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NASCAR Racing 1999 Edition
(PC) Review

Background Info

The NASCAR series, from Sierra Sports and Papyrus, has been a huge success with sim racing fans everywhere. The original title, released in 1994, was revolutionary in many ways, and was the first real simulation of stock cars for the PC. NASCAR Racing 2 added accelerated graphics, spotter speech, and internet play via TEN and NROS. The Grand National Series pack brought us more tracks, and several nore licensed drivers. With NASCAR Racing 1999(NR1999), there have been more enhancements to this aging but still great sim. The Craftsman Truck Series is now represented, complete with a new handling model for the trucks. There are new Windows 95 executables, and 3Dfx support has been improved, along with a variety of smaller enhancements. Are these things enough to justify a whole new release? let's find out...

Presentation/Graphics : 85
Anyone who owns the previous NASCAR title won't see a lot new here- it's still the N2 engine underneath, and appears very similar. Many of the paintschemes on the cars have been updated, however, and the track scenery reflects changes made since 1996. Everything still looks good, especially the textures on the cars and trucks, and there are nice graphical touches everywhere, adding to the feeling of being at a NASCAR event. One example is the NASCAR scoring trailer in the infield at several tracks. Nice touch. There are some shortcomings, which I expected from a 2 year old sim- There is some occaisional blockiness, and no transparency or dynamic lighting effects. We'll have to wait for NASCAR 2000 to get the full plate of eye candy. Frame rates are rock-solid, however, and it's refreshing to be able to run full fields and all graphics without getting a slide-show for your trouble. The most obvious change from N2 is the appearance of the cars(and trucks)- all of them have the same appearance, with no distinction between brands. See the gameplay section for more thoughts on this. Support for Rendition and 3Dfx cards is built in to NR1999, and will provide good frame rates on low-end systems. I didn't test the 3Dfx version, but from all reports it is much improved over the beta support for N2, and the Rendition graphics are still pretty darn nice, despite the 2 years of progress in other sims. The bottom line? Even without all the modern geegaws, the graphics in NR1999 are more than adequate, and at times border on being outstanding.

Presentation/Audio : 65
I thought the audio in NASCAR 2 was just adequate, and the sound in NR1999 is no different- in fact, it's the same all around, from what I heard. So I'll say it again- the sound here is adequate, but certainly not spectacular. Collision sounds are done fairly well, but the engine and tire squeal could be improved. With NASCAR 2000 on the horizon, and GPL as an example, this is one area I hope gets some attention in the next title. One item of note is the spotter/crew chief- I still feel that this is a great feature, since you cant turn your head to look around. It has almost certainly helped prevent several accidents on my part, and allows the driver to concentrate on the task at hand- turning fast laps. This is one thing I hope finds it's way into N2000. There is no music, except in the opening movie, and what's there is very much in line with the subject. No music in the game or menus, and I honestly don't miss it.

Interface/Options : 88
Again, the interface will be familiar to N2 owners, with the only change being some new background screens and a slightly different way of dealing with car files. NR1999 is presented in a very straightforward manner, and everything is easily accessible from the mail screen. Race settings for both single races and championship seasons are chosen via drop-down menus and selection boxes. Options are handled in a similar way, and provide a high number of configurations to suit the player and his system. The driver info area is simple to use, and editing the information and creating entry lists is a snap. Once at the race screen, the options to practice, qualify, warmup, or race are offered, and once again are rpesented in a very easy to use manner. Sound, graphics, and control options can be changed here as well. The interface in NR1999 holds no surprises, and doesn't break any new ground, but still serves as a model of making everything easily accessible, and therefore recieves high marks.

