Step inside a 700-horsepower stock car and put your seat belt on. NASCAR Racing 3 is a realistic simulation where you race against the likes of Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and old number three, Dale Earnhardt. This game puts you in the driver’s seat to pit your skills against the pros at many of the nation’s most famous racetracks.

From excellent graphics to custom-built machines, this is as real as it gets.
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 February 20. Brian Schaffner provides this review of Sierra Sports’ NASCAR Racing 3.
Installing NASCAR Racing 3 is an easy process. You just load the CD and follow the instructions. You’ll want to know a little about your graphics card in order to set up the rasterizer correctly.

I installed the game on a system with a Pentium II 300 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, and an ATI Expert@Work 8MB graphics card. The full installation took the 260 MB, as the manual said it would. I also used a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro joystick to drive the car. This joystick did not provide the “Force Feedback” you may get with a more equipped joystick or wheel, but it worked well, nonetheless.

Grab the wheel tight, now
Once installed, launch the game and enjoy a short intro with excellent audio of cars whizzing by. You can almost smell the 114+octane gasoline and burnt rubber by now.

The game manual walks you through your setup and test drive, should you need the help. The first time through, the number of options can be a little overwhelming. It’s best to follow the book and learn how to get going before you jump into online racing.

In the cockpit
You have several options once you’re in the car. There are different views to choose from, such as the driver’s seat.

NASCAR Racing 3’s driving seat view

There’s also an overhead perspective.

The overhead view may be best for joystick users.

The overheads often allow a better view for joystick users, while those with wheels may prefer to sit in the car. Another advantage of being in the car is that you can see all of your dials and controls, which function realistically, in their traditional locations.

And they’re off!
Once you’re in the car and racing, you have several audio and graphics options controlling how you experience the race.

Close your eyes, and the digitized sounds are enough to make you feel you’re right there. Just be careful: too loud and you’ll wake the neighbor’s baby!

You can specify how detailed the background and car should be rendered. You’ll also enjoy listening to the crew chief on the radio. He’ll tell you when the back end is all smashed up and when you need all new rubber. And he’ll tell you when you’re clear, after passing Mark Martin on the third turn.

Let’s see that again
NASCAR Racing 3 comes complete with Instant Replay controls. This feature allows you to play back, and even save, those few seconds of fame as you fly past Jeff Gordon to capture the checkered flag. Once you save the clips, you can replay them whenever you like.

For the hardcore fans
If you think that NASCAR Racing 3 is just another Pole Position, think again. This game puts you in complete control of your racing destiny. With full support for custom car building, there’s not much more you could ask for. Starting with setting your tire pressure and gear ratios and going through spoiler angles and wheel camber, you can create a car that performs for your style of driving. You can even adjust the weight distribution, fuel level, and shocks.

All of these parameters affect how your car performs during the race. If that’s not enough, you can save and even download favorite car profiles.

Going online
Once you’ve mastered the raceway and built your dream machine, the next step is to find out just how good you really are. Take your racing to the next level by going online and racing against the rest of the wired world. With an Internet connection and the right driving shops, you can be the true champion of NASCAR Racing 3.
Publisher: Sierra SportsPurchase price: $49.99 (CompUSA online)Minimum hardware requirements: Pentium 166 or better, 32 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM, SVGA with 2 MB video memory, 80 MB hard disk space, sound card, and Win9x operating system.

Brian Schaffner knows a thing or two about video games, as he’s been an avid gamer since Pong hit the street. An IT pro with 15-plus years of programming experience, he currently serves as manager of Internet services and technical strategies for Accent Marketing.

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