Days of Thunder

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Days of Thunder
Days-of-thunder-usa.png
A technical revolution, but a disappointing game.
Genre: Racing
Platforms: NES

PC
Game Boy
Commodore 64
Amiga
MS-DOS
ZX Spectrum
iOS
Xbox Live Arcade
PlayStaton Network

Release Date: 1990

1992

Developer: Beam Software (NES)

Argonaut Software (Other systems)

Publisher: Mindscape Group
Franchise: Days of Thunder
Previous Game: N/A
Next Game: Days of Thunder (2011 Version)


Days of Thunder is a racing game that centers around the movie that came before it, Days of Thunder. It was developed by Beam Software (on NES) and Argonaut software (on all other versions), and was published by Mindscape Group.

Gameplay

As one of the earlier racing games ever made, the game is relatively simplistic. The player drives as Cole Trickle in the #46 City Chevrolet Lumina. He/she will have to traverse through 10 races (9 tracks, with Daytona being used twice) against 15 other competitors, including Russ Wheeler and Rowdy Burns. Other than the racing segments, there is also a pit stop segment, where the player controls all of the pit crew members in an attempt to adjust the car as fast as he/she can to get the car on track.

The game's main focus is the championship. After every race, points are awarded for your finishing position. The driver with the most points after the season is crowned champion.

Why It Sucks

While it is way ahead of its time on a technical standpoint, the game itself is much to be desired.

Note: This review is based on the NES version only.

  1. While the graphics were impressive for the NES in 1990, the color palettes were less than stellar. The first race at Daytona is actually pleasant to look at, but in other races that follow, the colors are way off. Such include a brown track design in Atlanta, and odd sky choices for Talladega, Pocono, and Michigan. Rad Racer, a game that had come out 3 years earlier, had much better color design.
  2. The tracks, while looking different and accurate to the actual tracks on the information screen, are bland on the actual race, not because the design is bad, but because it is constantly reused in many tracks (Daytona is similar to Talladega, while Atlanta is somewhat similar to Bristol). Pocono is the only unique track that is not identical to another track.
  3. The worst position you can possibly get without retiring is 8th. The other eight drivers are almost pointless to the game.
  4. The other AI besides the film cars are incredibly bland and have the same paint scheme (although they do change their colors between races). Not even actual NASCAR drivers were used during any race.
  5. The controls are lackluster. Your car is extremely tight in corners without heavy breaking, and because of this, it's very easy to slam into an opponent or the wall.
  6. ANY hit with anything at all will hinder your car significantly. It is a known fact that the more damage your car gets, the more impaired its performance gets. However, hitting anything even slightly can damage your tires, fuel tank, and at worst, the engine, which will drastically slow the car down, making it almost impossible to keep up, and all of this can occur very easily.
  7. The AI, while competent as opponents on the track, are incredibly unfair on all other areas. Whenever you make contact with another opponent, they are never affected and just drive away as nothing happened, while you are suffering from damage. On top of this, the AI was never programmed to make a pit stop, meaning any ground you lose during a pit stop can only be regained on the track, artificially bumping up the difficulty.
  8. The film cars can be and most of the time are needlessly unfair. Rowdy Burns blocks on the straightaways, but not on the corners. However, Russ Wheeler can block you on every part of the track. Because of this, passing him is incredibly difficult and will almost guarantee damage to your car.
  9. Even without suffering damage, tires are a huge problem. They wear out way too quickly, and can hurt the car's steering even more than before. While accurate to NASCAR, its duration of wearing is way too short.
  10. The worst part of the game, BY FAR, are the manual pit stops. While it was an interesting idea on paper, it failed miserably in execution.
    • You control two tire carriers, one jackman, one fuel man, and one mechanic. You switch through these characters by pressing the B button. There is no counter button if you mess up.
    • The picking of the pit crew is not in order of need, but is instead randomized. This is counter-intuitive as some pit crew members cannot perform their action without someone else doing it first.
    • Doing an action requires you to hold the direction your crew member is going and A. Just pressing A does nothing. And if you hurry up and press the same buttons for the tire guy, he puts the bad tire back on and replaces the fresh tire.
    • Doing the actions take several seconds and waste time on the pits, losing you ground from your opponents.
    • Depending on the engine damage, the mechanic may have to take multiple trips to fix it.
    • The fuel man cannot fuel up the car if the jack is still on the car.
    • To exit the pit stops, instead of using the accelerate button like you'd think, you have to press the start button, which normally pauses the game.
    • Pit stops can last nearly two minutes if you don't understand it. An average pit stop in NASCAR lasts only 12 seconds, and even before then, in 1964, they were only 40 seconds long.
  11. Going too fast in pit road does not result in a speeding penalty, nor are pit stops automatic. Instead, you fly right through the pits, and have to go all the way around the track to have another shot.
  12. Tire wear and fuel can be inconsistent. On your first go, fuel may last around 14-15 laps. However, on your second run, fuel might only last 12 laps, forcing another pit stop.
  13. It you run out of fuel at any point (unless you have already finished the race), your race is automatically over. There is no coasting in this game, meaning even if you are on the last turn and you're out of fuel, tough luck. To add insult to injury, this is the only moment in the entire game where you can finish worse than 8th (you'll get dead last). Rad Racer allowed you to keep going if you ran out of time, and it would be restored if you reached a checkpoint.
  14. Pocono Raceway is impossible to win without cheats.
  15. If you do not get first place at any time, you are shamed for it. This is by far the most infuriating part of the game, because you are being blamed for the game's poor controls, AI, and pit stops. Harry Hodge's line when you lose, "Hard Luck Trickle. I guess winning isn't everything. But it would be nice" is one of the worst smacks to the face in any video game.
  16. At a certain point in the game, a telegram will pop up, saying your sponsor is angry at your performance and will withdraw unless you improve your driving. This is followed by you having to complete a time trial under 15 seconds. The only way to avoid this is to be first in the championship after a certain time. If you are anywhere below that, this telegram will happen.
  17. No ending at all if you don't win the championship. You're just sent back to the title screen.
  18. Unsatisfactory ending if you do win the championship.

Redeeming Qualities

Days of Thunder may be bad, but it's far from the worst game out there. Some parts of the game are legitimately good, and shouldn't be overlooked.

  1. Aside from the sky and track colors, the presentation is astounding for its time. It has a 3rd-person 3D view, a HUD of your MPH, fuel, position, car damage, among others, and the tracks actually circle around instead of being in a straight line.
  2. The information box is a nice touch. It describes the top time in qualification, track details before the race, and states other important info during the race, like when you're on low fuel or on the final lap.
  3. The sounds are actually pleasant to listen to, and while not authentic, do replicate real car engines, crash sounds, and pit stops nicely.
  4. A good soundtrack, albeit short.
  5. The regular AI, while bland, is nicely competitive but fair at the same time.
  6. The game actually ties in with the movie. In the last race of the season, especially, it describes Rowdy Burns's injury, and how it comes down to you and Russ in the final race of the season, which is actually at Daytona, which is actually the track they used in the movie.

Reception

Some reviewers have favored Days of Thunder for being revolutionary for its time. IGN game it a 7.9 out of 10, a high good score. Others however have panned the game for its poor controls, AI, and pit stops. Team Bombersports is one of the more known on Days of Thunder, declaring it as the absolute worst racing game he ever played, and stated that it almost turned him off of racing all together.

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