EA brings NASCAR revolution to the video racetrack
(IDG) -- Electronic Arts (EA) blazes onto the pro-racing scene with its first NASCAR game for the PC, NASCAR Revolution. In their zeal to live up to the famous license, the designers threw in everything they could think of--including the kitchen sink.
As one of 31 famous drivers (Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace--they're all here), you'll rev the engines of their 31 current NASCAR cars on 17 licensed tracks from across the USA. And you even get the commentary duo of Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons for your aural pleasure.
Revolution's got options up the wazoo. Set your car's weight distribution, gear ratio, steering lock, and more to adjust to the specifics of the track you'll be hitting (more speed or more handling ability?). Control the length of the race, physics such as drafting (riding in the wake of another driver to minimize wind resistance), damage to your car--you can even enable a "pit crew mistakes" option.
Make sure you read the manual before selecting the tough Simulation mode, or choose Arcade or Custom modes instead. If you're not careful, you can cause a 30-car pileup, just like in real life. You can also race against a friend over the modem or a serial connection, and there can be as many as eight competitors over a LAN.
These are nice features, but somehow, in the midst of all this tweak-ability, EA forgot about the gameplay. I didn't expect the same people who made Need for Speed to come out with sleeping gameplay. Though everything is superficially authentic--the engines revving, the cars thundering down the track--the actual driving seems really slow, as if the cars are just sitting on the track.
Though I registered at 180mph, it felt like the cars were moving about 55mph, even with the background animation (such as trees) going by. I want to experience NASCAR racing, but not by reading the speedometer--and all the customizability in the world can't make up for good action.
Revolution requires a 3D accelerator card, and even a tech-support guy at EA admitted that the game's pretty fussy about which drivers you use. It didn't like the drivers I had with my Banshee card, so I had to download the ones on 3Dfx's Web site.
Tech problems aside, the graphics are decently sharp (as you'd expect from 3Dfx), and smoke and fog effects are all present and accounted for. The motion-captured pit crew animation is excellent. And with the car-damage option turned on, it's great to see the bumper crumple as you hit the guy in front of you, and watch little bits and pieces flying around. But the cars could have been rendered to look smoother (EA, see NFSIII).
Another gripe: Win the race, and you'll be disappointed at the bad rendering of the polygonal driver (you) as he climbs out of the car, raising his arms in victory.
From the roaring of the engines down to the skidding of tires, the sound effects are pretty good. You also have a pit-crew member on your head-set telling you to "keep low" or "stay high," alerting you to what's going on. Unfortunately, this voiceover can grow a bit annoying at times, rather than being helpful.
The same goes for the commentary: phrases are simply repeated too often. (I heard "Kenny Wallace won his first race" three times over the course of one race.) The so-so soundtrack offers gobs of country-western music, with tunes by George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others.
Overall Score: 5.0
Somehow, EA has released a very average racing game that's missing all the legendary gameplay you'd expect from this company. After all the bells and whistles building up to the actual racing portion of the game, I was left wanting so much more.
NASCAR Revolution isn't just about speed. Cars racing along at 185mph can't turn on a dime, so slow to about 120mph going into a turn (each one varies a bit) and try to gain momentum by accelerating halfway through the turn.
Unless your car is so heavily damaged that you can't keep up with the rest of the pack, don't head for the Pit, it eats up a lot of valuable time that you may not be able to recover.
When you're stuck in a pack (blocked in by cars), don't panic. Stay with the pack until you're clear to move ahead to more open space.
You don't have to come in first in every single race to win the Championship Season. Make sure you're consistently in the top 10 and you'll do fine.
Don't always listen to your crew member. If he says "stay low" and you see an opening at the top, go for it.
Danny W. Lam is a writer for Games.net.
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