To quote the opening lines that I wrote for the IHRA Drag Racing 2003 review, "Is this a drag racing game? Or is this racing game a drag?" As I also mentioned in that old review, it's both.

Not much has changed since that 2003 game. This version is just as big a drag as the 2005 version. I just noticed that we didn't include a 2004 review of the series. How did we ever miss that one? Lucky year I guess.

I don't care if you're the biggest drag racing fan of all time, this game cannot possibly hold your interest for very long. Although it tries hard to be a sim, it just doesn't have the depth that one has come to expect when compared to some NASCAR racing and flight simulators. There are customizing options for your vehicle but in all actuality the crux of the biscuit comes down to reaction time. Being able to hit the accelerator at the appropriate split-second interval seems to be the most important part of the game. Mess that up and it's a guaranteed loss regardless of how much time and money you've spent customizing your vehicle.

Having played the 2003 version I'm somewhat familiar with the features of this game, but that's little consolation to the novice. The tutorial and manual just gloss over the finer points leaving you to fend for yourself when making decisions on customizing and racing techniques. It gives you just enough information to get yourself in trouble but it doesn't give you enough to get yourself out of it. You can't go out and test your upgrades on an open track. You must enter a race and engage in the time consuming technique of trial and error.

After you purchase a car you can customize various parts of it such as the tires, gear ratio, engine size and wheelie bar to name a few options. The various parts and additions must mesh. That is to say you can't just slap a more powerful motor into the car and expect to win the race. An overpowered motor may cause the front to lift if the car's frame isn't heavy enough to accommodate it. At least that shows some realism, but it also results in marginally perceptible upgrades.

All of the action is reduced to revving your engine, warming your tires, approaching the starting line and punching down the accelerator at the green light. The race itself is short and all you have to worry about is keeping it on a straight course. There is no rush of adrenaline nor any sense of exhilaration or accomplishment. Nor is there the agony of defeat. You just opt to do it all over again or select another race from the main menu. Aside from a reaction-timed mini game, the gameplay, along with the announcer, repeat until you put a merciful end to the game by popping it out of the machine.

IHRA Professional Drag Racing is reminiscent of a mini game more so than a budget title. Interestingly the reaction-timed mini game is the only part of the entire game where you can get some practice. You can actually improve your reflexes and coordination. By playing this game which measures your reaction time from the instant the green light appear to when you actually press the button, you can improve enough to win actual races.

Graphically the game looks a little bit better than I remember it but there's really not much too it. The cars have nominal detail and all you can really say about the track is that it's straight and black. The music is generic "wrestling rock" with country overtones so that it will appeal to a wider range of rednecks.

The load times are ridiculous. I have not seen a more frustrating design. It loads when you access a menu. It even loads after you pause it. There is no other reason for this other than sloppy design. If the developers don't even care that much about their game, why should you?

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System: XBOX
Dev: Bethesda
Pub: Bethesda
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1
Review by Cole