Kentucky Fried Racing!
The roar of an engine burning around the track turns you on. You’ve watched
Days of Thunder several hundred times. You spend your Saturdays in John
Andretti jammies, waiting for the thrill of Nascar to grace your television
However, the utterance of the word “left” makes you break out in tears. Going
around one track, looping and circling endlessly…doesn’t that get, well, boring
as a video game? You hunger for something different.
The recipe? Start with one part Nascar. Mix in a cup of Arcade stylings with
off road tracks. Then, stir in a dash of unwelcome kart racing elements. Deep
fry that sucker in animal fat, and lo and behold…Nascar Rumble, EA’s
answer for your nothing-but-left-turn blues.
For an inexplicable reason, the game has decided to venture into kart racer
territory by including several strange, and for the most part useless powerups.
Ice that freezes up your steering. Rockets that help you maneuver a little better.
And as if to highlight the popularity of Nascar with middle America, there’s
a tornado attack that sweeps cars into the sky a la Dorothy and Toto. The level
of powerups used in a race is adjustable from “None” to “Mayhem”; if you choose
the latter, expect a non-stop deluge of tornadoes to head your way.
While the offensive powerups limit the game’s ability to focus on pure, unadulterated racing, they add a degree of randomness to the race. But any powerup setting greater than “Some” simply becomes straight up annoying.
The 18 tracks are not very well designed, though there are lots of neat little
secrets. Shortcuts are a little too easy to figure out, and at the default 4
laps, they tend to run long.
Rumble pushes challenge after challenge on you. After you zoom through
the notably easy Rookie setting, you’ll earn Pro and Elite classes to take on.
In addition, each class has a “Legend” version that pits you against a classic
race car driver. Prizes for winning classes include 3 bonus tracks and extra
Speaking of which, there are a whole lotta’ cars in here, sporting what appears
to be the current look in the Nascar world. The cars have similar top speeds
and slight differences in handling. When a Chicken Truck handles like a revved
up racer, you realize that reality isn’t the flavor of the day. It would have
been extremely helpful if they thought about rating the levels of the different
people will just end up choosing their favorite driver or the one with the flashiest
logos anyway. At least the cars look sharp, decked out in corporate logos and
slogans. Stare at that car’s ass too long and you’ll start fiending for a bowl
of Cheerios or dinner at Red Lobster.
The backgrounds are hardly cutting edge, but Nascar Rumble makes up
for its pixilated, generic look with burly speed. Framerates keep pace and suit
the changing moods of the game. At best, you’ll get a realistic countryside
of gravel, rocks, and mountain air. And at worst, you’ll get New Orleans, a
race track of ugly buildings set against a single color sky.
Replays aren’t much better looking than the actual race. And expect that framerate
to drop down low when you’re racing your buddy. Two players versus mode isn’t
a strong suit of Nascar Rumble.
What really impresses me about the game is the sound. Crank up that Dolby!
You’ll hear the cars coming up from behind you, veering left and right. When
you enter tunnels, echoes bounce off the walls. Sweeeet. Musically, there’s
nothing but tired country strums and rockabilly chords. Thankfully, the music
doesn’t take away from the sound effects. And the announcer, Nascar’s Jess Harnell,
starts off somewhat unnerving, but I grew to like his mostly witty commentary.
Nascar Rumble is a good game, but not a great one. Better than average,
but frankly, Rumble isn’t going to set any new benchmarks in the world
of video game racing. But if you are a true blue Nascar fan, this will get your