Nascar Thunder 2002 & NBA Live 2002
For this game, I'm only addressing American readers of THG, for others Nascar is too mysterious of a topic. In this new 2002 release for Xbox, you will obviously find the American championship with all its ovals and two windy racetracks. I recall that it's about reinforced sedans (stock cars) that are specially prepared to reach maximum speeds while ensuring an optimal stability for the shifting turns. The challenge consists of preparing the car perfectly, which is reproduced in the game by the numerous adjustment possibilities. Then, once on the track, it's about precision driving in an attempt to clear a path between 40 bitter rivals flying along just as fast as you. The slightest error in trajectory and it's all over. You can drive on any track, participate in a weekend of racing with trials, make a season or a career of it.
Electronic Arts wanted to make a game more than a simulation. Nevertheless, the car behaves realistically; there are only a few points that were modified in the interests of the race like catching up to 40 competitors if you are behind. The navigation is delicate, but you get used to it. You have to navigate by the thousandth of a millimeter on the pad, and a steering wheel would be welcome. For beginners, there are numerous helpful features like repairs without returning to the pit and an automatic stabilizer during the race. The playability is excellent because, once the difficulty level is set, you can really enjoy polishing off the trajectory needed to pass your neighbor, and even to physically eliminate him...
The graphic design isn't anything to write home about. The background is rather pretty, but there's not much to see. The cars are correctly modeled, but they are far from what is possible to achieve. On the other hand, the depiction of damages is satisfactory. Frankly, the interior view is ugly, and in any case, it's a view of the hood where it could be more precise. This being said, the game is even better than on PS2. More seriously, the game slows down, and it's hard to see why in light of the graphic details. Frankly, the sound is nice; the music, which opens with Sweet Home Alabama, is just as nice. There are even commentators like on the television, and during the race your pit crew gives you advice and your position. In 5.1, the 3D rendering of the sound is also carefully prepared, you hear your competitor arrive behind you on the right or the left, which can be critical in Nascar.
And we haven't discussed the AI, which is remarkable. The computer adversaries are cheating perfectly. In conclusion, Nascar Thunder isn't astounding from a graphics perspective, but it is efficient. It's easy to play and not too centered on simulation, which could disgust the occasional driver.