NASCAR Legends (PC) Hands-on Preview
The Beta version I received contains the entire functional release, minus some of the tracks--only two, Alabama and Richmond, were included. All of the drivers are here, with 19 historical names, such as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and Elmo Langley, on the roster.
One of the first things I noticed when I fired up NL is the car models--for the first time in a NASCAR title, there are different shaped cars on the track at the same time. At Alabama (now known as Talladega), the sleeker Dodge Daytonas, Plymouth Superbirds, Ford Torino Talladega, and Mercury Cyclones are modeled, while the more traditional models take the track at Richmond. This is historically accurate, since the winged cars were only used on the superspeedways during this time frame. All the cars are modeled well, but the Superbirds and Daytonas really stand out--these may represent the best modeling I've seen in a Papyrus title. The tracks are presented well in NL, too, just like they are in NASCAR 3 (N3)--this comes as no surprise, since the two titles share the same game engine. The changes made to Talladega/Alabama seem to accurately reflect the period represented, with fewer grandstands, different advertising, and a less worn and faded track surface. There's no comparing Richmond, since the track has been completely reconfigured since 1970, but the track in NL is terrific. Everything from the almost totally flat corners to the steel guardrails are here, and it has a great 70s feel to it.
All the graphical bells and whistles present in N3 make an appearance in NL, such as translucent smoke, animated flag men, and blinking caution lights, and once again it looks good. There are a few neat touches--each car has a unique dashboard, the gauge layout is less modern than in N3, and the overall appearance really make NL feel like you've been transported back in time. The only real concern I have is in regard to framerate--with the same settings I use in N3, the overall rate is about 4-5 fps less. I hope this is due to some Beta code in there somewhere, and that the final release will attain a similar fps to that in N3.
The interface and options in NL are the same as those in N3, but with a retro appearance that's more pleasing to the eye than in the modern title. I'm not going to go into detail here, since I did that for N3, and it's functionally the same.
The garage screen is similar to the one in N3, too, but there are some different adjustments. Screw jacks (which can be adjusted during pit stops) take the place of shock settings, and the rear sway bar is changed to a torsion bar. The setup procedure is still very similar, and anyone familiar with the NASCAR series will feel right at home in the garage. This is a good thing, because odds are you'll spend a fair amount of time there while trying to get a handle on these cars.
On the track, the NL cars are a different beast from their modern cousins. While the driving model is very similar to that in N3, the cars are no where near as sure footed and stable as the 1999 versions are, and it takes a different approach to obtain the best speeds. I noticed, especially at Richmond, that they tend to be very tail-happy, with a lot of oversteer under power--I kind of expected this, and was pleasantly surprised by the difference in feel between NL and N3. There will be some other things to get used to, such as fuel mileage staying around the 2.5-3 mpg mark, and tires that only last 20 laps at Alabama, but these are pretty well representative of the era in NL. When you do pit for gas and tires, it seems to take forever--another thing that is accurate for the 1970 season, before pit crews became the specialized and fantastically efficient machines they are today.
The sound in NL is, like in N3, a stellar effort, with a slightly deeper, throatier sound to the cars. A3D is once again supported, and both 8 and 16 bit libraries are present. One thing that is immediately noticeable is the lack of a spotter or crew chief--even if he tends to annoy you in N3, you'll miss that spotter in heavy traffic. The adjustment menus are still called up with the function keys, and don't worry about exceeding the pit road speed limit, as there isn't one.
Multiplayer functions are the same as in N3, with won.net providing matching servers for Internet play. As of now, I haven't tested the multi function, but I expect the same mixed bag as in N3--that is, anything from outstanding to horrendous performance, depending on available bandwidth.
NL, to some people, will be an interesting addition to the racing genre, and others will probably view it as pointless. While based on the N3 engine, and sharing several similarities, it is a very different experience, and I can't wait to get my hands on the full version. I think it will make a very good companion to the modern sims in my library.