What's the deal?
Like every other franchise they've got, EA Sports has become somewhat lazy with the NASCAR license in recent years, rehashing the same old engine with a new driver thrown in once in a while to reflect the coming of hot new rookies and retirement of venerable heroes.
Whether it's the excitement of a new system or the fact that Hasbro is trying to invade EA's territory with their own NASCAR title, this year's NASCAR installment is receiving a complete overhaul. This isn't just last year's game in new clothes; EA has actually gone back, torn down the old engine and rebuilt it from the ground up.
The historical Daytona International Speedway, a license locked out of the video game world for years, is the site of NASCAR's biggest race of the year. Well, the license is now available, and EA has snatched it up for NASCAR 2001. For the first time ever, players will be able to test their mettle in the Daytona 500 on a home console.
So why Is it a must-get game?
Aside from Hasbro's new NASCAR title, EA's NASCAR 2001 is the only place to go for fans to get their fix. Upon the launch of PlayStation 2, it'll be the only racing game out that's endorsed by a U.S. sanctioning body. NASCAR is the second most watched sport in the country for a reason. Forty-three cars screaming around triovals and half-mile short tracks at upward of 200 mph is about as exciting as it gets, and EA Sports has always known how to capture that feeling.
Download Nascar 2001
For the first time in a NASCAR-licensed game, players will be able to compete in the historic Daytona 500. That alone should be enough to send fans into fits of ecstacy, but it gets better. NASCAR 2001 is being rebuilt from the ground up for the PS2, so it won't just be a quick port of the old PlayStation game. EA Sports is quick to point out that the drivers now perform more like their real-world counterparts.
We finally spent some quality time behind the wheel of the first PS2 NASCAR game, and we're happy to say it definitely feels more solid than its PS counterpart. Whether it's drafting down the long straights of a super-speedway or beating and banging through the turns of a half-mile bullring, EA Sports is definitely on the right track (no pun intended) so far. Once they smooth out the framerate, the game should be just about right. This fall release should get racing fans off the fence and in the stores to buy a PS2.
NASCAR 2001 on the PS2 looks decent, and the physics model is probably the best EA's done yet for the series. Unfortunately, this is an arcade racer passing itself off as a sim. That's fine for the casual fan, but I wish EA would start taking this sport more seriously. This is like releasing NFL Blitz and calling it Madden 2001: Football fans would set the EA building ablaze. I want a 43-car field, not the paltry 20 in this game. I want a pace car that actually has roof lights and dives onto pit lane on a restart, not just one that disappears when they drop the green. I want all the drivers and all the tracks, not just a collection of the top names. I want to adjust the tire pressures on my car. You get the idea. Don't get me wrong, I still have fun with this game once in a while. Especially when turning the difficulty all the way up and running for a few hundred laps on a short track. You really get the bumper-to-bumper feel. But it would be so much better if EA left the arcade setup alone and concentrated on making a sim NASCAR fans everywhere would go nuts for. Outside of that. EA Sports need only do two other things for next year's edition to be great: Get rid of the weird interlaced slowdown-and for the love of God--commission some better tunes for the game. So l guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for an arcade racer with familiar drivers and tracks, this is it. If a sim is what you want, look elsewhere.
With some sports games, you can get away with throwing a whole bunch of famous players into a title with sub-par gameplay and still sell folks on the name recognition. Sorry, EA--it doesn't work with racing. Aside from looking uncannily like a PS one game (equip the rearview mirror and the whole game falls apart graphically), there's not a lot of driver involvement. Only on the more advanced tracks do you have to start worrying about skidding and braking through turns at all. The cockpit view is a nice feature, though, and the several optional perspectives should suit most any racer. But overall, you're much better off with Ridge V.
NASCAR 2001 has a few cool things going for it, but once you add up all the so-so stuff, it's a little weak. I can't warm up to the handling characteristics--the cars don't feel heavy to me. The adjustments help somewhat, but overall they still feel loose, especially on the road courses. The sensation of speed isn't the best I've seen either. Some of the track textures are so smooth and non-detailed it hardly looks like you're moving. Then there's that strange interlacing thing as well. On the upside, the sound is very authentic and the car models are good. Other than that, I didn't have much fun with the game. Worth renting for fanatics, but few others.
EA hasn't revealed a whole lot about NASCAR 2001 other than it's a "brand-new" racing game. That could mean a lot of things. New physics, new car models, new graphics? It's a mystery, especially since last year's game was spot-on in many ways. Does it really need to be rebuilt? Offhand, it looks like all the drivers from the 2000 season are present, including the young Earnhardt and Adam Petty. We'll bring you a proper update on NASCAR 2001 after we see and play it at E3.
The Daytona 500 will grace EA Sports' NASCAR series for the first time this fall. Otherwise this game feels like the same old update thus far. The control is solid, if a tad touchy with the analog controller, and all the race options such as length, damage and yellow flags are present. NASCAR 2001 looks to suffer from the same affliction as other PS games lately: old hardware. Nonetheless, the game should still be sweet when finished.