Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition – Hands-On at E3

Glenn and I got to sit down at E3 with Paramount Digital Entertainment and try out their two upcoming PSN exclusive titles.  Top Gun (video from that is here) and Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition, based (very) loosely on the 1990 Tom Cruise film.  As part of the presentation, actor Michael Rooker, who plays Rowdy Burns in the movie, sat in with us as we went through the preview build and that’s where things got interesting.  Right off the bat, as he sat down next to me I said “Mr. Svenning, dude” and a big grin broke over his face and he high fived me saying “Yeah!” and it would only get better from there.

After a quick explanation of the game mechanics and some cool features, I was thrown into a race as everyone in the room sat and judged my racing, ahem, skills.  In the final build, Michael Rooker reprises his role as Rowdy Burns providing voice over work as your coach and pit chief.  He’ll push you along as you race through the game’s four modes, Quick Race, Time Trial, Career and the unlockable Derby Mode.  Since this wasn’t the final build and the voice over wasn’t available, Glenn suggested that Michael take matters into his own hands and start yelling in my ear, motivating me, berating me, all of it.  I have to say it made for a pretty intense experience.  No pressure… really… but hey it was still a lot of fun.  I started off pretty poorly as I tried to get a handle on the control of the car and figure out how all the controls were mapped.  That’s not to say it’s a difficult button layout or anything, just that I was thrown in with little preparation.  The handling felt a little loose but decent overall, the graphics could certainly use some polish but I’m expecting that’ll happen well before release.

Since I was quickly at the back of the pack, and not wanting to disapoint Mr. Svenning, I had to pull out all the tricks the game has to offer, starting with Dropping The Hammer.  To make this happen, you just have to line up behind the other cars ahead of you (and I had many to choose from) and draft off of them.  Then as you get close enough, use the extra speed to blow right around them.  Standard fare in most racing games but this one has a slightly more arcade feel to it.  Not too much, closer to Daytona USA than Ridge Racer.

One of the other cool features is Focus.  Very important when racing here as there tend to be a lot of pile-ups and clusters of cars.  After all, it’s Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition.  Focus builds up over time and you can use it to enter a ‘bullet time’ type mode where everything slows down allowing you to see the clear line to take (if there is one) to avoid becoming part of the twisted wreckage on the track.  Speaking of trading paint, that’s all part of the race but you’ll have to be careful as the cars take real time damage and as I sped towards the finish, my rear bumper was hanging off and I had black smoke coming off the car.  As I came into that final turn, only one car stood between me and sweet victory.  So with Colonel Edwards of Stargate SG-1 yelling in my ear “Hammer Down son!  Hammer Down!!”, I blew past the lead car and over the finish line in first place.  Michael grabbed my arm and yaked it up in the air shouting “Rookie of the Year!” – one of my finest gaming moments.

Other features include a Sponsor System where your driving style will be tracked throughout the game and you’ll be approached by different sponsors.  There’s also a mini game when you enter the Pit to fuel up, repair damage and build up your Hammer meter.  You can also steer your car using the SIXAXIS controls if you want to.

Overall it looks like this could be a fun little racing title with the inclusion of 12 player online races and the leaderboards, just don’t go looking for a ton of depth.  While it has a number of modes and some cool mechanics, I think the real key is going to be the price.  The game I saw feels right at $9.99 but the price is still to be determined so we’ll see what happens.

Now, for my geeking out. Michael Rooker has been in 100 movies, TV Shows and video games in the past 24 years so even if you don’t know his name, you’d likely know him if you saw him.  I was already a fan with all the bit parts and major roles he’s had over the years but two that jumped out immediately to me when we sat down were Mallrats and the following: The Producer asked if we had any other questions about the game or even questions for Michael and since I already made the Mallrats connection with Mr. Svenning, I asked how it was working on Stargate.  The Prodcer looked confused and said, “You were in Stargate?”, “Yeah”.  I mentioned that it was SG-1 and the Producer’s face cleared up a bit and asked when he was on by saying “Fat Teal’c or buff Teal’c?”  Any Stargate fans out there should get a kick out of that one.  He was a really cool guy in person, very friendly. We got autographed pictures that he personalized and signed right there and I even got a picture with him.  Certainly one of the highlights of my week.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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