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Nascar 09 (PS3 & X360)

Nascar 09 (PS3 & X360)

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Electronic Arts, sole owner of the Nascar sports game licensing rights have released the latest incarnation of the popular racing series. Can the newest game successfully capture the exciting atmosphere of the real thing or is it just another rehash of last years game?

If you have been lucky enough to ever attend a Nascar event you will already be aware of the electric atmosphere, the smell of burning gas (petrol to the Europeans) and the array of colourful race car drivers. Unfortunately the game translation has never captured the real life experience and we end up with a rather dull racing game which requires the player to simply press left on the gamepad from time to time.

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The Nascar game series is never going to have groundbreaking improvements, after all there is only so much you can do with this game franchise, however EA have just followed their previous game to the letter. Developer Tiburon have taken the basic framework of NASCAR08 and have added a few extras, most of which unfortunately add very little to the gameplay.

The most acclaimed new feature is Jeff Gordon, a photorealistic render of the man himself who guides you through the game, he offers various forms of verbal support from saying congratulations for successful driving to uncomfortable reassurances when you get fired for underperforming. Does this add anything to the core game play? Not at all, but to be fair it looks great.

The game starts with the player racing in the Nationwide, Sprint Cup or Craftsman Truck series. Career mode is called Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and you begin at the start of the racing season and progress while building reputation points. Gaining reputation opens up sponsorship options as well as new team opportunities however as there is no real currency in the game, sponsorship doesn’t make you cash. Confused? You aren’t the only one! Performance points are the important feature and you improve them by fulfilling sponsorship requirements and completing Sprint Driver Challenges.

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These challenges test you in various aspect of the game such as drafting, speed maintenance or staying on the racing line and completing a challenge opens up related tests and there are 77 in total available, all of which earn you performance points. You can use these points into four general categories, road course, short track, superspeedway and ordinary speedway. Each of these categories have more detailed upgrades which affect your overall garage rather than individual cars.

There are two difficulty modes, normal and pro. Pro mode lets you tweak car controls such as traction and steering for a simulation style setup and normal mode locks the controls in a pre set position giving a arcade style feel to the handling. In both modes you can fully adjust your car configuration and save and upload it for future use. A nice option.

There is also a good in game paint shop that lets you design the car to your desires, such as adding custom decals and vinyls. There are a wide array of options and the end results are virtually limitless. EA have also introduced a custom online paint system in NASCAR 09 but it is a chore to use and everyone I know who tried it, gave up. It involves downloading a template, importing it into a professional editing program such as Adobe Photoshop, making your design, downloading a third party plugin, using this plugin to save the file and then uploading that finished design to the EA website (for which you need a user account). Then you finally download the design to the console. Even if you are this dedicated to the design, only people on your friends list will get to see it online! Everyone else will see the car as plain grey.
The full NASCAR flag methodology is supported however in normal mode with the default yellow caution flags turned on the difficulty level is rather easy. Turning on Black flags makes for a more demanding game however as they will appear by simply touching bumpers with another car it could become boring very soon. If you get black flagged you have to roll through pit road while the race goes on (and you can’t skip the animation either!). Put simply, the flag system just does not work and adds to the overall game boredom level.

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Just like the previous version there are no team dynamics in the new version, you will be racing all alone in the car with no help, especially as your spotter is apparently blind and mentally challenged.

Graphically the game is barely acceptable for a racing game released in 2008 on the high definition consoles. There is pop in with both versions, although the Playstation 3 version is worse and there is clipping going around corners as well as substandard reflections on the cars. The 360 version fares slightly better, although neither is going to set the world on fire.

The crashes are boring and the collision detection does not work properly most of the time. If you are a NASCAR fan like me, then the crashes are part of the attraction and crowd appeal. The game ruins these by having slowdown beforehand and during the crash as well as occasional graphical abnormalities. If you couple this with the developers clearly not wanting crashes then you are left with another shoddy aspect of the game. Sure, some people will applaud EA for not wanting to encourage carnage, but let’s be honest, we all love car crashes especially in NASCAR!

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While we are on the subject of graphics, additional mention should be made to third person mode. It is terrible, your driver doesn’t move at all and won’t even move his hands on the steering wheel. I personally find this unacceptable for a modern racing game.

Other problems include: replay mode only recording a few laps, AI drivers are automated robots and you can drive right through cars on pit road. Need I go on?

Multiplayer is only supported online, and it is no more exciting than single player mode. There are ranked and unranked games available and you have total control over setting up or finding games. You can pick the tracks, damage settings as well as the aforementioned flag rules. I would love to go into more detail on these modes but I experienced such huge issues with lag that I simply couldn’t devote any more time to it. Utterly rubbish are the first words that spring to mind.

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NASCAR 09 will appeal to no one except the hardcore, diehard fans who are just happy pushing left on their controllers to round a bend every 15 seconds or so. The graphics are shoddy, the collision is suspect and the whole game just ends up a monumental bore. If real races were as sterile and mind-numbingly boring as this then the sport wouldn’t even exist today. EA need to inject some excitement into NASCAR10 if they want to offer some excitement.

Push left, rinse, repeat, as exciting as watching paint dry.
Graphics – PS3
Both versions are awful with the PS3 version suffering from more pop-in and texture issues.
Graphics – X360
Cars sound well but the music is awful.
Multiplayer is awful and single player is forgettable.
(Not an Average)
Get Race Driver: GRID instead.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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