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NASCAR Legends (PC) Review

Background Info

The names--Petty, Ontario, Riverside, Superbird, Cyclone--conjure up some vivid pictures in the mind's eye of any long-time race fan. If you thought those days were long gone, think again--Papyrus allows you to relive them with NASCAR Legends (NL), a recreation of the 1970 NASCAR Grand National season.

NL shares the graphics and physics engines of NASCAR Racing 3 (N3), so the two are very similar--so much, in fact, that I'm going to do this review a little differently, only going in-depth where there are significant differences. For the technical details, options, and multiplayer, you can see the review of N3 here. Let's get going and see if this blast from the past measures up to the competition.

Presentation/Graphics : 90
There are really no major differences between NL and N3 in this regard--the modern look of N3 is replaced by a vintage theme, with Petty and the Plymouth Superbird playing a large part in it. All of the graphics options are the same, and it all looks just as good.

The major changes for NL are, of course, the cars and the tracks. Everything has been modified to fit the 1970 season, to include the absence of General Motors, and the inclusion of the Mopar and Mercury nameplates.

Unlike N3 and all previous Papyrus sims, the cars in NL (Plymouth Roadrunner and Superbird, Dodge Charger and Daytona, Ford Torino and Talladega, and Mercury Cyclone) actually have unique bodyshapes--the Daytonas and Superbirds have the large rear wings (where appropriate), while those are absent on the Ford and Mercury entries. Overall I'd rate the carshapes and paint schemes as very good, with nice details like the proper Goodyear stickers, changeable wheel colors, and others. The interior views are well done, too, with a different dash for each car. The only problem with the in-car view is that the gauges are a little hazy-looking, but overall they are attractive and believable.

The tracks included in NL are recreated with the same fidelity that is evident in N3, with surfaces, walls, and surroundings presented with painstaking detail. The pacecar is period-correct, the visible people are dressed in early 70s clothing (from what you can see, anyway), and the pit crews aren't wearing firesuits--just the way it should be.

All in all, the score here is about the same as it was for N3--I added a few points for the variety in bodyshapes, but if you like the way N3 looks, you'll like NL just fine.

Presentation/Audio : 92
NL ships with the same A3D support as N3, but I still can't comment on that aspect--someday soon I'll splurge on a good Aureal card, but NL sounds pretty good on my AudioPCI for the time being.

The engine sound in NL is a little deeper than N3, and sounds very much like the big cubic inch V8 it's supposed to be. All the other audio, including the spotter and crew chief, are essentially the same as in NL's modern sibling. As in N3, there is a lot to like about the way this title sounds. So sit back, turn up the subwoofer, and enjoy the music.

NOTE: In the preview of NL, I stated that there was no pit communication. That was true in the Beta version I tested, but it was implemented in the final release.

Interface/Options : 97
Other than the background pictures and different fonts, the interface is the same as in N3. There are no additional options, and it's just as intuitive and effective in NL. Same basic interface, same score.

Gameplay : 89
All the same great racing seen in N3 is present here as well, with a few notable differences. The key thing to remember is that NASCAR was quite a bit different in 1970, and most of NL reflects that fact. The differences can be broken into three main areas--the cars, the rules, and the tracks. Here's a rundown on each of them.

THE CARS: In 1970, NASCAR race cars were true production-based machines, not the purebred race shop specials used today. They were also longer, taller, and in some cases heavier than modern cars, and the driving model in NL seems to accurately represent the way these beasts drove. Turn in isn't quite as quick, and the corner speeds are definitely slower than in N3, since the grip is nowhere near as tenacious as the new cars. A huge part of this is attributable to the tires used in 1970--they were bias ply tires with a much harder rubber compound than what you'll find on racecars today.

The hard rubber sure doesn't do a lot for tire life--at Talladega, you'll burn a set of tires up in around 20-25 laps, which is about what you'll get on a full tank of fuel as well. I'm not certain, but I think these figures are pretty close to reality--there were a lot more pit stops made in those days because of the rapid tire wear and low fuel mileage.

Speaking of pit stops, don't expect to get 4 tires and 22 gallons of fuel in 20 seconds. The equipment wasn't as good in the early 70s, and the crews weren't as specialized, so expect the times to be about double what you see in N3. This, in my opinion, is an accurate and neat touch.

The AI is about what you'd expect from a Papyrus NASCAR title, which has both positive and negative aspects. The main positive is that the AI are very aggressive, almost to the point of menacing at times. At the short tracks, if there's a small opening, one of the AI cars will try to fit into it. This leads to a high number of cautions and spins, but it really adds to the racing experience.

The negatives are the same ones that have been mentioned several times in the past, mainly aimed at the AI behavior when there's an accident. Just as in the previous titles, some of the cars will simply stop until the wreck is completely clear, instead of looking for a way by. This leads to some annoying track blockages, and hopefully will be addressed in the next iteration. There are also some questions about the AI line through the esses at Riverside--it seems they go a little too far off track in that section, but like the other items, it's not a show stopper of a problem.

Multiplayer seems to be the same hit-or-miss proposition as it is in N3--your success will depend on your connection, the connection and system speed of the server, and the general internet weather at the time. There are good times to be had, and the multiplayer is hopefully being worked on and improved like it is in the N3 Beta patches.

    THE RULES: One thing that is immediately noticeable is the lack of speed limits on pit road. You still can't pass the pace car, but you won't get any black flags for speeding. Another way NL differs is in the points awarded during a championship season--in NL, more points are awarded for the longer races. The double file restarts, yellow flags, and most everything else is pretty much the same as it is today.

    THE TRACKS: NL includes 16 well-detailed and accurate tracks, from the 2.66 mile Alabama International Speedway (now Talladega) to the tiny 1/4 mile Bowman-Gray Stadium. Some of these tracks are similar to the tracks found in N3, with the requisite period graphics while others are brand new for NL. The repeated tracks are Alabama, Bristol, Charlotte, Darlington (it is run in the old configuration, however), Martinsville, Michigan, and Rockingham. Never before seen are Bowman-Gray, Greenville-Pickens, Ontario, Richmond Fairgrounds, Riverside, Texas World, and Thompson. Atlanta is seen in the old, true-oval configuration, like NASCAR Racing 2, and North Wilkesboro makes a triumphant return. There is tremendous variety here, and with the palette fix from The Pits ( you can add even more, provided you own either N3 or the 1999 Edition of NASCAR Racing.

The tracks I found to be the most entertaining were Bowman and Thompson--if you haven't guessed, I'm a short track fan, and these are two of the best examples I've seen anywhere. If you want tight, door-to-door action, it doesn't get any better than this

Replay Value: 90
Just as in N3, the replay value is nearly limitless in a title like this. Add multiplayer, and the longevity is unsurpassed.

Overall : 92
So is NL just a graphical patch to N3? Unlike many others, my answer to this question is a resounding "No." There is enough new content here to warrant the individual releases, with the tracks, cars, physics, and period-correct appearance making NL stand out as a separate but equal partner in the Papyrus stable.

All in all, I think I enjoy NL a little more than I do N3, mainly because of the great short tracks included. There are still a few minor glitches, but for the NASCAR fan looking for something a little out of the ordinary, NL fills the bill just fine.

By: Scott Moore 12/21/99

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