NASCAR Thunder 2002 outshines competition

By Rick Harris
STAR STAFF

   My first experience with the NASCAR Thunder 2002 game was at the E.A. Sports sponsored race at Talladega Super Speedway in October.
   Due to the large number of people playing the display, I did not have time to really see what the fuss was all about. The fact that the people playing were all associated with NASCAR or the media that cover racing did not sink in at that time.
   These are the same people who eat, sleep and breathe racing throughout the season so much so that anything short of a multi-car crash or an equally explosive situation doesn't even cause raised eyebrows.
   Yet, here they were gathered around a game console, even during the race. What would cause such a die-hard bunch of folks to start gaming? It would be December before I finally found out.
   One of our Christmas gifts to our 14-year-old son was a Playstation 2 game console from Sony. My son, who is an avid gamer, has several game systems, and at first I was skeptical about purchasing another until I was smacked in the face by the incredible graphics of the Madden 2002 Game on a store display.
   As we opened the box and the several games that he had received, I began to wonder if the NASCAR Thunder game graphics would stand up and shout at me in the same way.
   Let me first say that I am not a serious gamer. I enjoy playing from time to time if a game catches my eye, but I don't go out of my way to play. At least I didn't used to.
   We opened the game and started out in the quick play mode. It took about two laps before I realized that I was holding my breath in the turns.
   The graphics and physics in this game are the next best thing to being behind the wheel. Having been privileged enough to have driven on several NASCAR tracks, I was surprised by the level of detail and realism that EA Sports had put into the game.
   If you are knowledgeable about racing matters such as setting up the car, this game will challenge your ability. You must set the car up right to be competitive and keep the sponsors happy. Just like the big boys.
   The game offers several views of the action with the in-car view being the best for experiencing the feel of actually being there.
   Seeing a competitor spin out in front of you will have you gripping the controller and praying that you will get through without wrecking. You cannot just sit back and enjoy driving either, you must have a good pit crew to be competitive.
   In short, this game makes you focus on several areas if you want to win, just like the real thing. If you are looking for a simple driving game, NASCAR Thunder 2002 will deliver.
   If you are looking for a realistic racing experience, complete with thrills, chills and a format that will challenge even the most jaded NASCAR fanatic, then NASCAR Thunder 2002 outshines its competition like Jeff Gordon outshines the typical Sunday driver.