With racing games putting so much emphasis on letting you modify a car and trick it out with exhaust systems, intakes, turbo kits, suspension upgrades, and race-class braking systems, it seemed that eventually a game might go just a bit too far with it. That game has proven to be Bethesda Softworks' IHRA Drag Racing 2 for the Xbox. However, in this game's case, going too far is its greatest strength, though perhaps its only one.
You won't find car modifications like these in any other game.
It might make sense to consider IHRA Drag Racing 2 a driving game, and that wouldn't be entirely incorrect. However, the real heart of the game is a deep and engrossing engine simulation. In the game's shop area, you'll build a custom drag racer out of either ready-made parts or your own custom designs. You start with any one of the game's basic chassis, from a 1957 Chevy up to a 1998 Camaro, or any number of drag racer designs used in real-world competition. From here you can modify the chassis by adding weights to improve stability, adding wings to provide downforce, or even using wheelie bars if your front wheels just won't stay down when you're racing. The engine customization goes even deeper. You can completely customize your engine geometry, including the number of cylinders, the bore diameter and stroke length of the cylinder, the number of intake and exhaust valves, the compression ratio, and the air induction, among many other settings. As you are modifying your engine, a dyno graph showing your horsepower and torque specs is updated, letting you know how the changes you make affect your car's performance.
The depth continues on through each component of the car's performance. You can select your gearbox, number of gears, and ratio for each. Suspension, tires, and even your drag chute can be customized to your own specifications. The interface for this is a bit clumsy--seeming almost as if it were originally from a PC game where you could click on fields and type in numbers--but it's still effective. However, the biggest thing holding the game back is that you can make any modification to your car right off the bat--there's no monetary system in the game, you don't earn points, and you don't race for upgrade parts. You have just as much capability to build the ultimate racing machine at the beginning of the game as you do after emerging victorious from several seasons of racing. The only challenge in the game is poor engineering--over-revving a high-compression, large-bore engine can often result in a huge cloud of black smoke pouring from your car at the starting line, as you see your opponent race toward the checkered flag.