How to tell one Nascar game from another - the cover art!
Nascar is an odd sport in that there aren't too many 'casual' fans. You either
love it and follow it religiously or could care less. The hardcore fans can pick
out the intricate drama of ultra high-powered vehicles cruising within inches
of each other trying lap after lap to gain an advantage. One minor mistake can
cost an entire race.
course, many of us just see a bunch of cars going around in an oval for a couple
of hours. I have to admit, I'm pretty firmly in this category. However, while
reviewing Nascar Heat 2002 , I am taking into consideration the numerous
death threats I received the last time I covered a Nascar game, so trust that
this review (like any good review) is written with total objectivity in mind.
If you're new to the Nascar scene and your looking for a racing game for the
PS2, there are some things you should know. Stock car racing emphasizes driver
skill and endurance as opposed to car type and modifications. Due to heavy restrictions,
all stock cars must be similar in style and performance. If you're seeking something
with cars that are a little more customizable and say, a track with a right
turn every once and a while, than you're better of with something like
Gran Turismo 3. Out of the 19 tracks in Nascar Heat, 17 of them consist
of the driver traveling counterclockwise on an oval shaped track.
This is old news, but it makes the experience much different than other racing
games. Nascar races test patience and mettle rather than quick twitch skills,
so consider yourself forewarned.
Still, Heat is a solid game. As far as Nascar games go for the PS2,
the only other competitor is Nascar 2001 by Electronic
Arts, and Nascar Heat is the better of the two.
The graphics are eye catching. Where EA's Nascar used poor car models
and backdrops, those in Heat are much smoother. The game flows nicely
without slowdown, despite the number of cars on screen.
Heat also provides more in-game challenges such as "Beat the Heat."
In this mode, the driver is faced with several challenges that increase in difficulty.
This is a great training ground that helps the players familiarize themselves
with the car.
From that point, though, the options are similar to other Nascar games. You
pick your Nascar hero and can compete in either a single race or enter the Championship,
which allows you to compete in an entire Winston Cup season. It's nice and long
and should satisfy fans.
Heat provides you with arcade or simulation control options. In the Normal
mode, the car has much more control and is best suited for beginners. Nascar
veterans will definitely opt for Expert mode, which attempts to capture the
real controls of a stock car. The physics are right on and you'll need to use
common techniques like drafting and downshifting if you want to succeed.
To make the game even more realistic, your car will be damaged if obstacles
are hit. So if you're used to purposefully crashing into something in order
to make sharper turns, you might want to revise your strategy - before you know
it the car may be too damaged to compete, although seeing Heat's crash
physics can be entertaining.
Unlike many other racing simulations, Heat offers a first-person view
that includes the steering wheel and dashboard. Not easy to drive with, but
it's there. There are a few other angles as well, all of which are fairly standard.
While stock cars are similarly built, there is still some degree of customization available. Most of the modifications are for control purposes. You can adjust the weight, shocks, springs and even tire pressure, whereas engine modifications that would increase speed and power are not an option.
Nascar Heat is a decent game, but it's still just good ol' Nascar.
While it is to some degree better than Nascar 2001, in many ways it is
almost the same game (aside from the new foil cover). It features the same oval
tracks, same types of cars and the same types of options. Nascar fans - you
know who you are - this one's for you, but the more casual racer might want
to seek out racing jollies elsewhere.