If you've being paying attention to the riotous goings on in the video-game industry at the moment you'll no doubt be aware that we're about to be inundated with the "second coming" of the games console. Having flogged the 16-bit bandwagon to death it seems that virtually every major consumer electronics firm is now trying to produce a box that will shift 37 squillion polygons every second and reproduce arcade games absolutely perfectly whilst at the same time being a pretentious "multi-media" system. One of the obligatory bores that all of these boxes has to have on the software front is a polygon-based racing game that looks dead flash... none of your dull, plain, single-colour polygons like in Virtua Racing, oh no, to be a member of the new gang you need a fully texture-mapped, light-sourced, guru-shaded polygon thing like that found in Daytona or Ridge Racer. Have a quick skim through the console press at the moment and you will see'em everywhere accompanied by comments referring to "revolut-and the such like.
You don't need a super console
To be honest, you have to feel sorry for the trend-following console mob. If you've got a pc, you can play flash polygon-based games already, and one of the best ones ever is Indycar Racing from Papyrus. It's got lovely texture-mapped graphics, polygons a-plenty and it's as fast as a really fast thing that has an extra-special reason to move particularly fast. And now it's got a sequel... the even flashier NASCAR Racing. Although being touted as a serious racing simulation, it's really a direct response to Ridge Racer in the arcades, and not only does it manage to look bloody marvellous, it cocks a snook and generally goes "nah, nah, na, nah, nah" to the likes of the games being produced for the Sony Playstation, 3do and Sega Saturn.
I can't really remember there ever being a stock-car racing game for the pc before... not a serious one. anyway. For those of you that don't know much about the sport, or haven't seen the bloody awful film with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, it's one of America's largest spectator sports and involves 3,soolb, 68obhp cars screaming round and round in a circle at speeds of around 20omph. If the sheer power of the cars isn't reason enough to find the sport exhilarating, then the fact that they spend most of the time a few inches away from each other is more than enough to get all excited. Crashes are pretty common place in stock-car racing and they are always spectacular.
When Indycar Racing was released it was widely acknowledged that the team at Papyrus knew pretty much what they were doing when it came to simulating the performance of a high-powered racing car. NASCAR again shows that they have got things well and truly sorted out... but we were surprised to find that this is a project that's been developed totally from scratch.
If you look at the screen shots I'm sure you'll agree that the game looks like it's derived from the same graphics system used in Indycar. It just seems to have the same "look" right? Well, we're assured that to enhance the performance of the 3D engine the development team went back to the drawing board and totally reworked the entire game engine. The result is a super-efficient, super-speedy, super thing that is not only capable of shifting fully texture-mapped, vga resolution polygons around, but also svga graphics as well. Yep, if you've got a ninja-bastard pc with all the trimmings this new game can be pres-ented to you in glorious high-res, which more than matches the graphics of Ridge Racer or Daytona.
Aside from the visual aspect, Papyrus has also totally reworked its artificial intelligence system for the control of the computer vehicles, as well as all of the physics algorithm thingies for the way the cars react in different places on the tracks with different tyre, spoiler, engine and suspension set-ups. What this all results in is something which is equally as much a simulation as it is a racing "game".
Round and round
Accurate representations of tracks is something we can pretty much take for granted in pc racing games now. After MicroProse released Formula One Grand Prix a couple of years ago. anyone that resorted to the crap "driving through an empty field and calling it Monaco" school of track design was viciously harangued by all and sundry. The thing is that most of the stock-car tracks of the world are just extremely boring ovals, so how can you make a whole bunch of them (in this case, all nine) any different? Who knows? But Papyrus is insistent that all of the tracks are distinctly different and totally faithful to the real thing due to the fact that they have used the original blueprints of all the tracks simulated.
