February 29, 2000
EA Redwood Shores
0 14633 14045 3
1 to 2 Players
Everyone – No Descriptors
NASCAR Power + Arcade Action = Rumble
- There are no known misprints.
There comes a time when a game surprises you – not so much in it’s quality, but because of how it reveals everything that has been lost to time and the almighty profit margin.
NASCAR Rumble’s existence is equal parts Mario Kart, Burnout Revenge, and Speedrunning all melted together with the NASCAR license and driver names sprinkled on. It is the least likely candidate to land on a Top 25 games-of-all-time-list, but we’ll get to that later in the review.
Let’s cover the obvious first – the graphics. NASCAR Rumble is a fantastic example of what the PlayStation can handle in the right hands. The cars are large and beautifully detailed, so much so that you can read the actual sponsorships on them. So detailed in fact that you can read the still working phone number 1-800-BE-PETTY on the back of Richard’s Petty’s car. If used, you get the NASCAR Experience consumer line.
The game boasts a beautiful amount of variety in the courses and tracks. Players will be taken from the bayous of Mardi Gras to the shipping docks of the big cities. Tracks are three to a course, and then there are several courses to complete. Each track has their own incredible little attention to detail and I’m still finding them as I play.
To wit: in the mountain range areas, players can enjoy various trees, rock formations, tunnels, a giant corkscrew sequence that uses fantastic shadow elements, and more. The city highway stages have interactive elements like construction cones and storage containers to plow-through, billboards showing off other EA titles, and other goodies.
Folks who decide to go for the unlockable cars will find one of the funniest touches in the chicken truck. If slammed into or the player smashes into a wall, chicken feathers come flying out of the truck and flutter to the ground. It’s these little throw-away moments that help frame all the love and work that went into the overall experience.
Having played the game on a CRT through S-Video, and recorded the footage on a Component Equipped PS3, use original hardware if you can. I don’t know what the PS3’s upscaler is doing, but the game looks so much better on original hardware. Trust me on that. The only true visual hiccups are a weird gradient choice in one of the stage skies and a peculiar, literally cut out cloud in another.
Sound options are fairly surprising – the game’s overall musical fare is a cross between country-rock and hillbilly-rock, but it’s intentionally subdued allowing for the announcer and sound effects to take center stage.The announcer acts as a sort of co-pilot rather than master of ceremonies – constantly commenting on the player’s situation as well as cracking jokes about the competition. While not directly connected to each other, a hilarious moment occurred when I was in 3rd place. The faceless voice chided, “What’s running your car, a hamster on a wheel?” and as a car passed me, it followed up, “Is his hamster more motivated than yours?!”
If one were to play-through the game several times like I did, his quips will eventually become white noise along with the music, so it serves its purpose well. Where the audio department shines brighter than the sun are the power-up sound effects. Each of the power-ups is assigned their own comical tone and they become ingrained in your brain. The Big Rumble is signaled by a boxing ring bell, and if the player isn’t the one who picked it up, be afraid. When collided with the attacker will send the opponent barreling out of control – oftentimes straight up into the air. I’ve turned corners to see oncoming cars literally cartwheeling past me. Did I mention the collision sound for it is of bowling pins being hit? It’s so, so good.
Graphics and sound are nothing without the game play to match, and this is where NASCAR Rumble obliterates anything it shares its genre with. Let’s start with your main avatar – the race cars themselves. Rather than focus on individual skill factors, handling is based on the class – not so much the car. Stock cars are initially available and as tracks are completed and gold medals awarded, more class types emerge. The stock cars are fairly grippy in their tires, where the unlockable classic cars are more slick. The trucks have a more weighty feel to them, while the special car types do seem to vary styles. For example, the golf cart feels far more slippery and light than the massive RV.
Once drivers have their chariot, it’s on to the courses and power-ups. Besides looking fantastic, the tracks also hide a variety of secret paths and shortcuts, oftentimes within each other. There are three main types of short-cuts; the shorts ones that I’ve dubbed nooks – these are the areas you quickly weave in and out of to avoid launched power-ups. Next are the standard shortcuts which might allow you to cut-through a corner and shave a few milliseconds off the timer. Finally are the mega-cuts – the ones players will absolutely have to have knowledge of to survive the Legendary Challenges. These are lengthy, almost entire tracks themselves that carve through a good portion of the course and require some agile moves to not mess up.
What’s nice is that Legends aside, you usually don’t need to take the shortcuts to gain the upper hand. It’s more about Power-Up management, and by the gods….they nailed it. If one were to revisit my Nicktoons Racing game review, I considered that game’s risk-and-reward system to be a high-point. It’s utter perfection here in NASCAR Rumble. I mean that in every way possible.
