IHRA Drag Racing features 10 of the 11 tracks that make up the 2001 IHRA Summit Drag Racing Series, as well as the cars of 20 IHRA racers from various categories. The box claims you'll race against these IHRA luminaries, but instead you get fictional drivers sitting in the cars of the stars. Otherwise, you'd expect at least a little background info on the 20 real-life drivers whose cars are featured in the game, especially since they aren't household names - but the game just assumes you already know all about them, so it doesn't offer any biographical data.
The game claims to model full weather dynamics at the 10 tracks, but this also doesn't work as you'd expect - namely, setting the weather conditions to "random" doesn't result in random weather. We were shocked when the random-weather option made for a 109-degree scorcher - at night - in Cordova, Illinois, and we were even more surprised when the weather remained unchanged when we moved on to the next event in Darlington. And once a season begins, there's no way to alter the environmental conditions. There's no point in modeling full weather dynamics if you can only change the setting before single events or single races.
The actual racing in IHRA Drag Racing is enjoyable, though the car graphics are merely fair and the flame effects coming from the sides of the cars look terrible. The game doesn't let you do much with the appearance of your car, although you can use a third-party paint program to customize your car's appearance. But since the game doesn't give any guidance on this process, it can take a lot of work just to get your own logo on a car in a way that it can actually be read. Also, since drag racing is all about sheer power, it's only fair to expect good force feedback support from a game like this - especially since force feedback is one of the features touted on the game's Web site. However, force feedback support isn't actually available in the game, and neither is a full-screen VCR mode - you have to watch replays in a tiny box that takes up about an eighth of the screen.
Bethesda did release a patch very soon after IHRA Drag Racing shipped. But the sheer number of issues it fixed or addressed - more than 20 bugs, along with important added features like engine damage - is enough evidence to make you suspect that the game might have been released before it was totally tested so that it would hit shelves before Christmas. One of the biggest changes the patch delivered was built-in GameSpy support for Internet play, but we found no opponents online on Bethesda's IHRA server.
If you devote a lot of time and patience to the game, there's certainly some fun to be had in IHRA Drag Racing. Unfortunately, because of all the game's problems, it seems likely that not many players will stick with it long enough to enjoy it.