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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: September 4, 1998
I thought I had played and reviewed every kind of racing game imaginable: arcade and simulation games, automobile and motorcycle games, and serious and wacky games. While I had heard of drag racing, and even seen a bit of it on television, it never occurred to me that a drag racing computer game would be fun. When I thought about the sport, it seemed to my naive mind that there was absolutely no challenge to drivers of drag racers, as they would all floor their accelerators and the fastest car would always win. After all, there are no curves or unforeseen obstacles, so where could there be any challenge?
After playing NHRA Drag Racing, I realize how uninformed my first impressions were. Born over 40 years ago on the back roads of southern California, drag racing has indeed developed to become an extremely tricky sport, and driver skill plays a huge role in the outcomes of races. Defined as an acceleration contest from a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance, novices attempting this will quickly fail miserably. The tracks are exceptionally short by computer racing game standards, only a quarter-mile (1,320 feet) in length, so that any simple mistake will cost you the race.
You must have a great reaction time (responding to the green “go” signal) and overcome difficulties such as tire shake, oversteering, and unpredictable track conditions in order to succeed. You may be disqualified for leaving the starting line too soon, crossing the centerline lane boundary, touching the guard wall, striking a track fixture such as a cone, or failing to “stage” (bumping forward to illuminate the last set of lights signaling the starter that you are ready to race). I find you must be much more careful than in regular auto racing not to get so into the joy of incredible speed that you forget all the basics of driving.
Developed by Tantrum Entertainment and distributed by Mind Magic Productions, a division of RMC Interactive, NHRA Drag Racing stands alone as the only licensed racing simulation game officially sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (incredible as it seems, this is the world’s largest motor sport sanctioning body). Its primary competitor, Bethesda’s Burnout Championship Drag Racing, could only boast assistance from Hot Road Magazine. NHRA Drag Racing is truly a realistic simulation rather than a finger-twitching arcade racing game, with racing commentary by real-life NHRA pros. Technical performance data from actual cars, drivers, and tracks plays a major role in the game, and how you tune up your vehicle depends on track and weather conditions. You have precise abilities to adjust your clutch, engine, and chassis to maximize your chances of winning.
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