There's been a spate of racing simulations released over the past few months, with all the major players getting their 2000 versions on to shelves for enthusiasts. And one of the bigger and better ones is "NASCAR 2000", EA's challenger to the Papyrus throne.
Now, since this is a simulation, you probably already have a pretty good idea of what to expect - get in a car, drive it around a track a few hundred times, and hopefully win the race. Since the premise is pretty simple, the developers typically try to throw in a few new tricks in each release to keep your attention from wandering. And so it is with "NASCAR 2000" - the latest release features over thirty new drivers (including Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt), eighteen tracks (with six additional "fantasy" tracks - see what I mean about gimmicks?!) and a new "race weekend" module, which simulates a real race weekend.
"NASCAR 2000" also comes with numerous game modes - there's Quick Race mode (get on to a track and start racing immediately); Single Player mode (drive a complete championship season or a single race) and Multiplayer mode (which lets you go head-to-head over a network). Once you've selected the mode, you can pick a car and driver, select a track and go straight to the race weekend, where you'll get a chance to put your car through its paces in practice sessions and qualifying rounds. At this point, you also have the option of adjusting car settings like tyre pressure, gear ratios, fuel and weight in order to give yourself an optimally balanced car.
During the race itself, you can keep track of important information in the HUD, which appears as an overlay on the screen; you'll also receive updates on the overall situation from your crew chief and spotter. You can also track the car's telemetry systems, or check out lap times for every other driver in the race. At the end of the race, you'll be provided with race results and replays.
While "NASCAR 2000" is fun to play, hardcore enthusiasts will be disappointed by the fact that the physics are a little unrealistic - I haven't played a racing sim in a while, but I still found NASCAR's cars to be relatively easy to handle (I suspect this is not the case in real life). This is by no means a bad thing, guaranteed as it is to reduce the learning curve for newbies and thereby create a larger audience for "NASCAR 2001".
Graphics are superlative, although you will need a high-end machine to enjoy them, and the sound effects - motors revving, tyres squealing et al - are also excellent. The new "Race Against The King" mode, which lets you go head to head with Richard petty, NASCAR's greatest driver, is an interesting new addition, and there are also some great tracks performed by Blues Traveler. A good upgrade for NASCAR fans!This article was first published on 15 Dec 2000.