Days of Thunder Arcade Review (XBLA)

Days of Thunder Arcade was developed by Piranha Games and published by Paramount Digital Entertainment. It was released on February 25, 2011 for 800MSP.

Days of Thunder is arguably one of the greatest racing movies ever made.  The story follows rookie Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) in his rise to victory in the then-Winston Cup championship.  Over 20 years later the franchise has been resurrected in the form of Days of Thunder Arcade.  Continuing some time since the movie ended, the premise again follows a rookie (the player character) in their quest to be champion.

Here’s what we liked:

Rubbin is racin’ – Make no mistake, the AI in Days Of Thunder Arcade isn’t satisfied until their target is eating the wall.  The over-the-top arcade gameplay has the player constantly being bumped, shoved, and flat-out crashed into by bloodthirsty opponents.  Crashes occur regularly and often involve several cars, providing a thrill as the player tries to navigate through a smoke-filled track in order to gain position.

Deep customization palette – Each car can be customized with logos, numbers and paint templates.  Additionally each template has three sections that can be assigned colors by the player, ensuring that each racer has a unique stock car to call all their own.

Turnin’ right, too! – In a break from stock car tradition the game features several road courses in addition to  ovals.  Whereas NASCAR features two road races a season Days of Thunder Arcade splits course types right down the middle; half ovals, half road courses.  It provides a unique twist that other stock car games don’t have.

It ain’t your daddy’s simulator – Arcade-style stock car games are few and far between.  While most are simulation based and require an expensive steering wheel controller to enjoy the game, Days of Thunder keeps it simple.  With a few control tweaks the game plays very well with a standard controller and players will never have to worry about all the fine tuning.  To quote the movie, there’s no need for a “turn here and a wedge there”.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Needs a patchDays of Thunder Arcade has several nagging points that bring the game down.  While the addition of Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker) as a crew chief is great, they guy never shuts up.  On the slim chance that the game is patched trimming down the commentary by Burns would make a world of difference.  Additionally players have reported the occasional collision issue when getting into the wall or another vehicle, nothing that the game allowed the car to physically get into the wall before a collision was detected.  Finally the camera swings far too much when in the third-person camera to be able to accurately judge how to take corners.  Players would be better served by switching to the hood camera at startup.

Horrible defaults - Be careful the  first time around the track.  Sneeze and the car’ll be in the wall.  Instead go into the menus and start by changing the controller deadzone to medium and then switch to the hood camera.  As noted above the third person camera has a lot of swim to it, making it hard to navigate turns.

Awful music – Let’s be clear about this; Days Of Thunder doesn’t have forgettable music, it has awful music.  The only worthy title for the game is the Days Of Thunder theme song, and it only plays at the menu.  Turn it off before a first play while making the controller changes.

The worst part about Days Of Thunder, like so many non-indie XBLA games, is that it feels like it was a contract job.  That’s not to say the developers didn’t put blood, sweat and tears into the game, but indie developers also add love to their games.  This could have filled a huge gap in racing games and brought in amazing sales, but it just feels unfinished and like so many big-publisher games on XBLA it’s unlikely to get a patch to improve the game.

Fans of racing games should definitely give it a spin, taking into account the changes to the default controls needed above.  Hardcore gamers simply looking for a fun game to improve their gamerscore should stay away, as should anyone who has a tight wallet.  If the game is patched in such a way that it addresses the above issues we’ll be glad to adjust the review — the game has the potential to appeal to a lot of players.  Until then, we can’t recommend it to anyone but the racing fanatic, and even then we do so with caution.

Score: Skip It

About Steve Melton

Steve is an Indiana native with a degree in Computer Information Systems and a background in technical writing. He has also written for the newspapers and other periodicals at the schools he attended. A gamer for over 20 years, Steve finds that Xbox Live Arcade is the perfect fit for most of his gaming needs; classic gameplay at a bargain price.