Preview - NASCAR Racing (DOS, 1994)

Simulation, shmimulation. NASCAR Racing from Papyrus is so far above anything else in its class, it may as well be in a league of its own. It's something special. And for $50 or so, it's a steal.

Pretty strong words, I know, so here's my best shot at convincing you. Before receiving my beta copy of NASCAR, I'd only played it once and seen the first preview of it in episode 4 of IE. I drive an automatic Corolla wagon constantly in need of a tune-up and know a lot about European cars that are way too expensive for me to ever own. I wasn't a speed demon of any sort.

I am now. I crave it. I want fast acceleration. I want my windows rolled down so my hair whips back off my forehead like the guy in that magazine cassette ad. I have NASCAR Racing to "thank" for this. This game (I apologize, but I need to call it SOMETHING) puts you in the drivers' seat of a stock car and doesn't let you go. Instead, it takes you on the ride of your life through nine true-to-life NASCAR racetracks while you struggle for control and try to imagine how anyone could actually do this in real life. After several dozen harmless crashes, though, you begin to get the hang of it. And then you begin to like it. A lot.

And there's a lot to like. Hey, a lot of people like to drive fast, and even those who don't like to dream about it. NASCAR excels in both control and realism, as its publisher, Papyrus Software, built into it the most authentic physics model seen yet in a racing sim. Flying through Atlanta Motor Speedway at 180 miles per hour is as difficult as it sounds. You feel the turns and have to adjust to each one precisely or your car will hit the wall. I used a Thrustmaster steering wheel and pedals along with a pair of stereo headphones to get the most out of the experience . . . I found myself tipping my chair over and stomping on the pedals so viciously that my feet hurt afterwards. There's always the possibility of hitting a bump, too. Even world-class racetracks aren't perfect. God help you if you hit anything with the sound turned up . . . realistic crash and spin-out effects will rudely greet your ears. If this is sounding too real for you, go play Super Mario Kart. If you're temperature is rising, you may hit the boiling point before you finish this article.

Racing is only part of NASCAR. It's pretty fun looking at your crashes after they occur (and they do). Instant replay is implemented very well here . . . many camera angles are offered and you can save replays in highlight-reel fashion. NASCAR's virtual cameras can follow your car or any other car. Before any race, you can configure your driver information . . . stating your name, nickname, car and tire type, and team name. And oh yeah, NASCAR Racing runs in 640x480 VGA. That's 307,200 pixels worth of sheer speed, and you won't find that in too many places. It's 640x480 EVERYWHERE. On the track, in the menus, on the highlight reels, and in the garage, too. Ahh, the garage. If you know what a "suspension camber" is, you'll love the garage. That thingy is there, along with a zillion other modifications that could turn your average stock car into . . . well . . . an above-average stock car. I wish I knew how most of that stuff worked . . . I might have won a race or two. Even when I set my opponents to 80% of my speed, I still tended to crash too often to finish ahead of the pack. Oh well. So the game's challenging . . . that's not a flaw.

Sadly, the saliva running off of your chin will be pooling on the floor for another couple of months still. Camp out outside you local software chain for a copy of this game. You'll blow gaskets. NASCAR will blow your mind.

Play the demo for this game directly in your browser