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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game Pick of the Week
Nascar Racing 2003 icon The macosxhints Rating:
8 of 10
[Score: 8 out of 10]
[Playing catch-up, this is the Pick of the Week for May 2nd]

In looking at the Pick of the Week table for 2005, I noticed that I hadn't yet chosen a game for the list. Coincidentally, I've also got a new ATI X800XT video card in my machine right now -- keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming review. So I was spending a lot of time the last week or so digging through my collection of games. I'd fire each one up and put it through its paces with the new card, comparing the performance to that of my original card, an ATI 9800 Pro. I'll save the details on the video card's performance for the future write-up, but suffice it to say, I was very impressed. During this revisit, I played a number of games that I haven't launched for quite a while, and had actually forgotten just how fun some of them were -- Nascar Racing 2003 Season among them. Hence, this week's PotW is a relatively old game...

There aren't a ton of "serious" driving games for the Mac. I can think of four relatively easily: Nascar Racing, Total Immersion Racing, Ford Racing II, and Virtual Grand Prix 2. I own all but Virtual Grand Prix (and I have a demo of that). Of the four, it's a close race (so to speak) for me between Total Immersion and Nascar for the best driving game title. Both are fun, but at the end of the day, Nascar's more fun for me because the tracks are familiar and the cars get to bump and bash each other regularly. I really like the game's attention to detail, and the graphics, while a couple years old, still look quite good. The crashes in Nascar can also be quite spectacular.

Read on for more about the game, as well as movie with some in-game footage...

One advantage to running older games on a new video card is that you can get great frame rates with lots of eye candy enabled. With my Dual 2.0 G5 and the X800XT card, I was able to turn basically all details to "high" or "max," and run at 1920x1200 on my 23" display. Even at those settings, I would still get anywhere from 100 to 150 frames per second, depending on how many competitors' cars were visible at any given time. At those settings, Nascar Racing is a very immersive experience -- it takes up much of my field of view, and the shadows, reflections, cars, and sounds are all amazingly well done. Partly as an excuse to play with QuickTime 7, I recorded a short (under two minute) demo movie using SnapzPro, and I did the capture at 1920x1200, too -- this slowed the frame rate to somewhere around 40fps, although this is still very playable. I then scaled the resulting clip down to 720x450, and encoded two versions of it: a 20.2MB MPEG4 version and a 55.3MB H.264 version. You'll need QT7 for the H.264 version, but the MPEG4 one should play in QT6. The clip starts on the pace lap, and ends a few turns later with a wreck that yours truly induced (on purpose) -- I wanted to show some of the smoke, crash, and mark-on-track effects that are present in the game. Nascar will even model a flipping car, which is what I was really trying to get to happen in the wreck at the end (but no luck).

The basic premise of the game is that you're a driver in the 2003 Nascar season. You need to setup, practice, qualify, and then race on each track, ideally to win the points championship. To win, you'll need to master car setup, pit stop strategy, drafting tactics, bump-passing, and turning right as well as left (there are some road tracks). If you've got the time, you can play every race at its true-world distance. But there's also a "percentage of reality" slider that lets you shorten the race distance. You can also bump up the pit stop requirements, so that you'll still have to manage fuel and tires even during a shortened race.

You can set the amount of damage modeling from none to realistic; at realistic, you really have to be careful to get your vehicle through the race in one piece. During the race, you must control not only the car, but communications with your crew. For upcoming pit stops, you specify the number of tires, amount of fuel, damage repairs you want done, and even how much duct tape to stick over your car's air inlet (more tape = faster but less engine cooling). As the race progresses, your car's handling changes as the tires heat up and eventually, traction diminishes as the tires "go away." Run too long on an old set of tires, and you'll eventually get a blow out, which can be quite exciting at 200mph.

I don't have the free time to pursue the entire season, but for a quick and fun stress release, Nascar Racing is tough to beat -- especially if you've got a reasonably new machine with a decent video card. You should be able to get good frame rates while still having some nice eye candy to look at.

Getting Nascar Racing 2003 may be a bit tricky, since the game is so out of date (none of Amazon, MacMall, or The Mac Zone seem to have it). eBay is always a good bet, but there may be one other source -- Aspyr themselves. Though you can't order it from their site directly (the Buy link takes you to Amazon.com), they do have a PDF fax/mail order form on their site. On that form, Nascar Racing is still listed, and it's price is only $9.95. In my mind, that's a great bargain. I don't think we'll see any future Nascar releases on the Mac (I hope I'm wrong, but racing sims are smallish niche even on the PC), so this might be your only option, short of a PC or console version...
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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: vocaro on May 09, '05 05:22:02PM

I've considered buying racing games for Mac OS X before, but I can't seem to find one that will work with a racing wheel, such as the Logitech NASCAR Racing Wheel. Does anybody know if this game -- or any game -- will work with ANY racing wheel under Mac OS X?



