reviews\ Oct 3, 2002 at 8:00 pm

NASCAR Thunder 2003 - GC - Review

When it comes to sports video games, EASports has long been a leader. With that companies stamp upon the box, you know that what lies inside is going to look good and play well.

NASCAR Thunder 2003, an EASports release for the GameCube, is an example of excellence of execution.

From the rendering of the automobiles to lighting dynamics and special effects, this is a game that looks amazing. Throw in amazing driving/racing characteristics and a terrific audio package and you have a game that is high in replayability, long on challenge, and a whole lot of fun to play.

"Are you going to help pay for the bodywork this week?"

The pit crew can get a little anxious, especially when you are "rubbing" the wall or other cars. But the radio chatter is just one aspect of a well-built audio track that features some great car-oriented rocking tunes. Ok, Steppenwolf’s "Magic Carpet Ride" may have had some other trip in mind, but the pulsating and driving rhythms work in this venue.

Not only does this program offer gamers the chance to create their own race team, customize their own car, and race as one of the top NASCAR drivers, but the game also gives players the opportunity to sit in a high-powered stock car in some of the sports greatest moments.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is on the cover of this game. Remember Talledega in 2001 when he came from fourth on the last lap to win the EASports 500? Think you could do it? That is just one of the moments recreated for the Lightning Challenge. There are 30 "moment of the race" scenarios where game players can test their mettle in defining moments in the sport.

Other game features include175 cars (in true console fashion, you have to earn Thunder plates to unlock everything the game has), 60 events and 70 drivers. You can jump in with a quick race (for the novices, the game will even provide you with the optimum racing line around the course), go for a season or completely manage and race in career mode.

When it comes to the controller, most of this is nudging the thumbstick left, with the occasional right tossed in to get around someone on the high side. The A button is the accelerator and the brakes are handled by … wait, who uses brakes? It’s pedal to the metal action.

You can make pit stops during a race, the length of which can be customized in the incredible options package the game sports.

What EASports has created here is a game that looks amazing, plays superbly and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There is a bit of a learning curve to this game, but it has nothing to do with control elements ­ in a manner of speaking. Most of the cars racing are on equal footing. While reflexes are definitely challenged, this is a high-speed chess match. You have to make your moves wisely, know when to slow and when to go. Crashing around only damages your machine and that can cost you aerodynamic handling and power losses.

This game is rated for Everyone.


Gameplay: 9
You can pause the action, but you had better have your finger on that accelerator when you restart the game. At 168 miles-per-hour, it may not seem like you are going all that fast, especially when the competition if moving along in a well-formed pack, but even a momentary pause on the accelerator can end up costing you several places in the race.

Graphics: 9.3
The car details, effects and lighting are the best seen-to-date in a GameCube racing program. The environments run the gamut from merely superb to stunningly realistic.

Sound: 9
EASports has long been known for solid audio support and this game is no different. The whine of the engines, the crackle of the radio, the distant blare of the PA, the sound of metal-on-metal, and the pulsating songs all combine to a wonderful audio treat.

Difficulty: Medium
Ok, nudge left, nudge left, nudge left, then nudge right to go high. Oh, and mash down the A button. There is not much to the controls of this game, which is to its benefit. The racing is challenge enough without having to do contortions on the controller.

Concept: 9
The game has a wonderful variety of options. From customizing your own ride to tackling the challenges of the season, NASCAR Thunder 2003 has depth of play that will likely keep racing fans coming back time and again.

Multiplayer: 9
This game allows head-to-head competition with up to four other players on the same machine. Let the motorized mayhem commence.

Overall: 9.3
This game is stunning to look at and a joy to play. The racing dynamics are excellent, and everything is in place for the best racing experience to date on the GameCube.


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