I’m so dizzy, my head is spinning…
Alright, enough with the roundabout jokes. I’m sure you NASCAR fans are just
tired of it. So what do we have here? How about a nice little game by the name
of NASCAR Thunder 2002? EA’s latest in stock car racing brings some nifty
features to the good ol’ oval, resulting in a game that will add a little thunder
to your NASCAR lovin’ heart.
Compared to past NASCAR games, Thunder 2002 has improved by leaps and
bounds. The maximum number of cars on the track has been bumped up to the full
field of 43 with 23 tracks from the NASCAR Winston Cup. Some of the tracks even
have, dare I say it” RIGHT TURNS! It must be my lucky day.
Thunder 2002 opens to the rhythms of Sweet Home Alabama, giving
the game a touch of atmospheric country twang and setting the tone for the rest
of the game. Get used to it, because it will be heard through most menu screens
(though it can be replaced with an edgier and out of place rock beat in the
Options). To say the least, Alabama was a much better choice than, say, Cotton
Eyed Joe. Or even worse, what if they opted for The Dixie Chicks? I shudder
at the thought.
The control is easy and manageable, with optional computer-aided assists to
make it even easier. Now all you need to concentrate on is outmaneuvering the
There’s a Season mode that allows you to race with a balanced car through
the different tracks, but the real fun is found in the Career mode. Career mode
places you in the boots of a real NASCAR driver as you climb the ranks and establish
your penchant for speed. You can choose from some 50 drivers from the 2001 season
or just create your own. When you’ve chosen your driver and are all ready to
go, try creating a custom car from several templates and color schemes.
But what would a stock car be like without all of those ads liberally strewn
over the surface? One of the cool features in Thunder 2002 is the advertising
that can be solicited and smacked across your car for cash. Just place an ad
logo across different areas of the car and meet challenges to score some big
advertising bucks. Do well, and your ever growing stockpile of cash goes towards
upgrading your car, which starts the snowball effect of more wins, more advertising
dollars, and more upgrades.
At first I was deeply unimpressed by the impacts and collisions, but like
the Good and Evil Switch on a Krusty
Toy Doll, I discovered the damage modeling switch in the Options that transformed
a watered down “Limited” damage feature into a decidedly tastier slam and bam
With this little option turned on, cars can be struck with enough force to
send them flying. Parts fly off at a greater rate and scratch marks streak across
the side of your ride. There are still a few little physics problems that can
be seen here and there in replays, but I’m just happy the possibility for destruction
is now there.
Strangely enough, Thunder 2002‘s announcer is taciturn. For once, I
found it really weird not having some obnoxious freak bellowing out comments.
The only downside of this guy is that he doesn’t have anything particularly
interesting to say. Where oh where is that happy middle ground?
Graphically, Thunder 2002 has both good and bad. While the cars are
sharp and clean, the backgrounds have anti-aliasing issues along with the fact
that they are just plain boring. All the bleachers look the same. There’s also
an annoying sun glare, but at least it’s offset by a beautiful sky in the nighttime
stages. The colors in this version aren’t as vibrant as the Xbox one, but the
backgrounds are noticeably better.
NASCAR Thunder 2002 won’t magically transform anyone into a NASCAR fan,
but the for the tried and true NASCAR fans out there, this game should mark
the beginning of good things to come. The attention to detail, from the realization
of 43 cars to the breadth of 23 tracks, should make any NASCAR nut proud.