Okay, so that's all of the NASCAR racing specific stuff out of the way, but what about all of the good stuff that was in Indycar which made it such a bloody excellent game? Yes. the physics and the gameplay and the graphics were all spot on. but had lots of groovy features as well. Are these in NASCAR too? Thankfully, yes. If, like me. you had as much fun playing around with the extensive replay feature on lndycar you'll be pleased to know that it is also implemented here. A full race can be "recorded" and then played back from lots of different angles to produce a very "televisual" look to the whole thing. Smart.
At the moment it's not clear whether Virgin is intending to lead with the cd-rom or the floppy version of the product, although it would seem that both versions will be very similar in terms of spec.
It is worth noting though that the full svga version will probably only be implemented on the cd version of the game and it will definitely need a whopping 8mb of ram to run. whereas the vga version will only need a megre 4MB.
Download NASCAR Racing
NASCAR Racing comes equipped with a trankload of features to create a realistic racing simulation. However, this game will appeal more to diehard racing aficionados than to the casual gamer cruising for speed and action.
Siena put a lot of horsepower into authentic touches such as the abilities to race governed by real-life physics, to communicate with your pit crew, and to thoroughly fine-tune your car by setting everything from individual tire pressure to gear ratios. The gameplay focuses on strategy and endurance as much as actual driving, for you must tackle at least 32 laps in each race. The graphics, animation, controls, and sound effects are adequate, but NASCAR doesn't surpass top racers like Andretti Racing.
NASCAR fans will eat this game up, but casual drivers will be satisfied to just rent it for a couple laps.
- Your tires are key. Constantly monitor tire temperature and pressure to gauge when you need a pit stop.
- Always try to pass opponents and navigate turns on the inside of the track to avoid being jammed into the walls.
It isn't often that game developers pay as much attention to detail as the developers of NASCAR Racing having. A respected title for the PC, this game is now making the jump to the PlayStation. With updated tracks and drivers, NASCAR is expected to enjoy the same success it experienced on the PC.
Presently in the finishing stretch at Sierra On-Line's award-winning development division, Papyrus Design Group, NASCAR Racing will employ actual drivers and teams from the 1996 circuit, as well as 16 true-to-life tracks. Now some racing games claim to be realistic, but when Sierra says "true-to-life," they mean just that--16 tracks, modeled from real video footage, which feature such excruciating details as the actual sponsors' billboards and trackside scenery. The banks are all precise, the braking spots in the proper location, everything is as close to real life as any simulation could hope to be.
But the tracks aren't all the designers focused on. Each car is fully optimizable, with the opportunity to change every element that might make a difference to your racing performance. Everything can be monitored during the race, so that you'll know what you need to change at the next pit stop.
This level of detail might make the first-time player a bit squeamish, especially if he doesn't know all that much about the finer details of NASCAR racing. It is for just such a player that Sierra is incorporating an Arcade Mode which will automate those features that players uneducated in the ins and outs of NASCAR might find confusing or tedious. This should make the game more accessible for a wider audience, although the racing will still be more challenging than the average racer. The developers are also including two "fantasy tracks," challenging courses with high banks and sharp turns, guaranteed to rattle even the most seasoned drivers. In addition, three of the 16 NASCAR tracks can be run at night, bringing the total number of different racing experiences up to 21.
Fans of the PC version will attest to the fact that this is one serious simulation. The level of detail that the developers have incorporated into this title is not intended for the passive observer or one-time player. But with its fully comprehensive approach, this game is certain to be an instant favorite among fans of the NASCAR racing circuit everywhere.
A quick NASCAR F.Y.I.
For those of you unfamiliar with NASCAR racing, here are some interesting tidbits about what's being called the fastest-growing sport in the country. The National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing consists of 12 different racing divisions that hold over 2,000 racing events each year. Stock car racing, like most competitive sports, has strict rules regarding the type of equipment used and the level and type of vehicle enhancements allowed, so NASCAR also has a "competition department" that is constantly reviewing and perfecting both the rules of the sport and the technology and equipment that makes it all happen.
- MANUFACTURER - Sierra
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1