NASCAR 09 (360)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Sunday, June 22, 2008

Graphics: 8.50
Sound: 8.00
Gameplay: 4.00
Replays: 4.00
Gamelength: 6.00

EA Sports brings us the latest installment of their long-running officially licensed racing series, “NASCAR ’09”.

I have to be completely honest because that is my job. So, why did I just say that? Well, I never did like NASCAR. I find it fairly boring and I never understood exactly why people like it. I’m more of a fan of things like “Burnout”, “Gran Turismo” and “GRID”. Still, I play the games every time a new one is released and while I never find myself completely interested, it’s never been a completely terrible experience. I’m not against NASCAR, but I’m definitely not into it, either. This review is coming to you from an unbiased gamer, not a serious fan. If you’re interested in a true fan’s perspective, I’ll be honest: This is probably not what you’re looking for. If, however, you’re in the same boat as me and just want to know how this game ranks up as nothing more than another racing title, read on. with that out of the way, get into the passenger seat and join me for a ride around the track in “NASCAR ’09”.

As far as NASCAR goes, this game looks pretty realistic. I may not watch NASCAR, but I’ve seen it and as far as I can tell, this game looks pretty close to what you see in the actual real-life events. The cars are beautiful, the audience looks great and even straight down to the textures of the track, there’s nothing I can really complain about. “NASCAR ’09” looks great and that’s about all there is to it. It’s truly designed from the ground up to look and feel like a next-gen title.

“NASCAR ’09” sounds just like any other NASCAR title, as far as I’m concerned and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Car engines sound pretty realistic, but that’s just about the only thing the sound quality has going for it. Everything else is just far too generic.

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Has anything changed this time around? Not really. A few things have been added in an attempt to make the game feel like something new, but none of the new content is really all that amazing. The game is still based around the career mode, where you attempt to earn all of the various NASCAR cups, earn reputation and join various racing teams. Almost every race is the same and it comes down to a matter of how steady your hands are. There are 2 main difficulty settings that determine exactly how hard the game and the controls are: Normal and Pro. Pro gives you more control over the game and creates a really outrageous NASCAR simulation experience. Pro mode gives me a headache because it’s just so damn hard, even if the game technically plays the same. Normal mode, however, turns the game into a fairly arcade-like experience that most people will probably enjoy, at least for a while. I think it takes a serious fan to stick with the game until the end, though. Aside from the difficulty settings, players are given the option of getting down and dirty under the hood of their stock car to tweak anything they want, “Gran Turismo” style. These tweaks can make or break the game, depending how far you go and if you actually know what you’re doing. There’s also the option to paint your vehicle in any way you want, as well as online racing. The online racing is very lag-free, but otherwise it honestly doesn’t look or feel any different from the single player mode. It may also be worth noting that Jeff Gordon holds your hand every step of the way in the career mode. He’ll teach you how to drive, he’ll comfort you when you do bad and he’ll cheer you on when you do good. I didn’t really care much for it, but Jeff Gordon fans will probably be very happy with the addition of his persona to the game. All of this stuff makes for a nice NASCAR experience, but if you’re not looking for NASCAR and you just want a fun racing game, this definitely isn’t your golden ticket.

Overall, NASCAR is truly a series made for the fans. It shows through and through and if this is your niche, by all means this is most likely the best game in the series.

Pros:
-Photo realistic NASCAR visuals.
-Realistic engine sounds.
-Jeff Gordon adds some personality to the career mode.
-Lagless online mode.
-Very tight controls.
-Wide range of difficulty settings if tweaked properly.
-Players can tweak their vehicle in any way they want.
-If you’re a NASCAR fan, you’ll probably love it.

Cons:
-The new professional painting engine is way too complicated.
-Online play feels exactly like single player.
-Racing is incredibly boring and far, far too linear.
-Almost every race is identical.
-It’s still NASCAR and if you’re not a fan, you’ll probably hate it.

Bottom line:
NASCAR fans should and probably will pick this up as soon as they can. Anyone else might want to steer clear of this game, as there are much better racing titles out there right now.

Overall Rating: 6.00

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