NASCAR Thunder 2002
System: Playstation 2
Publisher & Developer: Electronic Arts/EA Sports
Released: 2001
Genre: Racing
Capabilities: Memory Card, Vibration, and Analog Control Compatible

Review Written: March 21, 2002

The Game

Electronic Arts wasn’t the happiest with the end result of NASCAR 2001. So EA themselves went out and decided to develop this game. This time they altered the name of the game by adding “Thunder” to the title, so we know that this is a whole new game. Another new problem is that there is a new NASCAR title to compete with this one, NASCAR Heat 2002. Will it manage to be better than last year’s game and still compete with Heat? Let’s get onto the review and find out.


Everything here looks a lot better than in Nascar 2001. The slowdown you remember from the first game is gone. The long loading times are still here, but that is EA’s trademark. The cars in the game actually have a more polished look to them. I don’t know how they do it, but they always improve the car models in every game. The same goes with the tracks in the game. You can make out all the tread marks and just about anything else imaginable on the courses. The cars actually take realistic damage as you race. Things can get so bad that you can be forced to retire from a race. In single player mode, the game allows up to 43 cars to race on the same track, which has never been done before. The number dwindles in multi player modes, but that is understandable. The pit stops are great, because you can actually see your pit crew changing the tires, adding gas, and so forth. But in two player mode you can’t see them, and it’s probably because the developers wanted to keep the frame rate up.


EA did a brilliant job making “Sweet Home Alabama” the theme song for this game. The song seems to match the image of NASCAR perfectly. All the sound effects are on the notch with everything sounding the way you expect it to. The pit chief also makes his return, who’s constantly giving you tips as the race goes on. And he makes sure to let you know when you need to pit.

Game play

The controls are similar to last year’s game. It’s still where the majority of the controls rely on steering. And it is a bit tricky to master in the beginning, and you will find yourself going into the barrier and off to the side a lot. But after a while you’ll have the controls mastered in no time. As you race, and if you bump into other cars, your vehicle will take damage. So much damage that if you don’t make it to a pit in time, you will be forced to retire from the race. Luckily, there’s a handy option to auto repair your car whenever damage is sustained.

There are now more than 50 NASCAR drivers available to you. That’s nearly double the amount available to you than last years game. Dale Earnhardt is no longer in the game due to his tragic death at Daytona last year, but he is remembered in the beginning of the game. All the tracks from last years game is now available in here as well. There are three main ways to play this game: Quick Race, Season, and Career. Quick Race is pretty self explanatory, where you pick a car, track, customize the options to your choosing, and go race. Season mode is where you go through the Winston Cup circuit and gain points after each race, whoever has the most points in the end, is the winner. Career is a new mode, and is very similar to the Franchise mode in Madden, but this is racing, not football. In here, your goal is to break the record and win eight championships within twenty seasons, with your own, created, driver. You start off as a rookie, and you need to earn sponsors as you race so you can compete on the better tracks. The more races you win, the better parts you can buy for your car, and pit crew. As you can see, this will take a while to complete, but you are rewarded as you play along.

Replay Value

The game has added a lot here to keep you playing. First off, there is a brand-new create-a-driver. Where you can make your own car from the ground up, and even customize the paint job. That brings back so many memories from Top Gear Rally on the N64. The game is multi player, and can now be played with up to four players, instead of two like in last year’s game. As I said before, the Career mode will keep you playing forever. If you do manage to get bored playing this game, just set the lap count to a few hundred, and spend the whole day playing this game.

In Brief

+: Up to 43 Cars on the track at once, No more slow down, More than 50 drivers

-: Number of cars on the track and amount of detail on the car decreases in multi player mode, controls can take a while to get down

The Final Ratings Rundown

Graphics: 9.0
Sound: 9.7
Game play: 9.3
Replay Value: 9.2

Overall: 9.3

Rounded to fit GameFAQs Score: 9


NASCAR Thunder 2002 is probably the best NASCAR game I have ever played. It’s a lot better than last year’s game, and is probably going to end up killing NASCAR Heat 2002 in the competition. NASCAR fans must own this game, and so should everyone else. So go make Dale Earnheardt proud and go buy this game.

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