Game: NASCAR Racing 2002
Genre: Auto Racing Simulation
Papyrus, a synonymous name known to the diehard simracing enthusiasts, has released their latest creation, "NASCAR Racing 2002" that was timed perfectly for NASCAR's opening season race the "Daytona 500". For the past decade, Papyrus has been the developer in which they have been leading the forefront by releasing title after title in which each encompassed on different forms of auto racing; from CART, off-road racing, late 60's F1 and to their famous NASCAR titles.
For those NASCAR 4 (N4) simracers out there, NASCAR 2k2 (N2k2) isn't a rehash nor is it a patched version of N4 as there are differences between the two since N2k2 does have some added features that will separate itself from N4. I'd just like to make that clear for all who may think it is a patched version of N4.
Let's move onward, shall we?
In the box
Besides the nice art on the box, inside you will find the manual and CD to install the game. Now Papyrus fan may find the manual looking a bit different as in size since it seems they may have cut some of the height but all the nice information is still and is very detailed within as it gives all you need to know.
The installation process is straight forward, you just click on the desired directory and go for it. You will need the CD-Key provided to proceed with the installation and that's the only stumbling block you will encounter. Other than it's painless. A full installation takes up about 500MB, so be sure you have the room. Although with the prices of storage nowadays pretty inexpensive, this shouldn't be a problem at all.
Before running the game, I would advise that one configure the graphics settings first. And just like N4, there's a shortcut to run the graphics setup. There are three APIs shown, D3D, D3D TnL and OGL. The latter isn't supported by Papyrus so don't go complaining to them if you have a problem when you are using OGL. This seems to be an ongoing trend with developers moving onto Microsoft's Direct 3D since it has been maturing in the right direction and they are feeling more comfortable with it.
I opted for D3D TnL 1280 X 960 X 32 and using full screen. You'll have to wait for the program to do it's computations and once it has completed, launch the game by clicking the shortcut.
As you launch the game, you are introduced to movies. Several I might add, one being Sierra, the other Papyrus and the main intro movie. In the years past, I have always like Papyrus' intro movies and main intro does not do me wrong. The movie depicts several scenes from various racing actions from last season. The movie music gives the proper tone and beat once it gets going as it does have a slow start reminding me of a WWF wrestler introduction. You can turn off both intro and exit sequences, which is done in the options menu.
Once the movie is completed, you will be introduced to the menu interface, which I liked better than the previous releases. The new interface gives you a feeling that you are using your browser and has better color contrasts and some new additions. You still have your normal menu selections such as Testing Session, Single race, Championship, and Multiplayer; these are located on the left. And on the right you have: Player Info, Opponent Manager, Options, and configure 3D graphics. Let me expound on the new menu additions.
At the top left you have presented with "Driving Lessons". These are voiceover training lessons in which it will help any driver regardless of skill about car control, strategy and tactics created by co-founder, Dave Kaemmer. There are also track tours presented by 3-time Winston Car Champion, Darrell Waltrip. These lessons were created with the revamped replay system. So for those out there wanting to help out your racing buddy, here's your chance to do something using the new replay system. However, you can do this type of lesson if you are racing online and using voice communication software. I like this new added feature as I feel it will help the newbies out there if they ever want to race online against human opponents.
The next new menu addition is the Replay Theater, which is located on the right hand side of the menu. Gone are the days of the boring recordings in which you could only edit. With this new addition, you can do a full bore edit of your saved replays. You can add sounds, images, text, change camera view, fade in/out, give different camera sequences and so forth the list just goes on and on. It is pretty powerful and much needed tool that I have had a great time playing with. Thank you Papyrus!
Now it would be great if it could just covert rpy files over to AVI or MPG added some DiVX, 5.1 sound and bam! You got a downright awesome replay in the making that anyone could download and watch without needing the game! Perhaps, we could see this coming in the future? I doubt it with the licensing fees.
Selecting a track
After I set the game to my preferences, I decided to do a single race and again set the proper preferences for the race. Low and behold there are several new tracks! Besides the same tracks from N4, N2k2 offers you Kansas, Chicago and a special track for you non-restrictor plate racers out there, a 3-mile oval. So now you have all the tracks that NASCAR WC will be racing in 2002 with the exception of the 3-mile track! This is a first for any stockcar simulation.
