Yeeeha! Them Duke boys can get into more trouble than a weasel in the chicken coop.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!!!” Exhaust fumes fill the air. Engines rumble in unison, crescendoing into a roar. Drivers edge their cars into the designated slots. There is a hint of moonshine in the air. The flag drops and cars begin to hurtle around the track amidst cheering crowds. When things go right, the race is like a scene out of “Days of Thunder”. However, when drivers get careless or gamble, things get a mite more interesting. This is Nascar driving at its best. Are you ready?
EA’s Nascar ’98 is similar to Sony Sports’ Cart World Series in that both offer real life professional drivers and actual racing circuits, but that is where the similarity ends. While Cart is like the upper echelon of the racing world, Nascar is the blue collar segment of the racing profession. Players can choose to drive as Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, or Jeff Gordon but to name a few of the 24 available drivers. These drivers come complete with their actual cars that have those annoying decals from such companies as Valvoline and McDonalds. There are ten official Nascar tracks and six additional tracks that EA has worked up to make the game more challenging. Like Cart, the player can customize his or her car to precise specifications.
Playing Nascar ’98 is almost surreal due to the excellent graphics. The background is sharp and almost hypnotic as it goes whipping by. The cars themselves resemble the cars used in Destruction Derby I and II. The screen seems very wide when you are driving, even in the split screen mode. The different camera angles are excellent, especially the far view because when another driver comes up your tailpipe, you see their front bumper and hood rubbing your lagging rear end. I also found the cockpit view impressive because you can even see ‘your’ hands on the steering wheel and various gauges and dials as well as the metal frame of the car. However, driving using the cockpit view is not recommended for those who are claustrophobic. The best part of the graphics occurs when you smash into someone else’s unsuspecting behind and fragments of their car come flying at your windshield. Who says the little things don’t matter?
Racing simply is not racing without the roar of the engines or the screeching of tires as drivers try to corner. If this is true, then Nascar is knitting, or line-dancing, or anything other than racing. The sounds effects are almost nonexistent because they are drowned out by the blaring “Classic Southern Rock” soundtrack. This is a mix of country music (fiddles and banjos) and rock music (electric guitars and drums). This is not music which everyone can appreciate. In fact, the only people who can drive to such music own pickup trucks with a gun rack. At times, I thought I was one of the “Dukes of Hazard” and I could have sworn that I could see Boss Hogg following me in the rear view mirror. The only thing missing was Daisy Duke and her daisy dukes. What a frightening thought…
The cars in this game handle like their drivers, fast and loose. Sometimes when you are going into a turn, you start bouncing on your struts like jelly on a roller coaster. You can also block drivers and make them nudge you forward if you are paying attention to the rear view mirror. However, the key to winning the checkered flag is to properly customize your car for the track you are driving on. The amount of air pressure in your tires determines how well you handle and how many times you pit. Your rear spoiler affects downforce and top speed and the wedge determines if your car runs loose (fishtails a lot) or is pushing it (heading into walls on turns). The right combination of these three factors and how well you draft will determine if you make that victory lap. If you don’t give a hill of beans about mechanics, turn the Physics and Artificial Intelligence down and have an easy race.
Nascar ’98 really goes in for the details, from the emergecy vehicles rushing onto the track, to the burnout and oiled skidmarks, to the dizzying spinouts. The driving experience was unique and the tracks were sometimes easy but could also be extremely challenging. The graphics were superb, but the sound needs work (especially that soundtrack). EA really found a balance between realism and enjoyment. Nascar ’98 has the right combination to make this game worth playing. Y’all go out and try it now, y’hear?