reviews\ Nov 3, 2002 at 7:00 pm

NASCAR Thunder 2003 - PC - Review

Climb behind the wheel of a 780 HP NASCAR and compete in your search for the Winston Cup Trophy against 43 hard-core drivers on all 23 tracks!

NASCAR Thunder 2003 brings you all the tracks, all the drivers, and all the thrills of the 2003 season. This is the most complete NASCAR racing game ever created and with a new graphics engine pushing it along, it is also the most realistic!

EA Sports has pulled off the gloves to bring you a racing game that contains enough gut wrenching action to keep the most diehard fan going for quite some time, yet easy enough to set up and drive that even a rookie driver will feel comfortable strapped into the cockpit of one of these monster racing machines.

Lets start at the beginning, with the install. EA Sports includes a very comprehensive install guide with the game that covers the install step by step. Included are instructions on how to prepare your computer hard drive, tweak your system for Max performance, trouble shooting, and installation. Follow the instructions in this manual and you should have a trouble free installation.

Once the install is complete, we can get right into the game. For the rookie driver, the game includes an "Easy Tweak" which will set all the cars adjustments to an easy to drive default setting. This is really nice for those with no, or little experience driving such a high powered race car. For those with more experience, the list of car adjustments is nearly endless.

Every adjustment effects the car and includes: tire pressure, wedge, gear ratios, grill tape, suspension, spoiler angles, brake bias, and much more. This gives you the ability to tweak your car for a specific track, fine tune it, and save it for future races at that track.

Racing is set just like a real season with practice sessions, qualifying, happy hour, and finally race day. You are given full control over your pit stops and what work you have done during those stops. Pace cars lead you out for the beginning of the race, flags control the race progress. The game can also be set for damage or no damage, with damage on you must be extra careful as a wreck can end your race day quickly. Damage does show on the cars, this combined with the other special effects adds to the games realism.

The full range of car adjustments, graphic and sound options, special effects, and racing options is far too large to be covered in a single review such as this one. After playing this game for several days I am still finding new settings and options to try. Having been a NASCAR fan for many years, I have played the majority of the NASCAR style games out there. This offering is the most complete and realistic game to date. The effects are outstanding and the graphics are great, the sounds are very realistic, and the overall effect of the game is as close to the real experience as any game produced to date. The down side is that users with midrange Computers (450-800 MHz, less than 256 MB Ram, and video cards of 32 MB) will not be able to experience the full effects of the game, although it may run on such systems. For full effects it is recommended that the system be 900 MHz or better, 256 MB Ram or better, 32 MB Video or better, and be sure to follow all instructions in the Install guide for best performance.

After all is said and done, I have to give this game two thumbs up, a real thrill ride for any racing fan!

Gameplay: 9
This game closely follows the real life race season, includes all drivers, cars, and tracks in amazing detail. Car set ups can make or break your race so use your practice sessions to set your car up to run that track then be sure to save it for future use. Game length can be a single race or a complete season, this makes the replay value very high. This game supports all the latest game controllers from wheels to gamepads, of course if you don't have one of these types of controllers, the game does play on the keyboard (never recommended)

Graphics: 9
Great graphics add to a strong game engine. Tire skids, smoke, crash damage, as well as a high level of car and track details make this game extremely realistic. Options for theses details are available to make the game playable on slower systems. High end system users are in for a real treat!

Sounds: 9
One of the greatest disappointments is to purchase a game only to find the sounds are totally unrealistic, it can ruin the whole game experience. This game is an exception, the sounds are fantastic, very realistic and believable and only add to the total effect of this game. Tire screeching, metal crunching, high revving sound effects that are so real you can almost feel and smell the game!

Difficulty: Easy to Hard
It is very difficult to give this game a single Difficulty rating, it can be as easy or hard as the individual player wants it to be. With the extensive list of options, the game is very forgiving or unforgiving. This makes it great for both rookies and experienced drivers alike!

Concept: 8.9
The concept isn't new, NASCAR games come out every year, and most follow the same basic format. But none have had as many fine shined bells and whistles as this game. This is the highly polished version of all that have come before. Better graphics and sounds, and a better game engine and physics set this game on a shelf above the rest.

Overall: 9
This game is so much better than all the other NASCAR games that I own or have played. Those other games will have to be moved to the bottom shelf as this new game has taken over the top spot for NASCAR games. I really enjoyed the high level of detail put into this game, in the sounds, the graphics, and in the new improved game engine which provides excellent real life physics to the cars. This game is a true joy to play. Can't help but give it two thumbs up!


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