Microsoft

Have you driven a 1970 Plymouth Superbird lately?

Sure, NASCAR is hip and cool now. But what about 1970, when the Plymouth Superbird ruled the roost? Take a trip down memory lane, albeit at a high rate of speed, with NASCAR Legends.


Step into the wayback machine with me friends, we’re going back to 1970. It was a different time, especially for NASCAR. It was a time when cars like the Plymouth Superbird rolled right off the assembly lines and onto the track.

The rules were different, and the races pushed the edges of control. There were no roof flaps, radial tires, or restrictor plates.
TechRepublic is celebrating the return of NASCAR in the new millennium by publishing reviews of auto-racing simulations every Saturday, culminating with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20. Bill Johnston discusses his experiences with NASCAR Legends here. Don’t miss TechRepublic’s other reviews: "NASCARRacing 3: It's as real as it gets" "Give me the wheel when racing Grand Prix Legends" "Get a grip: Ubi Soft's F1RS isn't for wimps"
Such is the premise of one of the latest Papyrus offerings: NASCAR Legends. The game attempts to capture the essence of the 1970 season by offering 16 painstakingly recreated tracks on which you can race with 20 legendary drivers from NASCAR’s “golden year.”

Installation of Legends is straightforward, and I even got the game running on my NT workstation. The introduction set the mood with some film clips from the 1970 racing season.

Following the intro, you’ll find three racing options: Single (racing the AI drivers), Multiplayer (which lets you race others via the Internet), and Championship (driving in a re-creation of the ‘70 season).

I opted for Single and chose to drive Ontario Motor Speedway. The car setup screen was intimidating to a NASCAR novice, so I chose Arcade on most options and hit the track in my funky fresh Plymouth Superbird quicker than you could say “Pork chop sideburns!”

On the track, the first thing I noticed was the incredible amount of detail. The re-creation of atmosphere goes all the way down to the sponsorship stickers on the cars, the tire marks on the pavement, and the sound of the gas-guzzling V8s.

Acceleration on the track is accompanied by the satisfyingly realistic engine noise, which encourages you to drop the hammer! Everything from Days of Thunder came back to me: drafting, taking the turns high, and most importantly, “rubbing is racing, Cole.”

The racing experience and interaction with other cars was very realistic. The AI drivers were aggressive, although several times I noticed them stopping when they came upon a wreck. Cole never did that; he floored it.

The car’s handling and acceleration weren't what I expected. Lack of control caused excessive tire wear and more than a few wrecks. I had numerous problems controlling the car using the keyboard. My wingman joystick was marginally better, but taking turns was still a bit jerky.

It’s a sim, right?
I enjoyed the realism and gameplay for the most part, but after a while, driving around in a circle became monotonous. This is when I accidentally stumbled on one of the lesser-known pleasures of NASCAR sims—reckless driving. The purpose of a sim is to enjoy an experience that you can’t in real life, right?

If you turn your car around to FACE your oncoming opponents, you can cause some phenomenal carnage. I also found you can do some wicked spins and power slides in these gas-guzzling road boats.

An accident in the pit lane, where I was practicing doughnuts, caused a huge pileup. Almost as many cars were destroyed as at last Sunday’s restrictor-plate-impeded Daytona shoot-out.

My reckless wreck was a testament to the details the designers included. As the smoke from my tires followed my car’s circular path, the damaged cars exhibited signs of wear and tear, including missing quarter panels and wheels.

Though well-made and convincingly detailed, NASCAR Legends may not be for the casual racing sim fan. It was enjoyable to play for a small amount of time. However, I don’t think that I will be adding it to my game collection. For the die-hard, true-blue NASCAR fan who collects everything from Ricky Rudd team haulers to Dale Earnhardt toothpick holders to Jeff Gordon coffee mugs, I say go out and pull these babies off the shelf, then give them out for Christmas. But for those of you who can’t find hours of enjoyment in left turns on bias-ply tires, turn quickly from this one.
  • Pentium 166 or better processor with 32 MB of RAM
  • 2X CD-ROM, SVGA 800x600 with 64K colors
  • Windows-compatible sound card
  • Pentium 2 or better processor with 64 MB RAM
  • 2X CD-ROM, SVGA 800x600 with 64K colors
  • Glide or Direct 3D supported hardware
  • Joystick or steering wheel and pedals
  • A3D 2.0-compatible sound card

Bill Johnston is a Web development engineer at TechRepublic. He never practices doughnuts in his Mitsubishi Eclipse, as it features front-wheel drive.

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