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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: March 12, 2001
For over half a decade, Papyrus has been the undisputed king of NASCAR racing simulations; but recently a major outside assault has begun. First, Electronic Arts launched NASCAR Revolution, followed up later with NASCAR 2000, but most critics and racing fans generally agreed neither of these lived up to Papyrus’ standards. Then Hasbro countered with NASCAR Heat, and because it was so full of innovation this time, people were not so sure. In response to all of this increased competition, Papyrus has issued through Sierra Sports another release in its long-running series, NASCAR Racing 4, through which the company attempts to reassert its undisputed hegemonic dominance in this popular stock car niche.
A major criticism of earlier Papyrus NASCAR installments has been that the developers preserved parts of a clumsy and archaic engine — so much so that even some DOS elements raised their ugly head in limiting change. In response to this reaction, NASCAR Racing 4 discards the outmoded code completely, and for the first time since the beginning of the series utilizes a brand new game engine that incorporates state-of-the-art features. With better graphics, sound, physics of movement, and artificial intelligence, Papyrus has left no stone unturned in attempting to meet and beat the competition. Without resorting to extraneous bells-and-whistles distracting from the racing itself, the designers have clearly attempted this time to bring the quality of the core experience up several notches.
NASCAR Racing 4 has an official NASCAR license and incorporates 2001 cars and sponsors, with over 76 real-life vehicles represented. There are precise replicas of models from all four car manufacturers whose products are represented in the 2001 season, adding the all-new Dodge Intrepid R/T to the traditional Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Ford Taurus. You may race all of the famous NASCAR drivers here, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, and Bobby Labonte. NASCAR Racing 4 also encompasses all 21 tracks of the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, including Daytona, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Pocono. This complete inclusiveness is quite different from releases such as NASCAR 2000 and NASCAR Heat, where some NASCAR drivers and some official NASCAR tracks are notably absent.
In contrast to this comprehensiveness in cars, tracks, and drivers, the range of available single player racing modes in NASCAR Racing 4 is remarkably limited. All that you have is a conventional practice testing session, a pick-your-track single race option, and a multi-race championship competition. In this respect NASCAR Racing 4 falls well behind some of its competitors, which have made a concerted effort to introduce more variety in this dimension. In particular, there is nothing in NASCAR Racing 4 even remotely comparable to the innovative Beat the Heat and Race the Pro modes found in NASCAR Heat. While one might argue that pure simulation fans need no more types of racing than real life NASCAR racers themselves encounter, more casual fans might beg to differ.
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