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: sjmills on May 09, '05 06:24:37PM

I have Total Immersian Racing and Ford Racing 2 and both work just fine with a Logitech Momo wheel under 10.3 and 10.4.

I highly recommend TIR because it's a lot more fun than driving around in circles in boring stock cars with no downforce. FR2 is fun if you want more of an arcade experience (read "less realistic").

Now if TIR would just release expansion packs with vintage F1 or CanAm cars, I'd be in heaven.



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: bbumgarner on May 10, '05 10:42:52AM

This is one of the most realistic driving simulations available. I drive in a weekly online league and I can tell you this is intense fun! The driving experience is very real. Drafting at 190 mph at Talladega is a blast. The smaller tracks like Bristol and Darlington are very challenging and very rewarding to master.

"...boring stock cars with no downforce..."

This means you have too learn how to drive the car. When driving at normal highway speeds, tires have more than enough grip and controlling the car's direction is done entirely with the steering wheel. When driving at over 170 mph tires are at the limits of their ability to grip the road and steering is done as much with the gas and brake pedals as it is with the steering wheel.



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: robg on May 09, '05 08:18:57PM

I've got the Logitech Wingman FF wheel (PC only on the box), and it works just great in all three driving games.

I also enjoy TIR, but for different reasons. TIR is fun for just trying to get flat-out fast laps, but there's basically no drafting, little passing after the initial rush, and no bumping.

Nascar, on the other hand, is door-to-door, bang-em-up, bounce around, drafting is key, racing.

Both are fun, for very different reasons. I prefer Nascar, but it's nice that there are alternatives -- and I've managed to work my way through maybe 2/3rds of TIRs career mode so far, so it's not like I don't play that one :).

-rob.



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: pete.yandelll on May 09, '05 09:04:13PM

I run Virtual Grand Prix with a Logitech Momo wheel on my PowerBook and it works beautifully.

Virtual Grand Prix is the only one of these games that I really like because the physics are excellent. I've learnt a few things about racing my real car from playing this game!



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Doesn't seem to run right in Tiger
Authored by: Lectrick on May 10, '05 08:53:25AM

Fired this bad boy up after a long hiatus. No workie.

The Aspyr trailer plays. Seems to draw directly to the screen buffer, in the upper-left corner of my flatscreen. Menu never shows up, although rolling my mouse around the area where the menu would be results in "rollover" sounds. Switching to a different program results in a "dirty screen" with pieces of graphics left over onscreen. Ah well... Anyone?

---
In /dev/null, no one can hear you scream



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Doesn't seem to run right in Tiger
Authored by: robg on May 10, '05 09:21:39AM

Do you have the latest version from Aspyr (1.2.8)? For me in Tiger, it just worked...

-rob.



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Racer
Authored by: rgray on May 10, '05 10:03:10AM
Racer for the hard core...

Interesting and exotic cars (eg, Caterham) and many classic tracks such as Hockenheim in various incarnations.....

Free!

Curvy classic roadcourses are fun but don't underestimate the expertise required to draft 4 wide (inches apart @ ~200mph) down the back straight at, say, Talledaga.... The ethos is different: roadcourses are about getting around complicated geography whereas ovals are about flat out speed - the turns are simply an inconvenience!

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Racer
Authored by: robg on May 10, '05 11:27:28AM

OK, Racer looks cool ... but does it exist? I can't find out much about it from that site...

-rob.



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Racer
Authored by: rgray on May 10, '05 11:39:03AM
here is the latest stable .dmg. Mouse pointer up for faster, down for slower/braking, right & left - doh! You can be driving a Renault Alpine right away.

Note: this was released in '03, refers to 10.2 in the pages. I have run it up to 10.3.8

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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: sighup9 on May 10, '05 12:38:13PM

I contacted Aspyr - they are still selling it directly for $9.99 + $5 s/h. You can order it via the fax in order form on their Web site.

--Evan



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: Derek Dean on Jun 03, '05 02:52:40AM

Hey vocaro, Nascar 2003 works fine with my Logictech MOMO wheel under OSX, so does VGP2. By the way, thanks sighup9, I've been looking for this game, and since it was discontinued some web sites are selling it for $130, really, and I've seen 2 copies on e-bay in the past week go for over $60, so I feel pretty cool having just gotten my copy from Aspyr for $14.99 delivered.



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Nascar Racing 2003 - An oldie but goodie racing game
Authored by: Derek Dean on Jun 03, '05 02:55:08AM

Hey vocaro, Nascar 2003 works fine with my Logictech MOMO wheel under OSX, so does VGP2. By the way, thanks sighup9, I've been looking for this game, and since it was discontinued some web sites are selling it for $130, really, and I've seen 2 copies on e-bay in the past week go for over $60, so I feel pretty cool having just gotten my copy from Aspyr for $14.99 delivered.



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