Nascar Thunder 2003 (Xbox)

Review

posted 1/5/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
I'll admit it, the commercial sold me on this game. The prospect of swapping paint with some of my favorite drivers and the images of smashing Jeff Gordon into the wall over and over again really appealed to me. I just knew that the game wouldn't disappoint, I mean TV would never lie to me, right?

Well in a sense it did, that prominantly displayed Colloseium-esque race track never made an appearance, but I wouldn't let that one setback stop me from playing this game, I had my sights set on old number 24 and he had another thing coming to him. So I fired up the game with thoughts of haunting Jeff Gordon from the onset of each and every race, assuring that he would get a DNF for the entire season. In other words, I was going to make him my bitch.

All right, so I was less than succesful, but I did manage to screw the little bugger from time to time, and when I wasn't trying to maim that old Dupont car (let's see them Teflon coat that!) I was actually enjoying what the game had to offer me and in many ways, this is the best arcade-themed Nascar game ever to be released.

Newbies to the franchise have to understand that this isn't your garden variety Papyrus designed NASCAR game, the truth is far from it. It's very forgiving to those who are new to the sport and have yet to grasp the intricacies and more importantly, to those who have a hard time making left turns at a very high velocity. Yea drafting plays a vital role in your success on the racetrack but it's been reduced to arcade-like elements, featuring a small indicator that fills as you gradually build up more draft. Tweaking your car consists of doing a few minor things such as changing the gear ratios and tweaking the tire PSI ratio, a grease monkey's delight this is not.

But that's the beauty of it all, you don't have to know the best line for each of the 20+ officially licensed tracks (an optional feature will put it on the track for you) and you don't have to know the names of each and every individual driver not named Dale Earnhardt Jr. to enjoy the game. Just grab your controller, hit the track and punch the gas, that's it. Optional assists will help even the most novice of gamers get into the action, helping you with stability controls and braking. In fact it's so easy that my girlfriend, who has no prior knowledge of the finer workings of NASCAR, had little trouble getting in to this game.

Think you're better than the rest of the population? Then prove it, turn off the assists and hit the track, just make sure to have the number of a good body shop handy because you'll need it. Surprisingly, the game features some pretty accurate on-track physics. Trying to punch the gas on the 1st turn of the California Speedway? You can expect your car to get loose and run up in to the wall. Swapping paint with the guy in front of you? Get ready to witness an amazing crash. Speaking of crashes, they exist on three planes as opposed to two so prepare to witness cars that roll and become airborne. The physics are highly realistic, lending each of the vehicles a very solid and convincing feel.
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