Ahhhhr! The Drunken, Hickory Smoked Middle Americans Be Revoltin'!
I wouldn't worry. It is an old truth about us humans that there is a car for virtually every stereotype, or, as ad companies would say, all of us. There are four door luxury sedans for the yuppies, '72 Pintos for the working class, and VW Microbuses for the hippies. There is also a racing style for each of us; there is IndyCar for the American purists, Formula 1 racing for the dignified, continental racing enthusiast, and there is NASCAR racing for the hicks, the rednecks, and the general truck drivin' body of inbred primates that make up a large part of the US. We in Berkeley desperately want to secede from the union and to be an ivory tower independent nation unto ourselves. [Attention middle-America: Feel free to come to California and bodyslam Johnny. We won't mind. ~Ed]
Back in the olden days, the only real show in town for realistic driving was Papyrus (Now part of Sierra Sports). Back in their heyday, they made four very high quality Indy Car racing games. It was then that the massive and collectively powerful stock car enthusiasts influenced them to make an honest-to-god, red blooded, down home racing simulation. So Papyrus created NASCAR Racing, and then NASCAR Racing 2. Those two titles (not counting the NASCAR 2 reissue that was NASCAR '99) have been pretty much the only show in town for realistic NASCAR action. Electronic Arts, sensing a rift that cried out to be filled, and having made NASCAR titles for the PlayStation, turned to creating NASCAR Revolution for the PC, probably thinking that their great skill in making soccer games and arcade racers might just carry over into serious racing simulations.
With a title like NASCAR Revolution (no relation to this fine publication) that suggests some sort of great upheaval, they probably hoped to pick up all of the NASCAR 2 players and make themselves a bunch of money. After all, NASCAR is now the America's most popular spectator sport. I don't know whether or not the gamers who were purchasing Deer Hunter are now picking up NASCAR Revolution in droves, but all of you out there who liked or even loved the Papyrus NASCAR games should stay a safe distance away from this botched bolshevism.
The first place were NASCAR Revolution tries to seem revolutionary (un tres important chose ici a game-revolution, no?) is in its graphical flair. The cars in the game are all modeled with nice high polygon counts, cockpits and drivers that you can see through the windshield, all the way down to arm motions for turning the steering wheel. Additionally, the cars seem to be coated in the same super-gloss that graced Need For Speed 3, giving all of the vehicles an appealing turtle-wax sheen. NASCAR Revolution also features an animated pit crew that can be a good deal of fun to watch as they change your tires and top off the tanks.
Although the cars may be near the top of the pack, the tracks are purely middle of the road. The stands, fans, fences, boundaries, trees, and other boundary objets are all dull and unappealing. Overall, the environments don't seem much more convincing than those of NASCAR 2; that's especially bad considering that NASCAR 2 came out 3 years ago. The combination of good car graphics and bad track graphics gives an unsatisfying, almost unfinished feel to the game. To add insult, the frame rate is rather choppy for a title with such high system requirements..
Instead of the usual serious tone that permeates a realistic racing title during competition, NASCAR Revolution features a country/western/truck-commercial soundtrack that lets you hum a few songs for your momma while your blaze down the turn at 180MPH and smack into the barrier.
Sound is handled well. Useful speech is provided by a track spotter and crew chief while commentary is provided by TV announcers Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons. Sound effects feel appropriate and solid, though not as powerful and gut-shaking as they might actually feel at Daytona 500.
Which brings us to tracks and drivers. EA licensed 17 tracks and 31 drivers, they did however commit the cardinal sin of not getting Daytona, the quintessential NASCAR track. Blame that one on Sega, who has held a tightfisted exclusive on the Daytona track for years now.
Fortunately, the control is acceptable and there is a decent sense of speed when you really start pushing those turns to the limit.
But most important in this sort of racing title is realism. The actual driving physics, for the most part, are competent, but lack that razors-edge feel that you get with the real hard core simulations like Grand Prix Legends or even, yes, NASCAR 2. There are some serious lapses, though, when it comes to crashing and braking. Slamming down on the brake pedal has about as much effect in NASCAR Revolution as taking your foot of the gas; this results in a lot of crashing. When crashes inevitably happen, the cars slightly deform, there is some nice smoke, and you quickly notice that the cars do not really break apart like in the wonderfully chaotic crashes of the Papyrus games (sorry to mention them so much, but they are the only competition). You'll also notice that, for instance, even though a message appears telling you that you have tire damage, your speed is all that is effected, and handling remains constant.
There are a few other annoyances. For starters, when you try to exit a race, you must suffer through watching the camera pan around your car driving along for a bit, showing of its shiny exterior, before you can just get back to the damned menu. This is especially annoying since there is no restart option during a pause so you must go back to the menu in order to race again if you louse up.
Another grave concern is that the driver AI is woefully bad. It doesn't help either that the AI takes over driving your car during a caution and does a poor job of it at that. On top of everything else, there is no internet multiplayer. Quite a ridiculous concept in 1999.
Overall, NASCAR Revolution is a fairly weak title. It may actually appeal, probably because of the music, to the sort of person who was pissed off to see Jeff Gordon win the Daytona 500 this year rather than Dale Earnhardt. For the rest of us though, NASCAR Revolution is a mediocre, frustrating, and only occasionally fun attempt at wresting the NASCAR trophy from Papyrus. Yeah, the hicks may occasionally rise up in revolt, but don't worry, they're to preoccupied tossing beers at Dan Akroyd and the ghost of John Belushi over at Bob's Country Bunker to be any kind of a threat.