Winning The Christmas 500

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Who said there’s no racing on Christmas?

RacingOne takes a look at some holiday ideas for the racing fan. We review two of the hottest NASCAR games for the brand new Xbox, and run down other games available so you can have a race of your own on Christmas. Also we look at some racing related books so you can relax by the fire with one of the titles this holiday season.

Game: NASCAR Thunder 2002
Developer: EA Sports
System: Xbox
Price: $49.99

NASCAR Thunder 2002 is the much-improved sequel to NASCAR 2001, which debuted on Playstation and Playstation2. In NASCAR Thunder gamers will be able to race as their favorite Winston Cup and Busch Series star on all 23-Winston Cup tracks. This is the first time that all of the tracks have been available on any video game.

First when turning on the game a No. 3 is displayed in tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt, then the game rolls into its opening sequence. The opening video shows racing action at Talladega appropriately because EA Sports was the title sponsor for the October race. The video is played to Lynard Skynard’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” and looks similar to the opening music video of a televised race on NBC or Fox.

The game has many race options from a career mode, season, quick-race, create a car, and multiplayer.

In career mode you start off with picking a sponsor under different contract agreements. You then have to display your talent on the track eventually picking up a major sponsor and salary to provide the right tools for your car.

The Cars
NASCAR Thunder provides an abundance of cars, including Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac and the new Dodge. All of your favorites from four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett, to Rookie of the Year Kevin Harvick are present in the game. Some Winston Cup drivers that are not present in the game include Dave Blaney, Stacy Compton, Ricky Craven, Todd Bodine and A.J. Foyt’s Conseco Pontiac. There are many Busch drivers available but must be unlocked in order to be able to use in competition. Each time you win a championship under career mode you unlock some cars.

RacingOne tip: To unlock Benny Parson’s TNT car just like he races on T.V. in EA Sports Thunder motion, type in Benny Parsons in the create a driver.

The Xbox version of the game definitely stands out for its graphics capability, and you can definitely see that in the detail of the cars. All the cars have accurate paint schemes, and sponsors with the exception of the cars with beer or Viagra as a sponsor. Cars who sponsors do not make it to the game are replaced by the driver’s name, which replicate the sponsor’s logo. One more bonus to the game is there are a variety of special paint schemes, which you can apply to some cars. For example all Looney Tunes cars from the Richmond night race, and the Jurassic Park 3 cars of Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart are present in the game.

The Tracks
Again, the graphics for the tracks on the Xbox are breathtaking and for the first time all 23 tracks are available, that’s including the new Chicagoland and Kansas Speedway. In night races the sun sets according to the number of laps you race. The lights at Daytona, Richmond, and Charlotte even reflect off the cars, and flash bulbs go off in the crowd making it look as if you were racing at night.

All races are sponsored according to the 2001 season. Sponsors logo’s are present at the track on the walls and are painted in on the grass in front of pit road.

Gameplay
For having 43 cars on the track the gameplay is excellent for a home system. Again the Xbox’s capabilities provide for fast and smooth animation and gameplay. Control is fairly easy and should be able to grasp fairly quickly to the novice game player. A steering wheel is recommended especially for the Superspeedway's like Talladega and Daytona.

NASCAR Thunder 2002 is a great NASCAR arcade-style racing title. The realistic racing action, cars, and tracks make this a game worth owning for everyone, even people who are not fans of the sport the game will provide hours of fun for one to four players.

NASCAR Thunder 2002 is also available for Playstation and Playstation2.

Game: NASCAR Heat
Developer: Hasbro Interactive
System: Xbox
Price: $49.99

Infogrames and Hasbro Interactive finally brought their popular NASCAR game that debuted on the PC in 2000, to the Xbox with NASCAR Heat 2002.

The game has many race options like quick race, season, multiplayer, Beat the Heat and Race the Pro.

Hosted by NBC announcer Alan Bestwick, the Beat the Heat challenge includes a series of progressively harder challenges for the player to accomplish. Some of the challenges include hitting a perfect pit stop, and the art of passing cars. In order to move on to the next challenge you must receive either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold trophy.

The Race the Pro section is where Infogrames had Winston Cup stars actually record a lap on the game on their favorite track, and the idea is to see if you can beat his lap. Before you race a video is displayed of the driver and he describes how to challenge the track the player is about to race on. This Race the Pro mode is extremely difficult for the first time racer.

The Cars
NASCAR Heat provides a full field of 43 cars just like NASCAR Thunder, but the bad news is only 25 of them provide real sponsorships and drivers. All the top stars are included in the game plus all four manufacturers.

The Tracks
Only 19 out of 23 tracks on the Winston Cup circuit are available to race on Heat. The new Chicagoland and Kansas Speedway were two tracks that did not make the game.

Gameplay
Fairly easy to grasp, and a steering wheel is highly recommended for the superspeedways. In arcade mode it is fairly easy to drive the car, you don't have to worry about spinning out or oversteering. On the other hand playing through a race in arcade mode, the difficulty rises as it gets harder to try and avoid traffic and walls, and gripping to the track's surface. As mentioned earlier the Xbox’s capabilities provide for smooth and fast animations. No matter how many objects are on the screen at one time, the game never slows down or lowers in resolution.

NASCAR Heat 2002 is also available for the Playstation2.

Overall: Thunder vs. Heat
NASCAR Thunder 2002 and NASCAR Heat are both great NASCAR arcade-style racing titles. But, in the race between Thunder and Heat, Thunder takes the checkered flag first by a car length. Thunder's beautiful graphics, detail, and career mode make it the ultimate game for the NASCAR fan.

On the other hand, NASCAR Heat shouldn’t be overlooked. NASCAR Heat’s Beat the Heat and Race the Pro modes make this game highly addicting for the Winston Cup fan. Even-though Heat doesn’t provide 43 sponsored cars and all 23 tracks, Any die-hard racing fan should own both of these titles.

Other racing games that are available for the holiday season include:

Game: CART Fury Championship Racing
Developer: Midway
System: Playstation2
Price: $49.99

Game: F1 2002
Developer: EA Sports
System: Xbox, Playstation2
Price: $49.99

Game: NASCAR 4
Developer: Papyrus
System: PC
Price: $39.95

Game: NHRA Main Event
Developer: ValuSoft
System: PC
Price: $19.99

Accessory: Steering Wheel
Developer: Mad Catz
System: Xbox, Playstation2, Dremcast, Nintendo 64
Price: $49.99

Book Ideas

Title: Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black
Author: Ed Hinton
Book Description: Hinton provides the definitive narrative history of Daytona, the premiere motorsports event in the world today. Through wild stories and flavorful anecdotes, Hinton brings the world of stock car racing to life while offering a memorable look at the legends who are responsible for the sport’s growth and popularity. He also gives a candid, poignant look at Dale Earnhardt who died there in February.

Title: Rebel with a Cause
Author: Monte Dutton
Book Description: RacingOne columnist Monte Dutton’s Rebel with a Cause, provides an inside look at emerging NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart’s 2000 racing season. A must-read for every Stewart fan or Winston Cup enthusiast.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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