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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
8.9
Visuals
9.5
Audio
8.5
Gameplay
9.0
Features
9.0
Replay
7.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
GameCube
PUBLISHER:
Atari
DEVELOPER:
Monster Games
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-4
RELEASE DATE:
November 27, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona

NASCAR Heat 2002

 Written by Tim McGrew  on December 20, 2002

Full Review: A clean and exciting racer emerges from the rather dirty title


It's a great time to be a NASCAR fan with its popularity soaring through the roof and drivers getting more and more competitive as each day goes by. With the 2002 season ending just a few weeks ago, fans are already gearing up for the greatest event this side of the sport; the season opening Daytona 500. With so much going on, gamers who enjoy the sport may be looking for an interactive alternative to pass the time between seasons and NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona does not disappoint.

To start things off, it must first be known that this game is a lot like last years NASCAR Heat 2002. Rightfully so, as the developer and publisher are the same. What sets this game apart is its incredibly robust and fulfilling career mode that players have come to expect from a number of different sports titles released on all the next generation systems, including the Nintendo Gamecube.

The career mode for Dirt to Daytona (DTD) is incredibly massive and spans up to thirty seasons of racing. As the title suggests, the game starts you off at the very beginning of your soon to be illustrious racing career. It gives you a small budget to work with that you use to build the essential car that you need and hire the crew that you want, as well as buy every necessity afforded to you. As you progress in the circuits with generally improving performance, new sponsors will emerge offering you more and more money so you can better fine tune your vehicle and decorate it with all types of nice big logos that they're sure to love. Depending on the logo placement of the sponsor and the size of the logo on the car, you have the possibility of earning even more cash. For example, a tiny logo on the edge of the bumper will earn you less cash than originally agreed upon, but a massive logo on the roof of the car can earn you additional money. In general, logo placement is just as vital to your budget as winning races. In addition to all of this, players can also participate in a recreation of Heat's incredible Beat the Heat mode in which players can race against other top ranked NASCAR drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, and this year's Winston Cup champion and Tony Stewart in an all-out showdown.

With all these newly acquired funds, players can buy new parts for their car, new members for their pit crew, or a number of different items in order to better improve your capabilities as a driver. Buying a new engine would be greatly beneficial to the car, but buying a new engine with a new exhaust system could go even further in the long run. Financial decisions like these are what make the career options so encompassing and enjoyable.

The graphics in Dirt to Daytona are impressive to say the least. The game tries very hard for an ultra-realistic look and it pulls it off quite nicely with superb reflections and an incredible sense of speed. With multiple tracks to choose from and races to participate in, it is not likely that players will become bored with the look or feel of the game. The game even looks better than the tough competition served up by EA with NASCAR Thunder 2003 released earlier this year. The only real problem with the graphics is the slowdown encountered during some of the more hectic on-screen moments. The instances are few and far between but do provide enough of a hiccup to interrupt the gaming experience for some of the die-hard fans.

DTD has a bit of a learning curve attached to it that is more suited for players who are willing to go the distance from start to finish. The game plays a lot like a simulation as opposed to an arcade racer. However, despite its overall realistic nature, deep career mode and competitive spirit, the damage to the cars is very unrealistic, much like that of NASCAR Heat from last year. True die hard NASCAR fans may find a great deal to complain about in terms of the damage model present. Slamming into an opponents rear end and consistently trading paint is hardly enough to cause any concern. Even getting side swiped at 220 MPH still won't put you out of the game as your car can still make it back to the pit stop under its own power. Fortunately, the ensuing chaos from such a horrific crash is quite fun to see as debris and oil scatter all over the track.

On a closing note, it is important to mention that the music and sound effects in Dirt to Daytona are quite impressive. The engine sounds are all typical NASCAR fare but the ambient noises present on the track make incredible use of the Dolby Pro Logic surround sound. There's absolutely nothing to complain about here, but a more varied soundtrack would have been appreciated.

Bottom Line
NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona is a very impressive game from start to finish. If you can make it through the robust single player experience, there may not be much left for you other than the Challenge mode and 4-player support. However, the Career mode is where the heart of this game is. If you're a simulation fan or a NASCAR fan in general, this game is highly recommended.


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