NASCAR Racing on the Playstation is both a glorious and scary thought: glorious because NASCAR Racing is, undeniably, the supreme ruler of all PC auto racing sims; and scary because such a detailed, complicated, power-draining PC game should surely end up butchered when ported over to a lowly 32-bit console system. How nice it is to be wrong.
Hard as it may be to believe, the masterminds at Papyrus (the group behind the NASCAR and IndyCar Racing series) have somehow managed to perfectly re-create the high-speed excitement and tire-squealin' realism of NASCAR for the PC. Despite the understandable loss of graphic quality, just about everything that made NASCAR Racing the king of all racing sims survived the translation to the Playstation. Players will thrill to 20 of the top NASCAR drivers (Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, etc.) and their respective paint schemes/sponsors, and all the official tracks of the NASCAR circuit, including Talladega, Darlington, and Bristol (save Indianapolis and Daytona for licensing reasons). Additionally, two new generic road courses are thrown in for good measure. The result: 20 tracks with yellow/black flags, pace laps, qualifying runs, crunching wrecks, and pit stops. And topping off the experience is the option to compete in a full 31-race championship season.
Make no mistake, this is no Ridge Racer or Need for Speed - this is stock car racing at its most realistic. To successfully compete in NASCAR Racing, it is necessary to gain an understanding of each track's personality and how the car responds to it. To that end, each track has its own quirks and characteristics that brilliantly match its real-life counterpart. From the high banks of Talladega, to the twisting turns of Watkins Glen, to Bristol's concrete surface, it's all here.
The options in NASCAR Racing are plentiful. Car damage, opponent strength, auto/manual shifting, braking help, and yellow flags are all adjustable. Players can race a complete race at any track (328 laps at Atlanta, 200 at Michigan, etc.), or in specified increments (2, 5, 10, 25, or 50 percent of a complete race). Graphics are topnotch, with an almost photorealistic quality - gamers won't find the overly bright and artificial color saturation of Ridge Racer or Sega's Daytona USA. Game control is right on the money, with steering that makes players feel as though they're just barely in control of a 3,500-pound machine going 200 mph.
The game's only real downfall is that the yellow flags do not come out often enough. When driving in the opposite direction, against traffic (always a blast), it's possible to cause many multiple-car wrecks before a caution flag appears. But this single blemish isn't nearly enough to detract from the magnificence of NASCAR Racing for the Playstation - the new standard in 32-bit auto racing sims.