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NASCAR Racing 2002 Season

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  Reviewed by Erich Becker
April 24, 2002
Racing Simulation
Sierra Studios (Win) / Aspyr (Mac)
NASCAR Racing 2002 Season is this yearís follow up to the award winning NASCAR Racing 4 by Papyrus Racing Games and Sierra. 2002 Season boasts many improvements as well as an updated driver roster, and all of official NASCAR tracks.

The original NASCAR Racing 4 was a sight to see. The game had an amazing physics engine that made it feel like you were actually racing a real stock car. The games amazing graphics engine was rebuilt from the ground up and featured dynamic lighting, intricate car detail, and amazing textures, and aside from the crowd graphics, was one of the best looking games of last year, and by far the best looking racing game. With the right video card, and enough RAM, one could almost fool the nearest red-neck that they were actually watching the race on Fox.

Sierra and Papyrus revisit the series this year, much like EA does every year, and makes some minimal advancement to an already near-perfect game formula.

The user interface has been given a facelift, and some minor tweaks have been added to the game play. You now have the option to turn on a racing line overlay that shows you on the track just where you should be in order to maintain your speed, and come out of corners correctly. Remaining is the highly customizable simulation mode, which may seem daunting to the casual gamer or non-Gran Turismo fan who isnít used to the high rate of customization that simulation games offer.

Papyrus feels for you, brother, because the game features very "easy to pick up gameplay," as it should because the majority of NASCARís major fans either have a car on blocks in their front yard or have a member of their family with two titles.

To help with the beginners, Papyrus continues to introduce their non-interactive tutorials to help the newbie learn the ropes. The problem is these tutorials are non-interactive. Differing from NASCAR Heatís challenge modes, 2002 Season tries to lure in the casual gamer, but the high degree of simulation and low degree of beginner help might detour a great many of the general masses due to the fact they just wonít be able to get into a game that has them crashing up against the outside retaining wall every 20 feet.

Unchanged is Papyrusí excellent replay mode that lets you create some spectacular wrecks and see it from a number of different angles and speeds. I spent a clear quarter of my time with this game just watching my 20 car pile up over and over again. It is truly something great.

As mentioned earlier, 2002 Seasonís graphics engine is the same featured in Racing 4 with some minor performance tweaks to aide some video cards with lower onboard RAM. Even with the added tweaks, it still takes a monster of a machine to run this game with everything up. I have yet to see a system take this beast standing, most are brought to their knees and end up choking so bad the game is unplayable. On an Athlon 600 with 384 MB of RAM and a 32 MB TNT2 Ultra video card the system can dish out an average of 25 to 30 frames per second with all settings in the medium range.

NASCAR Racing 2002 Season builds up on the success of its predecessor, but may not warrant a purchase unless you are a die-hard fan of NASCAR Racing for Papyrusí games. While offering updated rosters, tracks, and some minor game play tweaks, it may not have enough for those of you that already own Racing 4, but it has enough to keep any race fan sitting pretty in turn four.

(Click to Enlarge)

Minimum Requirements...
Windows 98/ME/XP; 450 MHz Pentium II Processor; 64 MB of RAM; 16 MB Video Card.
Mac OS X only; 256 MB RAM; G4/733 Mhz (Dual supported at 500 Mhz +); 16X CD-ROM; 665 MB Hard Disk space; 3D Acceleration (ATI Radeon/nVidia GeForce2)


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