Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 129 / MAY 1991 / PAGE 138

Bill Elliot's NASCAR Challenge. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco

Stock car racing has always been the romantic favorite on the pro racing circuit, the poor co Grand Prix glamour and Indy 500 high-tech. With its roots in Prohibition-era moonshine running and its heroes self-effacing good old boys from down the pike, the NASCAR road-running track meets have all you need for spending a perfectly good Sunday afternoon engulfed in noise, steel, and the checkered flag.

Bill Elliott's NASC4R Challenge brings those Sunday afternoons home, with a simulation that puts PC sports players in the driver's seat of one of three hot stock cars: a Ford Thunderbird, a Pontiac Grand Prix, or a Chevrolet Lumina. And even though the NASCAR rules are straightforward on what modifications you can make to your car, it's plain to see that these aren't your everyday showroom models. They may look like the cars you see on your dealer's lot, but when you get inside and put your sneakers through the floorboard, you'll have a whole new appreciation for the American automobile.

Racing is more than cars, however. It's also the driver and the skills he or she can bring to bear when barreling down the asphalt. You'll need all the practice you can get before you take to the blacktop in this game, because the cars are tricky to control, even with manual shifting.

Races take place on any of eight topflight NASCAR speedways: Atlanta, Bristol (Tennessee, home of the first Winston Cup series race), Darlington, Daytona (a trioval course that begs for speed), Michigan, Sears Point, Talladega (claiming the fastest 500-mile stock car race), and Watkins Glen. If you're starting out, you can practice on any of these courses. If you're ready for racing, you can race a single race on any of the courses or go right to the championship season. A season of racing takes your through aH eight tracks and awards points on your finishes. The top finisher walks away with the coveted championship trophy.

As with any racing game, realism boils down to how well the simulation controls the cars as they make their way around the track or down the street. With Bill Elliott's NASCAR Challenge, gear shifting is extremely accurate and realistic, while steering is a little less accurate and more difficult. And although you can't escape the feeling that you're in a race when you are surrounded by other cars, once you're alone on the track, it's difficult to see that you're on a racetrack.

This simulation blends bit-mapped graphics (for animated detail) and filled polygons (for fast graphic processing and a 3-D effect) in an attempt to capture the look and NASCAR racing. The detail inside the cars is terrific, with finely drawn gauges and an animated gearshift that tracks your shift patterns. Outside your car, however, the filled polygons fail to deliver the same level of realism, though they enhance the feeling of speed.

Sound support is superb, with an upbeat theme song giving way to extremely realistic engine sounds. The noise of shifting and the squeal of tires in the curves add excitement to the simulation and promote the game's realistic sense.

While you have only three cars from which to choose, the game allows for several adjustments to your car's equipment so that you can modify it to suit your driving style and the track you're racing on. Everything from the engine (qualifying or racing) to tire stagger is adjustable. If, for example, you choose to qualify before every race Auto-Qualify is also an option; you will start at the back of the pack), you can put a qualifying engine in your car which you will discard after you secure your starting position. If you like to gas it hard out of curves, you'll want to set the gear ratio higher. If the racetrack is an oval with banked curves, you'll want to adjust the tire stagger on your car. You can also adjust the angle of your spoiler, to help the car stabilize at high speeds. Modification is the soul of stock-car racing.

If what you want out of life is speed, thrills, crackups, and a kiss at the winner's circle, belt yourself into this racer. It's a rubber-burning treat for any racing fan.

IBM PC and compatibles (AT-class), 640K RAM, EGA or VGA--$49.95 Amiga $49.95) and Macintosh $49.95) scheduled for spring 1991 release.


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