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NASCAR Thunder 2002
Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Games
Media: 1/0
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
Seeing that I just finished the PS2 version of NASCAR Thunder 2002 , I wondered how good the graphics could be on the PSX version. Not too shabby, not bad at all. I am consistently amazed at what a development team can do for PlayStation games these days. EA Sports only adds to that amazement. The graphics are very sharp and precise, and the colors explode everywhere on your screen. The cars and sponsors look very good. You can even tell the model of the car itself. The tracks are an accurate representation of any track you'll get on a postcard. The smoke, tires and lighting all look striking, and even the Pit is bustling as much as the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The crowd is very multitude-like, and the backgrounds themselves provide a clear, excellent backdrop to visual racing mastery. The damage engine is very good as well, with high speed bumps looking pretty rough on your front end. Even if another racer scrapes along your side, you'll see various scrapes and fiberglass bruises. NASCAR Thunder 2002 is excellent in its ocular presentation.

The sound comes in looking to make this thing a two-horse race. The programmers obviously didn't want the visuals to blow away the sound. All the high-revving engine grunts and groans are there. The tires wail as you leave strips of rubber on the track. Sparks fly as you play tit for tat in the position war. Pieces crack and rip as they whistle across the speedway. Even your team leader is talking to you while you race, and you can understand him perfectly. He'll tell you if someone is trying to pass you low or high, and what some of the best ways to pass the leader are. The opening music is fantabulous, and it continues to ricochet off my cranial walls as I type this review. NT2002 is no slouch in the physical presentation. It is very smooth without any graphical or ear-ical glitches.

There's a healthy serving of Gameplay options right on the proverbial table in this one. You can rip/roar through a Single Race, or hook up with a friend, and see who can manipulate a 900 hp machine the best. For those of you who would like to race a whole season, there's...well, Season Mode. There is even a Career Mode so you can strive to beat the competition over the course of an entire career. You can Create-a-Driver, and (my favorite) Create-a-Car. With a myriad of customization options, you can create the NASCAR car of your dreams. So with your brand new flamed NASCAR, can you win the points championship? If so, then you are truly a great racer. If not, then fret not. With the inclusion of Thunder Cards (something the PS2 version DOES NOT have), you'll have special little cheats at your beckoning. EA Sports has definitely mixed up some pretty fun gameplay for the racing fans out there, that should add some excellent replayability.

Well, here's where one of the flaws in NT2002 comes out. It's not overly difficult, but it seems to me like you can have a huge lead on the AI, and all of a sudden, they'll be right on your tail fighting you for position. It's a very 'rubber-band' type of AI, with you stretching out a lead, and BOING, there they are, right on your tail. This of course makes it challenging, but not overly difficult. It CAN be overlooked, even though it's a nuisance. The control is very good, and mostly reacts to how you set your car up at the beginning of the race. If you choose for it to handle well (at the cost of something like Acceleration), then it will steer rather well. If you sacrifice handling though, it will be tougher. Hey, at least you'll get off of the line faster. Again, the AI isn't a total fortress, but it can irk someone so much that the replay factor could be affected, even dramatically.

Game Mechanics:
Beautiful, beautiful menus. From setting options, to choosing what race you want, everything is smooth and austere. Nothing too fancy in my racing games please. I want a simple menu that takes me to where I need to get. The manual is helpful, but leaves out some pertinent information that isn't hard to find out, but still nerve racking when you don't see how to do something in the manual. At least it was stapled nicely together. Again the control is really up to the user, and each individual car setup. Still, take away all factors, and you have a game that still controls very well. The load times are a tad lengthy, but nothing unbearable.

Riot Rundown: NASCAR Thunder 2002 is a good game, but I believe it may be too suited for the NASCAR enthusiast. It's fun for the non-enthusiast out there, but its appeal may only touch one genre of gamers. It has a respectable replay value if the AI doesn't aggravate you too much. Don't get me wrong, it IS fun, and the best NASCAR game on the market right now.

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

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