How much can someone who is not a fan of NASCAR enjoy a NASCAR racing game? Let's find out.
I would like to start off saying that I am not a fan of NASCAR; the idea of watching cars drive around in circles does not enthrall me. The commercialism found in NASCAR exceeds that of any other sport, with sponsors’ logos found everywhere. Despite my misgivings with the sport itself, NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona exceeded my expectations for a racing game, much less a NASCAR game.
After clearing some old RE saves from my card, I accepted the hefty 28 block save file. The menu music is nice and suits the game well, but as I played the game it started over, and when I switched screens it restarted (get used to hearing the same part of the track over and over). I then proceeded to create a career in the Career Mode. This is one of the best features of the game. Basically, you start out with a slightly modified Dodge for racing. You race every two game weeks in an attempt to earn sponsors to plaster your car with. The money you make is even determined by the placement of the logos on your car, the rear of the car being the best place, earning you 25% more money from that sponsor.
After you get reamed by the competition, you may actually do well enough to earn some money in your first season. This money will buy you better parts to make your car go vroom vroom fast! The controls are responsive and just like the car, they can be tweaked. Even with a different control scheme, I lost badly. I finally ended up winning first place overall at the end of my second season, and I was accepted into the second racing series: NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series. Now I race in the Dodge series as well as the Featherlite, and I switch back and forth between cars depending on the next race in my calendar. The prices jump, and you earn more money with sponsors, but the premise is the same.
If Career mode is not your style, NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona features other modes for the discerning player. Race the Pro mode pits you against racing’s best in what boils down to beating the pro’s time. Since Dirt to Daytona has the NASCAR license, you have a few of the well-known NASCAR drivers in the game, along with their mug shots. Championship mode starts your career off at the NASCAR Cup Series in an attempt to win the Championship for one season without having to deal with sponsors (this is the best option for those who do not want to play through the Career mode). The final mode is the Beat the Heat mode. This is where you are assigned specific track challenges to complete. If completed properly you get the Gold Trophy and 20 points, these points go to your Beat the Heat rating and if you go for the gold, you will be a true Beat the Heat Champion. Another feature worth noting is the up to four-player simultaneous multiplayer. The cars are rendered well enough for you to see what is taking place in the small quarter of the screen for a giant NASCAR party.
One of the more impressive features is the ability to tweak any car by any minute detail. The tire pressure, for example, can be tweaked. If I knew anything about cars I would be very happy to tweak my car for a completely pimped out ride. Along with this feature is an equally impressive realistic car body damage system. Wheels can fly off and your engine can be set ablaze, as well as with the normal dents and scratches.
NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona is a game based on a “sport” that I have no interest in, yet the game is fun. It is a nice simulation of the NASCAR world and has redeeming qualities, especially if you like to smash cars into other cars with realistic body damage!