Fans will also find shortcuts in the craziest of places, like the bushes under a rock formation revealing a nano-second of time-saving shortcut hiding in plain sight.
There are a total of 11 power-ups – 10 plus Random, and not only do they offer multiple attack concepts, but they offer ways out of them all as well. Let’s take the big one – the Tornado. Casting this will send out quite literally a tornado that will pick up cars and spin them 360 degrees, with the direction of the turn being alternated. If the player times their speed shift just right, they’ll always land properly orientated without losing a beat. Every opponent can launch this if they have it, and I’ve had no less than 4 tornadoes at once on screen at various times.
One of the biggest problems with power-ups is that there is ALWAYS one that stops you dead in your tracks. There are no ‘blue shells’ types in NASCAR Rumble – your speed may be affected, you might be sent flying, or your steering column may be locked, but every single one of the power-ups have a way out. At worst a way to minimize the affliction. This approach not only means the pace of the game never stops, but allows players to build their own strategies defending against and using the power-ups.
The location and re-spawning of the pick-ups are as good as they can be, and are scaled properly based on the difficulty in play. If one ventures into the Extreme Power-Ups setting, be prepared for NASCAR Rumble to become a partial flying game – the tornadoes are coming and they are coming often.
Here’s the more important part though – the one that separates the game from its contemporaries; the power-ups can be used in the short-cuts. That’s right – if launched on the main track, they can be avoided – but if launched within a shortcut…well….good luck. Racers aren’t even safe if they did use a shortcut. Many a time I or an opponent was leaving a shortcut only to be hit by the very power-up they were originally dodging on the main track. It’s calamity and hilarity and exhilaration all in one fell swoop.
No one is safe, and no one ever has the upper hand. Something that I wasn’t able to confirm before the review was the hint of an exploit system in the power-ups. I discovered that if I activated the Big Rumble right before the next pick-up, I was always rewarded with a speed boost. Turning my car into a 200mph battering ram. Other times If I had the Grip Tires and scored a Random, activating it right away usually either garnered more Grip Tires or a tie between the gas can downgrade and oil slick. Your literal miles may vary though.
All of this chaos is supported by one of the most robust Option Menus and Reward Systems ever seen on the PlayStation. The game’s difficulty is separated from the Power-Ups re-spawn and location rate. Which means the true overall difficulty can truly be fine tuned. In between all the options are the game’s unlockables suite.
By placing 1st in every race of a series, players will earn a Gold Trophy. Acquiring a Gold Trophy for each of the first three Rookie Courses and then across all the classes will unlock a cornucopia of content. Among the rewards are three hidden tracks, multiple vehicle classes, the ability to race against NASCAR legends, and more. But what truly brings the experience to it’s genius level are the Golden Wrenches.
Im a game where discovering short-cuts is key to winning, one would expect players to actually snoop around to find them. Well, that snooping will pay off handsomely with the 9 golden wrenches. Each one found will unlock a single car from the mystery class – including the previously mentioned Chicken Truck, RV, Golf cart, and more. These wrenches are hidden in various alcoves and corners around 9 of the tracks. My personal favorite – the Chicken Truck – is actually found by busting through empty cages in a chicken house. Some are hiding in plain sight; you just need to turn around.
After well over 30 hours with the game, including completing it multiple times over through the various difficulty levels for a 100% perfect save file, NASCAR Rumble is a game that defies all logic. Aside from the visual oddities in the sky, the other small issues I had – in retrospect – are nit picky at best. So small in scope that I need not waste my breath speaking of them or even admitting to them in text. You will never experience the same race twice; Rumble’s chaos is a seven-course meal of joy, hilarity, and fist pumping when your car cartwheels over the finish line. It’s graphical prowess and subtle sound genius dance in-step with the wild sound effects and constant crashing effects. Short-cuts are woven through the stages in an almost uncannily perfect nature.
All of that is wrapped around a player-focused reward system that 100% gives the player satisfaction in their accomplishments, perfectly teases future usable content, and seduces even the most one-and-done gamers back to its higher difficulties. It is one of the only times I had to rely on the multi-camera replays as much as the actual footage to properly present everything the game truly is in a review.
In reviewing and scoring games, every game I play starts at the average 5 out of 10. Then, based on positive and negative experiences, the grade can move up or down the scale. The few issues that NASCAR Rumble has are mere splattered bug guts on its heavily sponsored grill. It is a Master Class in everything it touches, and acts as a monument to what games used to be – a complete package right out of the case. No patches, no DLC, no micro-transactions. Just you, the road, and a few oncoming tornadoes to worry about. On Game-Rave’s review scale it is a Legendary 10 out of 10.
The care and thought put into this game is rare to find in the modern Triple A gaming world. You really shouldn’t miss out – it truly is a Lost Electronic Art.
- Phenomenal Reward System
- Incredible Power-Up System
- Eye-popping graphics and sound
- I had it soft lock on me twice
Final Score: 10 / 10 – Legendary
NASCAR Rumble is an experience unlike anything you’ve played in the genre. It straps the player in and never lets off the gas for 30 straight hours. It’s worthy of being in every gamer and collector’s library.
Video review for NASCAR Rumble.
- There are various billboards for EA’s other games like NCAA Football, NCAA March Madness, NBA Live 2002, and L.A.P.D. Future Cop.
- While not in level, in one of the stage title screens you can spot a billboard for EA’s 007 Tomorrow Never Dies on the left middle side. It’s subtle, but you’ll see it.
- Speaking of the stage title screens, pay attention! Some of them actually show cars next to the Golden Wrench locations. One of which being a car parked next to the gas station’s garage. See the Secrets Tab for more info.
- There are other billboards that feature photos of real people; these appear to be some of the programmers.
- When driving the Chicken Truck, if you get hit or slammed into, chicken feathers fly out of the truck.
- NASCAR Rumble features both a Memory Card and a Password function, but the Password function only tracks the unlockable items, not your recorded times or time trials. The memory card saves everything.
- EA Redwood did a fantastic job in programming the Artificial Intelligence of the computer drivers. They get into the same problems you do, and actively attack each other as needed.
- Although extremely rare, it actually is possible to lap the last most race car.
- Don’t be too quick to skip the race results after you cross the finish line. The game might get ‘stuck’ and take an extra moment to load as it’s tracking the times. I once skipped so fast, when it announced my next Legends racer, it showed my car, and not theirs!
- An amazing amount of objects can be interacted with in the game. Construction cones and horses, boulders, electronic road signs, ticket booths, crates, even homes can be plowed through to gain access to shortcuts.
On top of a TON of extras and bonus tracks, NASCAR Rumble has a fun way to unlock some of the cars, requiring you to actually explore the levels.
These are the items you can earn by progressing through the game. Note that if you see ‘Vehicle Preview’, it means you’ll be able to see the cars you can eventually unlock, including the Golden Wrench Bonus vehicles. Bonus tracks are available outside of the Championship.
- Unlock Bonus Velodrome Track
Gain Gold on Gold Rush (Rookie Difficulty)
- Unlock Bonus Road to Ruin Track
Gain Gold on Southern Exposure (Rookie Difficulty)
- Unlock Bonus Circus Minimus Track
Gain Gold on Badlands (Rookie Difficulty)
- Unlock Pro Racing Class, EA Cup, Bonus Vehicles, and Vehicle Previews
Earn a Gold Medal on all Rookie Class Tracks before the Wild Card event.
- Unlock Elite Racing Class, EA Pro Cup, Bonus Vehicles, and Vehicle Previews
Earn a Gold Medal on all Pro Class Tracks before the Wild Card event.
- Unlock EA Elite Cup, Grand Champion Video
Earn a Gold Medal on all Elite Class Tracks before the Wild Card Event. The Grand Champion video is accessible in the video vault.
- Unlock the EA Car
Earn a Gold in the EA Cup.
- Unlock Racing Against and Playing As NASCAR Legends
For every Gold you earn in a racing event, you will unlock the option to race against that event’s Legendary racer. Switch the race mode to Legend, then choose the track. If you place gold against them, they’ll be usable. You will need to do this across all three difficulties for each Legend.
The Golden Wrenches
These require you to ignore the race and go exploring. You do not need to finish the race – once the wrench is collected and the visual completely removed from the track, you can just quit the race and go back to the main menu. Make sure to save!
- Unlock The Loader: Golden Wrench 1 (Rookie Difficulty)
On the Golden Rule track, take the first fork the goes left. After landing from the ‘Dip’ jump into the split highway, turn around and drive to the jump’s base. At the bottom of the cliff is a crevice with the wrench is located.
- Unlock The Tow Truck: Golden Wrench 2 (Rookie Difficulty)
The Tow Truck’s wrench is found in the Ship Shape track. Near the end of the track, past the tunnel, you will be on a track with another road running directly next to you. At first chance turn around onto the other road and go back to end of it. The wrench is waiting there.
- Unlock the Chicken Truck: Golden Wrench 3 (Rookie Difficulty)
The Chicken Truck is located in the Fowl Play track. Near the end of the track, there is a shortcut through a chicken coop. Halfway through the coop, turn hard right into the chicken crates. It will break and the wrench is behind it. The Chicken truck is fun to use – if you get bumped, chicken feathers fly out of the top!
- Unlock the Hot Rod: Golden Wrench 4 (Pro Difficulty)
Hot Rod (not the Transformer!) is located on the Night Flight track. Follow the curving route but stop before entering the 3rd tunnel. If you look left, you’ll see a giant orange container blocking an alley. Crash through the crate and at the end of the alley is the wrench.
- Unlock the Road Captain: Golden Wrench 5 (Pro Difficulty)
Road Captain is found on the Hog Hollow track. Near the end of the track, after the shortcut between the pig fences, there is a gas station on the left side of the road with a garage. Crash into the golden garage door to find the wrench.
- Unlock the Sprint Car: Golden Wrench 6 (Rookie Difficulty)
Sprint Car is obtained on the Dog Tired track. After the three sharp turns there will be a dirt track short cut on the left. If you keep leaping to the shortcut, the last part will send you off a ramp into a dark park. The first time you land, you’ll see the little rabbit on the white fence racing in front of you and turn left on the fence track. Follow it around back and you’ll find the wrench hiding in the corner of the building.
- Unlock the RV: Golden Wrench 7 (Rookie Difficulty)
The RV is Located in the Rip Tide track, and is the easiest of them all. Go around the first corner, then turn around and head for the large tent. Follow the tent to the right and the wrench in near the fence.
- Unlock the Jet Car: Golden Wrench 8 (Pro Difficulty)
The Jet Car can be obtained on the Stoney Creek track. On the last turn of the track, aim left off the jump and land on the ledge. Now slowly turn around – or carefully reverse with your rearview mirror active, and the wrench is hiding against the back wall of the cliff.
- Unlock the Golf Cart Golden Wrench 9 (Pro Difficulty)
Golf Cart is located on the Big Easy track. Toward the middle of the track there is a shortcut on the right that leads up a driveway to a house. If you crash into the house and hang a right, then plow into the bookshelf. The wrench is hiding in the alcove behind it.
Power-Ups and their escapes
Once of NASCAR Rumble’s greatest features is how much balancing went into the power-ups. Every single one has a way out, or at least a workaround to its infliction. Use these techniques if you’re attacked with them:
Ignore the visual warning – wait until you hear the tornado and let go of gas but don’t brake. You should be picked up and practically spun a full 360°, bouncing a few times. Don’t hit the gas until your sure your tires are parallel to the ground and you’ll be unaffected by it. Additionally, if while in a tornado you see more incoming change up your timing to land backwards. Tornados do not pick you up if you’re driving backwards (but moving ‘forward’ down the track) because of how slow you’re going. Once danger has passed, simply spin left or right and turn yourself around.
This is probably one of the most deceptively easy power-ups to negate. It will randomly slide your car as if you were hydroplaning on water. Shift your driving style to as if you were power-sliding and it’s a non-issue.
The worst of all of them, but not without options. If you’re about to be hit with Freeze, do one of the following: if on a straightaway, center yourself or line up against the ‘wall’ of the track to guide your car. If in a curved area, line up on the outside wall and the current curve will send you into the next curve. This power-up only locks your steering, so if you do get stuck perpendicular to the wall, just back up so you’re rear fender is touching the other wall. Once it’s over, you have a clear shot back to track.
- Oil Slick
You lose traction – treat it like power-sliding and you’re okay. Just be sure to brake heavy on the tight corners.
- Bad Fuel
This one just makes you go slower for a moment. Have to tough it out – if you use your rearview mirror, it’s possible to move in front of an oncoming rival and have then bump you ahead, making up for the speed loss.
If you see the orange-red glow on a rival car, just stay away from them, or use Shockwave to send them reeling. If they’re behind you, drop the Bad Fuel or Oil Slick if you have it.
Not much with this one, if you’re hit, just remain calm. As a tip, computer controlled cars usually use their power-ups almost instantly or just after the pick-up, so watch out for it.
- Golden Shield
Besides making you impervious for a few seconds, the Shield is retro-active! If you acquire it while already inflicted by Oil Slick, Freeze, Bad Fuel, Storm, or any combination there of just activate Shield. You’ll be free of your ailments!