Raveview: Days of Thunder – NASCAR Edition

So, as you may or may not know, I’m kind of a massive video game nerd. In fact, that love for gaming is part of what got me my gig here at RNR, as I sometimes do reviews for a Sega fansite.

As you also may or may not know, a couple weeks ago, there was also a new NASCAR licensed game released on Sony’s Playstation Network, the first straight-up NASCAR game released in almost 3 years: Paramount’s Days of Thunder – NASCAR Edition. Needless to say, I picked this up not long after launch, and while playing through it, thought to myself “How can I get even more use out of this investment?”

And here we are. Does Days of Thunder pull a Trevor Bayne and capture underdog glory? Or does it go head first into a wall, flipping end over end into a pit of obscurity? Find out after the jump.


Days of Thunder – NASCAR Edition (PS3 via Playstation Network)
Developer: Piranha Games
Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment
Released: February 22nd, 2011
MSRP: $9.99

So, this game just kinda came out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen any press on it or even a single screenshot until the night it was released on PSN, which surprised me considering how many NASCAR and gaming sites I frequent. This should’ve been a warning sign right then and there, but I chose to ignore it and plunked down my 10 virtual bucks anyways.

And for the first couple hours or so, I thought it was fine! I kept telling myself “these handling problems are all a matter of experience. Sure, they’re catching you really easily and destroying your car, but that’ll all change with some leveling up.” I kept telling myself that so much that it almost became a Madness Mantra. But it soon became apparent that I was only deluding myself …

Let’s start with the graphics. They’re, quite frankly, bland. The car models follow the EA tradition of being generic makes, unless you put one of the pre-existing NASCAR skins on as a “sponsor”, which ALWAYS irks me. Damage modeling is lazy and uninspired, as the “damage” is only represented by slight crumpling and paint being torn off, no matter how hard or how much you hit the wall or other competitors. The only thing that ever falls off the car is your wheel in a slow-mo crash, reminding me less of a next generation racing experience, and more of the old PS1 NASCAR games, and that’s not in the good ways. And the tracks have just enough detail to set them apart, and even then, they seem too wide at times, but I’ll get into that little nitpick later.

But for now, let’s move on to a part of the game that made me want to stick my head in a blender, the sound. To be fair, the car sounds, or at least the damage effects, sound nice and impactful, but everything else … No. Just no. For starters, this game has one of the worst soundtracks I have ever heard, being the worst, most generic country they could find, I think. It’s so bad that even people that actually do love country music will be screaming “TURN THIS GARBAGE OFF NOW!”, which, thankfully, you can with the help of the custom soundtracks feature. I cannot tell you how much better I felt having the Initial D soundtrack playing instead, but I digress.

And the voiceover work … If you’ve followed along on Twitter, you know EXACTLY how I feel about this. I’m sure Michael Rooker is a fantastic person, but this performance makes me hate him with the fury of a thousand suns. For one, he NEVER shuts up. Even when I had the “speech” volume option turned all the way off, he’d STILL pop in to drop some useless nugget of advice, or tell me to “fill up dat hammer reeeeeeeel quick like”. And that brings me to the worst part of the performance. He sounds like a turned-up-to-11 redneck stereotype of my grandfather. I was shocked when he didn’t drop a “doohickey” or a “whole thang in a nutshell”, to complete the act. In general, just… What was Paramount thinking with these sound choices? I wonder if the Top Gun game was also this stereotypical …

And that brings us to the meat of the game, the gameplay. Surely, they had to get SOMETHING right, right? I wanted to believe. Like I mentioned above, I kept telling myself it was just me, or my car being underleveled. That this game would improve somehow. But it didn’t. Sure, it’s fun at first, going 200MPH at Martinsville, “dropping the hammer”, and such, but it gets bad FAST. It’s one of the loosest racers I’ve ever played, where doing ANYTHING but barely nudging the analog stick will send you careening to your doom. The AI is incredibly cheap as well, always finding new and exciting ways to make you lose your temper. The challenges are MADDENING, as well, and only a true masochist will ever get through all of em. And then there’s the worst part. This game is just downright unfair more often than not. I can be going down the backstretch, not even touching the stick and going completely straight, and BOOM, spun out without any warning or hesitation. And it’s not just a “once in a little while” thing. No. This happens nearly EVERY RACE, no matter how much you’ve upgraded your car. I came up with a fun new vocabulary when this happened, but sadly, the FCC would shut us down if I shared them with you.

So, in closing, this is NOT a good game. At all. It lulls you into thinking it will be decent enough, and then drags you back to reality with every unfair spin and crash, and every unreasonably sponsorship challenge. Unless you’re a total masochist, I’d recommend that you do not buy this game. Just pick up Gran Turismo 5 or wait on NASCAR 2011 for your PS3 NASCAR fix.

Final Grade: D+

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