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NASCAR Revolution (PC) Review

Background Info

Papyrus has long been the undisputed king of NASCAR simulations. Now with NASCAR Revolution (NasRev), EA Sports is making a lot of noise about taking that title away. I take the realism and immersion parts of racing simulations seriously, and had my hopes set high--EA already produced the co-holder of my personal award for worst racing sim of all time with Andretti Racing (if you're interested, the other co-owner of that dreaded title is ABC Sports Road to Indy), and I figured they certainly couldn't do any worse than that. Boy, was I ever wrong. They have done much worse than Andretti Racing, and here's why.

Presentation/Graphics : 75
At first glance, everything appears to be just peachy in this department--and most of it is, with a few notable exceptions. First and foremost among these is the terrible performance under Glide. This is the first time I have ever chosen to run any software using Direct3D instead. EA includes Glide drivers on the CD, but they provided no improvement whatsoever.

The cars are very nicely textured, with all the proper sponsors and decals in place, and the poly shapes aren't bad. Not bad until you look at a replay, where the cars tend to look like 4x4s, with oversized tires and a ride height more fitting a tractor pull than a NASCAR race. The reflections are hokey and overdone, and add nothing to the appearance of the cars.

The tracks included are pretty nicely done as well, but all the infields and stands appear to be 2D bitmaps, and look blurry and sloppy when viewed up close. The 'groove' in the tracks seems to have no resemblance to the fast line around the track in several instances, and disappears frequently anyway. Smoke, dynamic skies, skidmarks, and other assorted eye candy is nice to look at, but I don't think there's a PC on this planet that can run this game acceptably with all the graphics on. This will be discussed under the 'Gameplay' section below.

Overall, a pretty good effort in the graphics arena, but pretty graphics is usually an attempt to hide other sins, as you will see.

Presentation/Audio : 15
With its super hyped "Staccato Engine," I expected to be blown away by the sound in NasRev--guess what, I wasn't. The sound of the player's car isn't bad, but the other cars are totally silent...not the makings of a simulation, nor does it live up to EA's typical hype. As for the music--not terrible, but not anything I want to listen to, and music has no place in an "in-depth simulation" anyway. The crew chief/spotter is clueless, telling you cars are there when they aren't, giving no warning of the green flag coming out...useless once again.

Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons provide play-by-play of the race ("hear what the driver hears"? I don't think he hears TV commentary...) and should be as embarrassed as the drivers who got duped into inclusion in NasRev. The comments have very little to do with what's happening on the track (Benny saying "He's driven a smart race all day" on the first lap, for example), and rapidly grow repetitive and tiresome. Luckily, they can be turned off in the options menu. The audio in NasRev is another example of the hype being much bigger than the reality.

Interface/Options : 78
No real complaints with this, other than the auto/manual transmission setting being hidden deep inside the car setup menu, instead of in the realism options where it belongs. Mouse-driven, simple, and clean, the interface is by far the best part of NasRev. Main menu choices for single player race, championship season, multiplayer (via IPX or modem only--not good, EA), league play (for IPX), technical options (sound, graphics, and controllers), and a few others. Most useful of all these is at the very bottom--exit game. On to the bad parts.

Gameplay : 6
Take a good hard look at the score in this category--it is not a misprint. I'll go into details below, but suffice to say NasRev is the worst racing sim experience I've ever had. I'm certainly not alone, from the postings on Usenet and EA's own NasRev bulletin board. I'm going to do this a little different, listing the pros and cons of this title, mainly so I can keep myself organized. Here goes--

-17 licensed NASCAR tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a nice addition. Others include Charlotte, Pocono, Talledega, and Bristol.

-31 drivers, including Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and both Labonte brothers, among others. There are also 6 legendary NASCAR drivers such as Bobby and Davey Allison, who can be unlocked (in a simulation? Come on...) by finishing well at certain tracks,

-A complete car setup screen, allowing changes to weight bias, track bar, weight jacks at each wheel, and more. Not a bad job on this, but the changes don't seem to have much effect on the car.

    -Here's the biggie. There is no sensation of speed from the in car view at all. The dash and driver's hands look ludicrous as well. As far as I'm concerned, a racing simulation is driven from the driver's point of view, and in NasRev the in car view is absolutely useless. The sense of speed isn't helped by the way NasRev handles graphics overload--rather than drop frames, the race goes into slow motion, like Grand Prix 2 did (only much worse). With a full field of 43 cars and all graphics on, I timed a lap at Martinsville using a stopwatch--39.64 seconds. In that time, just over 20 seconds elapsed on the game clock. This is totally unacceptable. I don't have a monster system, but it should be capable of running this title with all details off and 20 cars. No dice--even then, the game slows down time, then arbitrarily speeds it back up, making controlling the car impossible. Very shoddy.

    -No control of your own car in the pits or during caution periods. This one made me think of Andretti Racing again. This is another thing that is in no way acceptable in a supposed "hard-core simulation"(EA's words, not mine). Add to this the fact that the AI driver who takes over for you is a blooming idiot, and things can get ugly. Example: during a race at Talledega, I saw two cars spin a ways in front of me. I look for the open spot, get the car pointed there..and d'oh! Caution. The AI 'driver' takes over, and proceeds to plow straight into the middle of the wreck. What the heck were the programmers thinking?

    -Idiotic AI. Any NASCAR driver should be embarrassed to have his name associated with NasRev. I have yet to see any race, at any track, go more than 3 laps without a wreck or spin by one of the AI cars. Totally unacceptable, but I repeat myself...

    -This list could go on forever. Lousy control, absolutely no suspension of disbelief, no paint shop, no way to race as yourself (I'm not Dale Earnhardt, and I don't want to be forced to be in the sim), cruddy replay cameras. Add to that a complete absence of any realistic car physics or obvious graphic collision damage, car setups which seem to have very little effect...but I think you get the picture.

NasRev, in its current state, is unplayable, unenjoyable, and utterly worthless. That's the bottom line.

Dificulty: 50
I'll give NasRev a decent score here, because I couldn't stomach it for long enough to run a full season. With a 39 lap race at Rockingham taking a little over 2 hours, you can see why. A bad sign of things to come, though, is the fact that I went from 43rd to 12th in one lap at Talladega, and could pass at will almost everywhere I could get the car to turn (bad control again)with the options on simulation and opponents at 100%. I don't think EA is targeting those of us who enjoy a challenge.

Overall : 25
I've tried to find something to like in NasRev, really I have. I usually spend 7-10 days minimum with a racing sim before I even attempt a review, but this is so bad I won't waste my time.

The biggest problem with NasRev, however, isn't the unreasonable system requirements (Grand Prix Legends takes a lot to run, too, but at least it's enjoyable), the lack of any simulation features whatsoever, or the terrible utilization of Glide. It's in the fact that EA won't own up to saying that NasRev is hyped as a true racing sim. The company line now is that it was meant as an arcade-type racing game, which makes a lie out of everything they said before.

How can they fix it? I don't think a patch will do it--a patch can fix technical problems, but bad design decisions and bad code are there for keeps. I would suggest offering a public apology for the blatant misleading statements EA made about NasRev, a full refund of the purchase price to anyone who sends NasRev back to EA, and a complete recall from store shelves. NasRev is not what EA claimed it to be, nor is it even close to being a finished product. It does stand as a monument to everything that should not be done in a racing sim.

By: Scott Moore 3/3/99

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