IGN Review of Sprint Cars: Road to Knoxville
If you've never heard of sprint car racing before, then know this: it's a down and dirty version of NASCAR. Dirt ovals of various sizes and proportions are the setting for the stripped down racers to speed along. While there's some subtlety and nuance to the racing in the game interpretation (Sprint Cars: Road to Knoxville), it's often buried under the highly repetitive nature of the sport. If anything, Sprint Cars delivers an education in the driving skills required for the sport even if it's doubtful anyone can get close to putting up with more than one season here.
The bizarre-looking sprint cars sport an asymmetrical wing on the top and a back-right tire that's nearly twice as big as the back left, but that's all due to their highly specialized nature. These suckers are all about turning left. They've been down with that since before you were born and either that gives you the chills or it will turn you off of this title even more. Anyone can accelerate down the straightaway, but the skill is in nailing each turn precisely. The best drivers can come in for a perfect power slide and then jam on the accelerator to blast out of the turns. Getting one just right delivers a satisfying feeling of being completely one with the groove.
Of course, the reason that getting a solid turn feels so right is that it's not the easiest thing to do in a sprint car. The controls are touchy and it takes quite a bit of finessing to get them to do precisely what you want. To get you into the action in a gentler way, the game provides a 3/4 midget class and a modified class which is made up of stripped down stock cars. In the 3/4 midget classes you can simply push all the way to the left at the beginning of the turn to start the skid. It definitely gets trickier from there, though.
While the core concept here holds true, playing through an entire season is far less about being fun than a tiresome simulation. Each race involves dozens of laps around a short oval and while the variation in the different tracks can provide some new challenges, the difference is just in length of straightaway or size of the turns. The amount of variety in the cars themselves is seriously lacking as well. With a small handful of upgrades available there's not a lot of customization here.
As a feature, players can work with a stable of drivers to drive each car. This makes no sense when the player is controlling the car, but in the middle of the race it's possible to switch over to the computer AI to race for you. You can even skip watching or driving any of the races at all to fast forward the season a bit and get some money so you can get to the faster cars sooner. In this mode, it's easy to get all the best cars with full upgrades and have money to burn after just half an hour. This way you can focus solely on exploring the different tracks and racing with the best gear which takes away some of the tedium.
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