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            NASCAR Thunder 2004 is the latest down-home racin' game from the good ol' boys at EA Sports. They've been making NASCAR games since the mid-90s for just about every platform, and you'd think they'd have it perfected by now. But while 2004 brings some interesting upgrades to the track, in many respects it's running a little lean. .
             More fun than sim, NASCAR Thunder has both tastes of authentic NASCAR life along with plenty of arcade action. This year, alongside the standard assortment of real NASCAR drivers and tracks, the game sports a number of fictional tracks that are reminiscent of those seen in Sega's Daytona series. Could this be a taste of an upcoming NASCAR series to come from EA? Time will tell. .
             There are many ways to play NASCAR Thunder, more this year than ever before. SpeedZone mode is a focused set of training runs designed to help you work on your drafting, passing, blocking and overall speed. Lightning Challenge lets you re-live 40 memorable NASCAR racing moments, and in Thunder License mode, one of a number of drivers talk you through the fastest way around all of the tracks in the Winston Cup series. These modes unlock various hidden cars, tracks, and paint schemes, giving collectors something to work for. But most challenges are rather easy, and if you've played the Thunder games before, you'll blow through these in no time. .
             Season is what you'd expect it to be: pick your driver and tackle one NASCAR season, trying to win the championship. You can select which tracks to race on, set the race length to whatever you'd like, and can even turn off yellow flags if you prefer to just race through the carnage. This year, however, creating lots of carnage is an especially bad idea. In each race, opponents will gain or lose respect for you depending on your actions. Catch a draft with someone and they're liable to help you out later. But, send him into the wall and you can expect to have the favor returned.

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