Gameplay : 90
This is where the additions present in NR1999 come into focus. As in the previous NASCAR titles, there are options for single race, or to tackle the entire championship season- now with the top 3 NASCAR series, and almost every track they run. New to NR1999 are several Craftsman Truck Series tracks, such as Flemington, I-70, and Heartland Park (another road course!). Also among the tracks offered are Las Vegas, Homestead, and Pikes Peak. As a matter of fact, the only tracks not included are Daytona, Indy, and, oddly enough, Pocono. I say oddly because it was included with NASCAR 2. There are enough tracks here to provide a lot challenge, and in my opinion the new short tracks are very welcome. Other changes include double-file restarts after cautions, which is the way it's really done, and the half time or 'competition yellow' in the CTS events- a mandatory stop at the halfway point. This is accurate for the series under 1998 rules, but I believe it is being done away with. The good news is you can turn it off, so rules sticklers need not complain. Another change is the fact that there is no representation of individual manufacturers- cars are listed as Chassis 1, etc. This is certainly nothing to affect playability, but will no doubt draw some criticism. Many licensed decals are absent from the paint shop, so I'm assuming it all boils down to licensing rights, which probably accounts for the missing tracks as well. On the track, NR1999 is flexible enough to provide a good racing experience for almost anyone, from the casual arcade fan to the experienced sim nut. As in N2, there is a choice to race in arcade mode, and opponent speed is easily adjusted. Damage and realism can be changed, allowing yellow flags, pace lap, and(in the truck races) competition yellows to be disabled. Papyrus should be commended for building in so much flexibility. The biggest change from the previous release is the addition of the Craftsman Truck Series. To be honest, I expected this to be primarily a graphical addition, but I was happy to find that is not the case. The trucks have a distinctly different feel than the cars do- a little more drag, and seem to be slightly harder to handle, sliding around more in the turns. The AI seems more aggressive, too, not afraid to bang fenders while jockeying for the best line thru the corners. Very fitting, as the majority of CTS tracks are very suited to this type of racing. Driving the cars is nothing new to N2 fans- car handling seems to be pretty well on the mark,and the car setup screen is still comprehensive and intuitive- but with the release of GPL and it's terrific physics, NR1999 seems very tame. Not that it's easy, mind you, but don't expect the same feel you get in the newer sim. Damage modeling is also carried over from the previous title, and the only complaint I have is the amount of damage suffered in low-speed collisions seems a bit high. Controllers play a big part in enjoying any racing sim, and once again I recommend a wheel setup of some sort. NR1999 can be driven with a joystick, gamepad, or using the keyboard, but a wheel will add greatly to the experience. And since I brought it up, forget the keyboard- control is just too difficult to be enjoyable. As in all racing simulations, someone not familiar with NR1999 will require a lot of practice. With the available options, and scalability of opponent speed, NR 1999 can provide a fun and challenging experience for almost any race fan. (Note: Multiplayer options were not tested for NR1999, but support is included for 8 player IPX/SPX, 2 player modem or serial, and internet play via TEN and the NROS.)

Difficulty: 95
Over the last month or so, my views on this subject have changed- when GPL was released, I thought the high level of difficulty was great. After reading several discussions on Usenet, however, I now tend to believe that difficulty needs to be adjustable by the player. That is one thing NR1999, like N2, does very well. In arcade mode, with opponents set at 85%, my 7 year old daughter can have a blast with this sim. Crank up realistic driving, set the AI to 102%, and head for Sears Point- you'll find a stiff challenge awaits. This ability to adjust to almost any driver earns NR1999 high marks in this department.

Overall : 83
I'll admit it- I'm a NASCAR Racing 2 fan, belonging to several offline leagues, and I spend a great deal of time with that sim. When I heard about NR1999, I couldn't wait to hop into one of the trucks and head for Mesa Marin Speedway, and I'm not disappointed with what I found. This is still the best stock car sim on the market, no question, and with all the available add-ons and enhancements from outside sources, it just doesn't get old- I still enjoy it as much as I did in 1996. As far as NR1999 is concerned, there are many welcome additions(especially for 3Dfx owners) and nothing has suffered, but I would have liked to see it offered as an expansion pack, like the Grand National series was. If that were the case, I would give it my highest recommendation. As a stand alone product, I will say it's a valuable, but not vital, addition to the sim racer's collection.

By: Scott Moore 9/20/99

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