A little more about the 3-mile track, yes, I raced on it because of my curiosity, the track itself reminds me of a big version of Bristol. I wouldn't advice turning on the speedometer as the speed will freak you out! Watch those entries into the turns, if you enter the wrong way, the car will wash up quickly thus you loosing positions.
Ok, now to step back into reality. All the tracks have been graphically updated and enhanced.
Driving the stockcar
While the physics still have 6DOF, they have been tweak/revamped into the right direction as before with N4, the car was too nervous and the tire modeling was a bit off in that the rate of wear in the tire department since the speeds didn't fall fast enough. N2k2 physics fixed these ailments that were present in N4. So what you have now it a more realistic physics of a stockcar with realistic rate of wear for the tires, thus you get a realistic racing environment. What about the AI? Hold on, I am not done.
For those drivers wanting to a flip a car at tracks that are not known for it, it is harder to flip or roll a car at Martinsville. This was a much needed fix that made N4 a big turn off for some simracers out there.
Racing on the tracks are very close to their real-life counterparts. For example, racing at Daytona. You can't pass a car as easily by yourself as you did in N4 so you are going to need a partner to make your move work but if you know how to manipulate the draft, you can still manage to do it. Qualifying speeds are slower and there is a high line present - Thank you Papyrus!
The Artificial Intelligence
With about a two weeks under my belt, the AI are vastly improved. They have better logic than in the past and they do seem to be a bit more racy with you or each other. So they will try different grooves when they want to make their move. At times, you will find the AI causing accidents in which in the past it was rare occurence. The AI still do have a blind spot just like you do and in the past when two cars touched, the race was basically over for you since the car was uncontrollable. This won't happen as much in N2k2 thanks to the revamped physics and AI. In some situations, the AI try to avoid a slow car by driving on the apron yet the AI that is on the high line slowing down yet it still has some room to pass. I would figure the AI would be more aggressive if they see some daylight. Anyhow, they aren't the perfect but what AI are?
I feel this the best AI Papyrus has ever offered for their stockcar products. I really like the improvements as they were much needed as the AI in N4 really turned me away from the product.
N2k2 has an updated to graphics engine and textures so the system requirements will be stepped up in order for you to run the game with some decent frame rate. Using the pit view, the in-car view looks fabulous! The gauges - with the exception of the tachometer - look as real as they come. The tachometer just doesn't look right as it looks dated and cartoonish. During night racing, each gauge has it's own light and when the tachometer is illuminated, it changes color. Viewing from the outside of the pit, the cars on the track look photo-realistic but if you were to use the replay manager and zoom in onto a car, you would notice some severe pixelation. The reflections and lighting when racing at the track is a wonderful treat for any eye-candy lover. When you get your foot off the gas, you will note the backfire or the residual fuel burning in the exhaust pipes.
On the downside to all this splendor, if there's a major wreck, the frame rate drops to a crawl. And at times, you wished that you went back down to another resolution. Also, some tracks, like Sears Point, don't expect a high frame rate at your current resolution. This track will make your system beg for mercy.
There's seems to be a trend going on with N2k2. So far we have a revamped physics, AI, graphics and new additions to the sim but there's another revision and that's the sound. Throughout the years, I have harped with Papyrus about the sound and now I am going to just shut up now! I am in love with the new sounds! The engine itself has some lower octaves present, so it has a nice low and mellow thump to her. At idle, there's a slope lope and when at this setting or driving throughout the track, it certainly sounds like an American V-8!
The tires sounds in the past have always been horrid. Now we have the nice tire scrub or suffing sound. This is what I am talking about, realism! There's a new sound for "gentlemen, start your engines", you have wind noise and when you are in a turn, I get the impression I hear the cords for the roof flaps hitting sheet metal. Hearing all 43 cars on the track is hypnotizing. The only quirk I have is the engine sound at the plate tracks, sounds too low whereas in real life the engines have more of a high pitch. - I know I said I was going to shut up.. Sorry.
3D sound is still an option for those of you that would like to use it and in my humble opinion, use it as the 3D positional sounds is the best of any racing simulation period!
Just like N4, you have the same options available sans the modem. Sorry modem users. The network should be great as it has been in the past.
In the past, I didn't like N2, N3, N99, N50 or even N4. Yet N4 did grow on me somewhat. NASCAR 2002 is a Papyrus stockcar simulation that I am finally pleased to have.
I'd recommend N2k2 to any stockcar fan out there. It's a blast!
.. Now if they can just created a rpy to AVI converter.
Overall rating : 92 out of 100