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by Infogrames

1.jpg (5200 bytes)Ah… summer as the heat picks up, so does the racing season. NASCAR is in full swing in the blazing sun. What better way to show your racing stripes than in your very own chair in front of the air conditioner? Infogrames brings NASCAR Heat 2002 to the PS2 and, as the name says, it packs some heat. This is something for the racing fanatic in you. Heat is a good simulation that is not just simulated fun.

2.jpg (5717 bytes)NASCAR racing has been around for decades and has produced many famous names such as Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty. Not only have the drivers been made famous, but so have the tracks. Getting insight from NASCAR drivers Infogrames has added new challenges in the Beat the Heat mode. Beat the Heat is essentially a multitude of mini-games that are not only a challenge, but they also teach you the basics of NASCAR racing. As you progress you will go up in the rankings starting from rookie to champion. Beat the Heat is broken down into six segments, testing you on everything from the basics to how good your reflexes are. If you are able to complete all the challenges, there is a legendary driver waiting to be unlocked.

8.jpg (5875 bytes)NASCAR Heat has 25 drivers along with their sponsored cars, including accurate paint jobs. Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace are just a couple. No driver is complete without a track to race on, so there are 19 official tracks included. Think you are better than the likes of Gordon? Know that you can drive circles around Dale Jarrett? If you want to beat them all, you can in a single race. Or if you want to prove your long-term mettle, there is the Championship season. Championship is the mode in which you compete against the 23 other drivers for points and, as with a majority of sports, he with the most points at the end is the winner.

4.jpg (5885 bytes)The AI of the drivers varies depending on the difficulty setting. On the lower setting they will just drive the oval with no real movements in order to prevent you from passing. When you play the higher degrees of difficulties, then they will do everything possible to prevent you from getting ahead of them. In order to get the full racing experience you can even set the settings of the races so that they are exactly like their real life counterparts. In order to survive the 500 laps at Daytona you must make use of frequent pit stops and be judicious about just bullying your way through unless you want to be black-flagged. It's not necessary to play the race with the full 100% of the laps, the percentage can be set to as little as 3%.

3.jpg (6098 bytes)If you feel that the computer is too easy to beat, you can race against a fellow human head to head. What is different with this game compared to others is that not only do you have to compete against your human rival, but you also have to defeat eight computer racers as well. This adds a welcomed addition to the strategy, as you can now use the other cars to gain the lead over your human counterpart.

9.jpg (6711 bytes)Controls are simple to use with little flash or major need for fancy button combinations. There are gas and brake buttons along with view change and buttons to shift up and down. R2/L2 are used to display the position you hold in a race, the damage to your vehicle and the wear of your tires. Steering is more responsive using the analog stick, as it should be. The way these buttons are used, anyone can pick up a controller and race. The only real challenge is learning how to race like a NASCAR driver. Plus, if you have the Logitech steering wheel that just came out with GT3, you can enjoy force-feedback and more realistic controls.

6.jpg (6730 bytes)Heat 2002 has a good visual presence. The tracks are laid out according to their real-life counterparts and are accurately portrayed. There is no pop up, and you can see the upcoming turns from a great distance. There is little slow down in the frame rate even with all the cars on screen during the beginning of a race. It speeds up after a couple of laps when the pack has been broken apart. Each car is accurately portrayed from the inside out. The cockpit view shows how difficult it really is to be behind the wheel and the sense of speed is even more present. Adding the fact that your car can take damage, it is possible to see even less with your hood in the way, making it extremly exciting to race in the first person view.

10.jpg (6819 bytes)The typical engine sound can be heard, but they tend to be muted, which is a disappointment. With the quiet engine it allows you to hear the spotter for your pit crew telling you if another car is either low or high on the track. While you might think that it is unnecessary when you are outside the car, using third person perspective, it is extremly helpful in the cockpit because your field of vision is diminished. Sometimes in a racing game the music has the wrong tempo that slows down the feel of a race. Other times the music doesn't even fit the game at all. Neither of these can be said for Heat; the only real problem with the music in NASCAR Heat 2002 is that the default level of the music is too loud and drowns out the other sounds in the game, especially the pit crew.

5.jpg (6857 bytes)What we have here is a solid racing game that has a lot more good than bad. NASCAR fans should not be without this title. If you are an avid racing fan, this is a great portrayal of the NASCAR circuit and should be looked into. It is unfortunate that the game is going to be overshadowed by the massive Gran Turismo 3. It might be overshadowed, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Jake Carder   (07/31/2001)


Ups: Beat the Heat challenges; realistic tracks; excellent NASCAR simulation.

Downs: Engines sound muffled; slight slowdown at beginning of races.

Sony PlayStation 2


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