First look: NASCAR Thunder 2002

Electronic Arts unleashes a ton of new screenshots from its revamped NASCAR game.

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Electronic Arts has released new screenshots from its upcoming Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox driving game NASCAR Thunder 2002. Tiburon Studio, the company responsible for the Madden franchise, has picked up the development duties for the NASCAR series, and with Thunder 2002, Electronic Arts hopes to redefine the driving franchise. Many changes have been made to the franchise, but the most prominent are a new graphics engine and new modes of play such as a career mode. Visual enhancements include the ability to show more cars onscreen at one time, a greater level of detail, dynamic day and night lighting effects, and realistic car damage. During crashes, the chassis will crumple and dent, leaving paint scrapes and tire dents on body panels and causing oil fires, but the original shape is visibly restored following repair.

The career mode will let players select their vehicle and driver and take part in multiple NASCAR seasons. Players will be able to choose a manufacturer, paint their car, and then earn offers from various NASCAR teams and decals from new sponsors based on performance. Race winnings can be used to customize the vehicle and increase the pit crew. As the seasons progress, new drivers will enter the scene, while older drivers will retire.

Other enhancements include the ability to create a custom car using a variety of colors, designs, and authentic NASCAR sports logos. The AI has also been improved, as it is now more closely based on the real-life tendencies of the actual NASCAR drivers. Naturally, all 23 tracks, including the Chicagoland Speedway and the Kansas Speedway, and actual drivers such as Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others are included in the game.

NASCAR Thunder 2002 will be released this fall. The Xbox version will be released alongside the console's launch on November 8.

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