You watch it on TV, you see the insane impacts on the 'world's best crashes' shows, and now you can bring all this action into the very comfort of your own PC. However this time, rather than just focusing on the collisions, Papyrus are attempting to deliver an all in one NASCAR solution for hardcore enthusiasts and arcade lovers alike. Is there finally a Nascar game capable of appealing to more than just the Winston cup fans?
Straight off the bat, Nascar Racing 2002 Season totally blows you away with its depth, both setup and in-game wise. Beyond the usual graphical settings, which are mainly set outside of the game via a configuration utility, you are given complete control on every car/team in the game via the 'opponent manager'. This section allows changes to your default driver, custom teams/drivers and even an inbuilt paintshop feature capable of editing every single car skin and team uniform. Being that a third party program is far better design wise, you can also export templates and import them to your favorite graphic editing program, then back into the game, which quite literally allows for any skin design you can imagine. It doesn't get much more versatile than that.
Starting off, you are given the basic options of driving lessons, test session, single session, championship and multiplayer. The driving lesson area is a great way for new comers to the series to become familiar with the setup and boundaries of Nascar racing before taking it to the championship circuit. Most of the other modes are pretty self explanatory, however we will go into detail of a few.
Championship features your average setup, all 23 tracks over a time period featuring up to 42 other cars. The one gripe I have with this championship mode is the fact it doesn't seem to go anywhere. Once finished, you simple have no other option but to go back to the main menu and continue on your gaming from the beginning. Although championship mode offers a very extensive Nascar experience, an option of having to start from scratch career wise (i.e. rookie to pro), with sponsorship deals and team changes would of added that extra special touch.
Multiplayer is simply unsurpassed, and has to be the best mode in the game. Although the computer AI is actually very detailed and life like, there is still no substitute for real human opponents. This is certainly a mode even the Nascar series hater would have fun in, especially as the car count and intensity goes up. There is nothing quite like seeing a 20 car pile up with real human emotions and frustration behind it. One problem may be that if not every player is serious, then it will be pretty easy for them to take out other cars without causing much damage to themselves, but there is not much you can do to stop that.
As mentioned above, this game is designed for both the sim freak and the arcade gamer, and you are given an option to chose just that. On simulation, you are given more aspects of your car to play with In the garage as opposed to arcade, along with some other simulation related enhancements. Both modes were enjoyable, and besides the setup, still remained essentially the same.
There is no doubt that the in-game racing in Nascar Racing 2002 Season is the best of any Nascar game currently available, and arguably one of the best in any racing game produced. The physics are amazingly realistic, from high speed collisions to soft touches, everything is there to its absolute fullest. Not only is there outstanding crash damage shown on the cars for almost every square inch of the body, but such aspects as busted tires and blown engines are also present.
The effect of merging with a line of 20 other cars and matching, if not surpassing their speeds is somewhat hypnotic. As the asphalt screams by, with engines roaring, it is amazing how 3400 pound beasts can race up to 200mph+ so closely and manage to remain practically unharmed. Although it would seem otherwise, if you come into this game with a serious attitude you will find keeping your car alive for an entire race is not very hard. However that is not to say only the human controlled car can cause crashes, the computer vehicles will occasionally get a little to close to one another and spin out, which occurs just enough to resemble the real life counterpart.
Audio doesn't really jump out in perfection, nor does it possess any real problems. Everything from deafening engines and tire squeaks to pit crew navigation comes off sounding convincing enough, although if something could be improved it would have to be the crowd. Although the sound of these cars would certainly dominate that of the crowd cheers, the only real way to tell there is a crowd is visually, which means the atmosphere isn't quite as good as it could have been. However this hardly matters during the race, so it shouldn't be taken as anything but a minor quirk.
Papyrus have been able to master the Nascar visuals for some time now, and Nascar Racing 2002 Season is no exception. Textures are very high resolution, including the tracks and the car skins, with accurately portrayed models, which both look very realistic. We tested this title on a Pentium4 2GHz, 256MB DDR333 and Geforce4 Ti4400 which was easily sufficient to run in high resolutions with details to the max, although don't expect to see anything above 60fps for most of the time on almost any system. You can chose from Direct3D and OpenGL, although the OpenGL API is unsupported and is essentially unreliable compared to D3D, although generally faster.
Using a keyboard in this is really not optimal, as you need to be able to make slight turns rather than full turns at times, so a control pad is your best bet. Setting up the pad can be a little bit of a task, but once it is done the benefits are clearly apparent. Pressing "h" during the game shows a menu to toggle ingame features, like best line, rear view mirror, speedometer etc, which is very helpful. Overall, the controls are just right for perfect execution with really nothing to complain about.
Papyrus have really outdone themselves here - just about every aspect of Nascar Racing 2002 Season is brilliantly and realistically portrayed with terrific execution. For the fans of the series you have your dream game right here, and even if you find driving around in circles tedious, I can guarantee this game will entertain you - the sheer rush is enough to make this a must buy for any PC gamer.