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Q4 2002



- “Magic Carpet Ride” as the theme? Sweet!

- Rhythm of the game is very realistic



- I can’t tell the difference between driving 85 MPH and 180 MPH

- Doesn’t have zone specific drag effects on cars



Review: NASCAR Heat 2002 (XBox)

Review: NASCAR Thunder 2003 (PS2)



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NASCAR Thunder 2003

Score: 8.2 / 10


NASCAR Thunder 2003 (NT2003) gives gamers the opportunity to experience a realistic driver’s perspective on a race, as opposed to other EA Sports titles where the game engine is built around the announcers and their perspective.


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It certainly is impressive, but some people will be distracted by not having the play-by-play to know what’s going on ahead of them. The extent of the announcing involvement is on the pre and post race chatter – mostly discussing position of the big racers and if there were any big crashes during the course of the race. The most important aspect of playing this game is the technique – just driving in the correct lines is dreadfully difficult not to mention maintaining a straight line is dicey at best. So the only way to drive effectively is to practice endlessly (and make sure that you have a good controller that hasn’t survived a couple of Tekken tournaments).





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The game offers 5 different modes of play: Quick Race, Lightning Challenge, Thunder License, Season, and Career. The Quick Race is pretty much what it sounds like – choose a persona and choose a track and have at it; you are given the opportunity to qualify for a position, else, you’re placed in the middle of the pack for the race. The Lightning Challenge is a chance to earn paint schemes, sponsors, cars, tracks, and drivers by competing on a specific track; besides offering some 


nice carrots to reach for, it’s a good opportunity to check out a track and receive some “hands on training.” The Thunder License mode features the ability to race behind pro racers on all of the tracks – this is the best mode to learn about the nuances of racing. I’d highly recommend that a new gamer spend most of their time on the Lightning Challenge and the Thunder License modes when they first pick up this game – seeing how the AI drives will certainly help you figure out how you should be driving. The Season mode is a really stripped down running of a series of races – your only concerns are the number of races and trying to finish with consistently good position to win the cup.


nascar-thunder-2003-3.jpg (28003 bytes)          nascar-thunder-2003-4.jpg (29724 bytes)


To make up for the thinness of the Season Mode, the Career Mode can be downright overwhelming. This mode starts of with you having to create a driver and a new car; once you have done that you have to sign sponsors and a team to work with.


The team that you work with is usually representative of how well that you’ve been doing on the tour – as you do better, more experienced and talented people will become available but as you begin losing, team members will become unhappy and not perform as well or possibly leave the team for greener pastures. Needless to say, it is in your best interest to do well as you have the opportunity to sign more/better sponsors as well as improve your team. During the course of the season, you’ll have to work on your ride, so you have the opportunity to replace, rebuild, or research new parts for your gear. As you can guess, all of these things to balance (monetarily) will become easier to handle if you’re winning, otherwise it is particularly easy to end up in a situation where you’re going to have to pick and choose what to fix.


The gameplay is amazing. The textures of the cars, the surroundings, the tracks, and the walls all look disturbingly authentic; it’s even more engulfing when you here the sound effects which are eerily quiet except for the action around you (complete with the hum of your engine and squeal of your tires) and the instructions from the pit radio. The only complaints that I could find about the action are how speed is represented in this game and how the models react to damage.


For some reason, there is no way to differentiate between starting speed and the top speed of the cars other than the speed at which the surrounding cars blow by you. As anyone who has driven knows, you start to experience tunnel vision the faster you drive and that just isn’t experienced at any of the speeds. (Certainly something that could be adjusted for future games right.) With regards to car damage, although when your car wrecks you are slowed (as one would suspect with a streamlined car with divots) the cars do not react correctly with zone specific damage. For example, damage to the front right side of the car would drag like a sail – not only slowing you but pulling you to the outside.


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This game is very realistic in the way that the races develop – most races end up with the pack breaking into 3 - 4 separate groups, so the best strategy is to qualify for your races because if you start back in the pack it becomes difficult to move through some of these groups especially when there is open space between groups that you’re going to have to make up.


All in all, NASCAR Thunder 2003 is a very realistic simulation game, and those who are looking for an in-depth title will be satisfied, but those looking for a pick-up and play title will be disappointed.


- Tazman

(November 24, 2002)


"Woohoo! We're the baddest punks in our age bracket."
              -Grandpa Simpson (Simpsons)

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