must-have. This is probably my main gripe
with the gameplay of Thunder. For some reason I was never able to get
comfortable steering with the analog sticks. It seemed like I was never
able to make a good, hard turn when I had to because the analog stick
was too liberal in its movements. I have never made a turn in a car
going 175 m.p.h. and maybe the turn is impossible, but I can make my
estimate on how proficient that turn should be and I think the turn
should be tighter than what it is.
The racing purists will probably complain about my above statement, but
I will stand by what I said. Some turns were just near impossible
without slowing to a speed that "Grandpa and Grandma in the Lincoln
Continental" would leave you in the dust. If you can take a corner with
efficiency, however, you will be able to use your momentum and pass
The A.I. for the opposing racing cars is very good. On rookie mode you
will find that no one will really try to pass you or maneuver around
you. But as you make your way up the difficulty levels, the cars become
smarter and smarter. If you don't nestle around that corner just
perfectly, you can bet that three or four cars will slingshot right
around you. You will have to take full advantage of the camera angles
and your rear-view mirror to ensure that you know where the cars are
coming from. Also, the cars are much more aggressive in the upper
difficulty levels. Jeff Gordon on Legend Mode will make sure to give
you that extra "love tap" as you try to pass him.
Where the game scores major authenticity points is in the Race Weekend.
The Race Weekend is your prep for the week's race and is a six-step
process. The first thing you do is head to the garage and tweak your
car for the track. You can select between a manual and automatic
transmission, adjust the tire pressure, shocks, down force, wedge, left
and right bias, wheel lock, fuel load, and gear ratio. By tweaking this
and that, you can optimize your chance of success. After leaving the
garage you get to take some practice laps around the track by yourself
before going to qualifying. After qualifying you go to Happy Hour and
then you start the race.
The races are quite entertaining and on the right track, the experience
is very pleasurable, but the races do tend to get repetitive. Aside
from seeing the same course for 30 or 40 laps at one sitting, your
thumbs get cramped from holding down the X button for 15 or 20 minutes!
I guess there is no logical way to get around this, but I wish there was
some way to counteract this exhausting process. You are given the
option to race five percent, 10%, 25%, 50%, or 100% of a given race. I
have no clue how you could race a full 400 laps of a race. I normally
chose the five percent or 10% length and I was usually ready to quit by
time the race was over.
On the whole gameplay is a pleasurable experience. I can only gauge how
authentic the experience is from what I have seen on television due to
the fact that I have never raced in a Nascar race, but I think that EA
did an admirable job of portraying the sport.
Replay Value : 90
If you are a fan of Nascar racing, this game will keep you entertained
and busy for a few weeks. I have been reviewing this game for about two
weeks now and I haven't even scratched the surface of completing any of
the season modes. There are over 40 tracks and over 30 Nascar Stars.
The number of things you can tweak is amazing and is Gran Turismo-esque.
If you can stand mashing the X button for 20 minutes at a time for a
race, this title is a no-brainer.
Overall : 84
By: Tim Martin 12/11/01
Although the game is lacking in the audio department, the game's depth
is what makes it special. For die-hard Nascar fans, I would give two
thumbs up in buying this title. This is assuming that the changes are
more than subtle from Nascar 2001. Although the game gets tedious at times, I think the high number of tracks and options will keep you
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