The 20th anniversary of the 1990 film Days of Thunder is as good a reason as any for Paramount to reboot its NASCAR racing simulation game of the same name. Coming exclusively to the PSN this summer, the stock car racer will shift in focus to arcade gameplay and feature 19 cars, 10 tracks, and all current NASCAR drivers. Its ties to the film are somewhat loose--while some of the original characters and music will make an appearance, the only real nod is the voice of Michael Rooker (who played Rowdy Burns in the film), who will guide players through the game. We tried out one of the tracks for ourselves at the Paramount Digital booth during E3 2010.
Who's Making It: Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition is being developed by Piranha Games (Medal of Honor Heroes 2 for the PSP and Need for Speed Undercover for the PSP) and being published by Paramount Digital Entertainment.
What It Looks Like: While the game's visuals are certainly a big step forward from its 1990 predecessor, that's not exactly saying much. We weren't too impressed with the flat, somewhat dull environments, which lacked detail and were not particularly inspiring (although we did only see a track in Phoenix, so that may explain it). At one point during the race we crashed into a wall at high speed to see what would happen, and the game became very buggy.
What You Do: There are three modes in the game: amateur, pro, and sprint cup. You start out with low-end cars and build your way up through the tracks. Once you finish the game, you will unlock an additional derby mode, which allows you to race a bit more aggressively.
The development team has taken the simulation aspects of the last game and poured them into the new title's performance points: acceleration, durability, fuel consumption, handling, and top speed. Racing well will earn you more points, which you can use to customize your vehicle in the garage. You can also change the way your car looks with up to six different slots for your own customized versions. There is no story in the game, just races, which means you won't have to try to work out who Tom Cruise's character is or anything like that. You can also race with up to 12 players in the game's online multiplayer mode.
How It Plays: We did a quick race around one of the tracks and found the controls quite responsive. Because this is an arcade racer, it's a lot easier to navigate at fast speeds, and all you'll basically have to do is stay off the grass and try not to bump into the side wall (although if you do this well, you can actually drive along the wall itself for a limited amount of time). While racing, you'll need to pay attention to two gauges: the hammer and the focus. The hammer is represented by a blue bar at the bottom of the screen and works the same way as a nitro boost. The focus is represented by a green bar and triggers a sort of bullet-time feature where everything slows down, the sound becomes muted, and the environment turns black and white. This latter feature allows you to renavigate a particularly bad turn or recover from a nasty spin. Both gauges fill up as you race and maintain a good lead or effectively drift. The square button on the controller will activate focus, while the X button will activate hammer. During the race you can also repair your car at a pit stop with a three-button combo: circle for fuel, X for tires, and square for overall damage.
What They Say: "There is a lot of smoke in the game because we wanted players to feel like they were in the original film."
What We Say: Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition looks like a standard arcade racer that would probably appeal to NASCAR enthusiasts. However, since it's tied to the film, we would have liked more references to this, and a bit more detail in the game's environments.