n the wake of F1 Championship Season 2000, I didn't have high hopes for Aspyr's NASCAR Racing 2002 Season. Formula One racing is challenging, not only because of the high-performance vehicles but also because the twists and turns of the tracks keep you on your toes. NASCAR racing, on the other hand, takes place largely on oval or circular tracks. How hard can it be to drive in endless left-turn circles?
Try asking that question after you've innocently tapped someone's bumper and spent a while somersaulting over a half-dozen other stock cars at breakneck speeds.
While the mechanics of circling around a track may seem simple, the physics are complicated. You're going bumper-to-bumper with a crowd of other cars, and everyone's pushing 180 miles per hour with 750 horses under the hood. At that speed and with that much power, even the smallest mistake can result in catastrophe. You have to not only know what you're doing, but also make sure that the car is set up well: the camber of your suspension and the type of tyres used will have a profound effect on a car's performance and handling.
NASCAR Racing sports some spectacularly disastrous but utterly bloodless crash scenes, and it's safe for the whole family to play. If you just want to get out and race, the game has an Arcade mode - but this is really a carefully constructed simulation. You can go up against NASCAR celebs such as Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr and others as you take to tracks such as the Talladega Superspeedway and Chicagoland Speedway, over the course of an entire season. There's radio chatter from the pit crew, and parts of your car wear down from use and abuse.
The computer-controlled players are tough to beat, but in case that isn't enough, NASCAR Racing sports online play. This is best with opponents who have low-latency connections - this is a very fast-paced game, and slow or lost network packets will have a deleterious effect.
NASCAR Racing has demanding system requirements: you'll need a 733MHz G4 or faster with at least 256MB of RAM to get the most out of it. The Mac game conversion is streamlined for symmetrical multiprocessing, however, so with a dual-processor G4, you'll see better results with less horsepower (a minimum of 2x500MHz G4).
Another great auto-racing game for the Mac has finally arrived. NASCAR Racing 2002 Season may appeal to NASCAR-crazy US fans, but this phenomenally detailed, sophisticated driving simulation deserves your attention, no matter where you are.