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Nascar 4

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Nascar 4 review

Practice at Daytona
Practice at Daytona. This Super-speedway Oval circuit can be driven at full throttle all the way around.
Nascar 4 is a simulation of American stock car racing. This version of the series made by driving game gods Papyrus uses a tweaked version of the Grand Prix Legends simulation engine. This makes for a truely awesomely accurate depiction of car handling. As the cars being simulated are rear wheel drive Nascar racing saloons with upwards of 700 BHP on tap, this leads to a challenging driving experience where spinning the back end around is easily done if you're heavy on the right pedal.
Racing take place on many different tracks. Most of these are oval circuits like the super speedways Talladega and the world famous Daytona where you do not have to lift all the way around except to avoid slower cars. Then their are slightly slower ovals like Michegan where you have to slow down a bit to go around corners.
Going down further in track size you get to half mile ovals like Bristol. These circuits are tight and frantic when racing in a field of other cars. There are also two twisty circuits that would be at home in European style racing, these are the superb Watkin Glen and Sears Point. The Glen used to be an F1 circuit years ago.
Graphics are excellently done in this driving simulation, the game making good use of current graphic card technology. The cars look brilliant and the tracks have an air of reality. Smoke effects are well done with patches of smoke lingering on the track for quite some time where someone has gone buning off his rubber or sent spinning into the wall.
The cars cockpit graphics are superb with readable gauges. What's more as you slow the car on the brakes the view moves forward in the cockpit slightly (driver gets slung forward against the harness) and when you go around banked corners at speed your view drops as it would in a real car as you get squashed down into the car seat under the G-force. Rev the engine and the car twists sideways in response, brilliant touches of realism.
Drafting another car at Daytona
Nascar 4 models the slipstreaming effect superbly. Here I'm getting a tow from the car ahead. This technique makes it possible to get a sling shot past other racing cars.
On the Watkin Glen circuit having just spun
Facing the wrong way at Watkin Glen after just spinning.
This game is tough with a steep learning curve. Driving bumper to bumper with 40 odd other cars all doing nearly 200 mph is never going to be easy, be it real life or simulated. For the novice driver I would suggest racing on the two super speedways Talladega and Daytona. These tracks are fast and open and you stand a chance of finishing a race.
The computer AI for the other cars in Nascar 4 has it's problems. For instance, you're driving round and spot a collision in the distance, naturally you back off and try to plot a route through the accident but often a computer controlled car will hit you in the rear as you do so and send you to the scene of you own accident. This gets very annoying. When decelerating for the pits this can happen as well. It's not as if it only happens when you slam on your brakes, the AI needs some sort of road reading judgement built in.
On the plus side the AI cars can get bashed off the circuit as easily as you can. Sometimes they can manage to hit a wall all by themselves.
Replay of a roll
Replay showing an accident where the car rolled at the Glen.
Sound wise the game is great, engine sounds, your pit chief yelling in your ear 'CAR LOW' when you've a car on your near side, 'CLEAR' when you're in the clear both sides or 'ARE YOU ALRIGHT' when you've hit something a bit too hard. There are many more verbal communication from the Pit Chief and most help enormously.
Tyre squeal sounds good, and the thumping/scraping sound of hitting a barrier or another car is well done. With my driving I hear these later sounds a lot!
Another neat touch is the animated pit crew. These run around the car changing it's tyres and knocking out the dents you've just put in it.
In car view
In the car while rolling
The game has detailed setup screens for getting your racing car ready for a particular track. Getting this right is absolutely essential as a badly setup car will often just keep loosing the back end in a corner. There are some preset car setups for the tracks and these make a good starting point for developing your own personal car setup for any given circuit.

As well as racing the computer opponents Nascar 4 lets you race against other humans on the net in multiplayer. It gets around the AI problem but often give you some serious questions about Human intelligence!

Nascar racing being mostly oval based may put a lot of Non Americans off. Going around in circles may seem boring but it's not when you have 40 other cars making mobile chicanes all the way around. Oval racing is true car racing where overtaking is the norm and processions of single file traffic like in most Formula 1 races doesn't happen. Take Formula 1's Monaco the total opposite of an oval, a great DRIVER's circuit but a rubbish RACING circuit as no driver can get past any other!
Give Nascar a chance and you will get much enjoyment from it.
Replay at Watkin Glen
Replay at Watkin Glen

Graphics 9/10
Sound 9/10
Gameplay 8/10
Originality 6/10

Computer Games score 8.5/10

Brilliant simulation of Nascar Racing.
AI could be improved.