Electronic Arts further extend their monopoly of virtually every sport known to man by muscling in on the NASCAR (North American Stock Car Racing) franchise, previously the domain of Papyrus. In case you didn't know, NASCAR is several country miles away from the refined world of Formula One: we're talking hot metal, burning rubber, and burly men going bumper to bumper in a triumph of brute force over finesse. It ain't the most sophisticated of sports but, hey, nor is football (when Arsenal are playing, that is), and that's pretty popular.
Accelerate Brake Turn Left
What sets NASCAR apart from other motor sports is that most of the circuits are oval - just like those basic Scalextric sets you used to get at Christmas when your parents couldn't afford the Le Mans edition. This means that the racing experience is largely confined to three actions: accelerate, brake and turn left (all races run anti-clockwise). This would indeed make for a game duller than a Celine Dion B-side were it not for the other cars you're up against - and there are loads of them. Forty-two 700bhp monsters, to be precise, all screaming around with a Schumacher-esque 'get outta my road' mentality. NASCAR is not for the faint-hearted, especially as most of the tracks are surrounded by soft gravel traps and concrete walls. Nor is it for those whose attention wanders easily, as full-length competitions can often run to 300 laps - enough to test the resilience of even the most dedicated racing fan.
The graphics are everything we've come to expect from a PC racer nowadays: slick 3D-accelerated raceways, and beautifully detailed cars that move like the bloody fast things that they are. The sensation of speed (when using the bumper cam) is excellent, and navigating your way through a sea of jostling machines at 180mph induces a definite 'lean left and right to get more purchase' sensation (usually transformed into one of 'throwing the joystick at the monitor' when one of the buggers nudges you into the track wall).
Your car has a pretty good throaty roar, but the rest of the sounds are almost non-existent bar a few crowd cheers. There are no tyres squealing in protest as you enter a corner too fast (which is rather annoying, as the only way you know this is happening is when the steering doesn't respond and you end up piling into the side wall) and, most strange, the other cars seem to make no noise at all.
Benny And Bob
Every race is garnished with liberal dollops of commentary from presenters Benny and Bob. Bob is your standard all-American anchorman type, while ex-NASCAR champion Benny was obviously chosen for his experience rather than tor his eloquence. B&B offer some fairly useful tips, but after a while their burblings start to grate, in much the same way as those in football games. Fortunately they can be gagged via the options menu.
EA have tried to strike a balance between a simulation and an arcade game, and have ended up in that uncomfortable position between the two. As is customary with a game of this type, the realism and car set-up can be customised to your liking, but it's not deep enough for the accuracy freaks, and not immediate enough for those raised on Daytona USA. Anyone who accelerates away from the start thinking they can power-slide round the first bend will be in for a shock, as the car refuses to respond to the appropriate combination of brake and steering before forcefully introducing itself to the wall. NASCARs driving model is fairly simple though, and once you know how much to slow down for each comer it's easily mastered.
Mum! It's Not Fair!
Things become a bit different as soon as you get into the racing. It's fairly easy to pass your opponents, even in simulation mode. However, whenever you get up close and personal you soon discover that they're a lot harder than you are, and anything more than the gentlest of nudges sends you careering off the track. If you're playing with full damage on, that usually means it's game over, or at least a slow trip to the pits which invariably puts you several laps behind everyone else. Even if you've opted for Arcade mode you usually end up losing about 30 positions (unless your cartwheeling car manages to cause enough of a traffic jam to slow down the field), which Is bloody frustrating, especially if you're on the last lap of a race.
If you try to play the computer cars at their own game and nudge them in the same way, once again it's adieu to control and au revoir to your coveted top ten position, while they weave about for a while before shooting off into the distance. It may happen in real life, but so did Maradona's 'hand of God' travesty, and that didn't make it into FIFA. On top of that, when you hit the Escape key before wearily reloading, you are treated' to 20 seconds of your car meandering towards the pits - which you can't skip through. A quick lesson to games designers (and you get paid for it, so I don't know why I'm telling you this for nothing): players should never be penalised excessively for actions that are beyond their control. Got that?
NASCAR Revolution could have been a front runner. It gives a great feeling of speed and (between the frustrating crashes) can be genuinely exhilarating. NASCAR fans who are familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the sport may well have more patience, but for the rest of us the game just hasn't got what it takes to challenge the leaders in the field. A missed opportunity.
Download NASCAR Revolution
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP