Game Review - by James Allen
One genre of racing which has not gotten much attention is NHRA drag racing. We've seen NASCAR, CART, and F1 simulations throughout all time, but not very many games have focused on pure speed racing. NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event is actually a compilation of two games: NHRA Drag Racing 2 Gold and NHRA Pro Stock. You'll find almost every kind of racing here: top fuel, funny car, and pro stock cars and trucks, and the game carries the premier license in drag racing today. Will NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event break the land speed record, or just break?
NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event features the cars, drivers, and tracks of the 2000 NHRA season. Most of the current drivers are here, each representing either top fuel (fast), funny car (kinda fast), or pro stock (like real cars). Every track is also present, although it's not to terribly difficult to model each different venue: the logos, stands, and backgrounds are really the only noticeable difference, since it's just a drag strip. But, it's still nice to have all the locations available for your racing pleasure. The level of difficulty can be adjusted: you can race in novice, arcade, or full mode. Arcade is probably the best choice for everyone, as you hire a crew chief to handle all of the necessary adjustments, and you get to experience the full racing procedure.
At each track, you can enter a testing session (good for practice), a single match, a single event, or the whole season. You are given a budget in season mode, and you must make money by advancing in the brackets and not crashing the car. You can complete an entire season in under a half hour, especially if you get eliminated early in the bracket like I do. You can also choose how many chances at winning you have before you are eliminated. After choosing a sponsor and a crew chief, you are off to the races! If the computer AI is too easy for you, multiplayer is available for free over the Internet. All in all, the features in NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event are comprehensive and well done.
The sound encompasses the roaring of the engines, the roar of the crowd, the roar of your crew chief, and the non-roar of your parachute deploying. NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event does a good job in making the engines sound really, really loud and meaty. Other than that, the rest of the sound just accompanies the entire game package: there isn't anything too noticeable or memorable here, but a competent job is present.
The main crux of the game relies on driving straight while holding the pedal to the metal. This may sound really easy, but it's much harder than it sounds, as I soon found out. There are differences between the Pro Stock game and the Top Fuel/Funny Car game, but they are generally similar. You start by turning on your car, then burning your tires to make a lot of smoke. Then, you back up and align yourself with the center of the racing lane. You creep forward, light the two staging lights, then go when the green light comes your way. From this point, it is of paramount importance not to overcorrect for coming off center, as you'll soon impact the wall at high speeds (as I did for quite a long time). The pro stock version is a lot harder, because you have to shift and use multiple buttons at once. This is why beginners should try the top fuel and funny cars first, then "graduate" to the more complex pro stock vehicles. The AI themselves are pretty hard to defeat, and you must get your reaction time in its peak condition to have a chance of advancing past the second round. Even though it may seem that the gameplay might be much of the same thing over and over again, NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event provides enough high speed action to make the game bearable for most racing fans.
The graphics is a low resolution scramble of blocky textures and more blocky textures. The game looks as though it was made several years ago, and the graphics are on par with, say, NASCAR Racing 1. This game is leagues behind other present-day racing fare in this department. The only good effect is the translucent smoke, but even this is poorly implemented, as large amounts of it will slow down your computer to unnecessary levels of choppiness. Of course, you get what you pay for in a budget title, and what you get in NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event is meager graphics.
NHRA Drag Racing: Main Event is a pleasant little diversion that will appeal to anyone who's ever wanted to pilot these land rockets. With all of the features and none of the graphics, we a presented with a true budget title, but it's still fun. The gameplay may become a little repetitious after a while, but you can always increase the difficulty and jump on-line to further the game. If drag racing is for you, then NHRA shouldn't disappoint.