Green Flag, Green Flag!!
This is probably as good as car racing for the computer can get at this point, without some serious advances in both hardware and in controllers. Despite the fact that many racing games, including the Indy 500 series, the Destruction Derbys, and Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness, have all come out in the previous year, the consistently satisfactory NASCAR racing programs put out by Papyrus (now under the general aegis of Sierra Online) continue to provide the benchmark for computer racing enthusiasts. Much like Snap-On is to mechanic's tools, so is this game to the fast, exciting sport of auto racing.
The basic look of this game is that of standard stock car racing, with competitors driving laps around large circular stadiums at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, there are no off-road championships, nor are there any rallies or circuits. It is all within the confines of the paved cement raceway, surrounded by grandstands packed with fans and infields filled with pit mechanics and the ubiquitous Winnebago trailers. The graphics of these raceways are very nice indeed, especially if displayed in a 640X480 resolution.
One sees the inside of the well-drawn stadium, the bitmapped people standing along the sidelines, and the nearby scenery, which is more plush than a typical static backdrop. There is even a race monitor whom one may see waving certain flags: green, black, or checkered. Speaking of flags, I noticed once that as I was coming around the bend towards the finish line I could see the American flag, high up on a pole (even higher than the constant stream of advertising signs and colorful billboards) and actually MOVING in the breeze. This may not seem like much, but it was sort of cool to see attention paid to details.
However, there is much more to this game than nifty graphics, especially behind the scenes. The player has the option of customizing his or her car, with various features such as tires, camber, gear ratios, shocks, steering, the rear spoiler, the fuel level, and even the weight distribution across the body of the car. And, of course, the player is allowed to determine the outer decals and colors of the race car to add a more personalized feel to their winning machine.
The game starts out with the two options of either starting a quick race or enlisting for a full NASCAR season. The quick race is always an appreciated feature, for it allows one to test immediately the better parts of the game without having to digest the entire instruction manual. You have the choice of any of the NASCAR tracks, which can be found everywhere from California to Great Britain. Most of the tracks are included in the schedule during the season mode, so you are definitely given a chance to drive each one. At the end of the season a champion is declared from the pool of racers and race results. This is the overall goal, and you will find competition among real-life NASCAR racers whose cars, abilities, and personalities have been pre-programmed into the game.
However, if the player should find all of this a bit too difficult, the game provides an option to tone down the challenge. These variables include the skills of the other racers and an option that allows the computer to handle the gear shifting and the endless braking around sharp curves. As far as control of the game, I would definitely recommend a steering wheel and gas/brake pedal combination for the most realistic driving experience. A standard joystick should work fine, with only some slight loss of entertainment value. The only thing not to use is the keyboard (which this reviewer found to be an extreme handicap), as the car very quickly became the most unwieldy bucket of bolts on the tight raceways.
The problem with this game does not involve any questions of realism, nor does it involve any problems with the game's interface, which like many other Sierra games presents itself as an easy, user-friendly series of point-and-click menus. This game's only flaw lies in its specialized nature.
This program is a racing game, and as such will only appeal to the crowd of gameplayers who are seriously interested in NASCAR racing. It is also a sequel, so it is not really a very original idea at all (at least no more than the idea of racing cars itself). Basically, if one does not care too much for racing games, this is not the game upon which to spend 40 or 50 dollars. However, if you are a gameplayer that enjoys stock-car racing, delights in the colorful show of an afternoon at the raceway, and possesses a serious fetish for speed and drama, this game is for you. Quite literally, it is the best that racing for the PC can get right now, at least before the advent of complete virtual reality.