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Wednesday, 13 August 2008 17:22

Review: NASCAR 09

Left, left, left, straight for a bit and then left.  Surely there is more to NASCAR racing than turning left?  Thankfully there is.

NASCAR racing seems to be purely an American phenomenon, to outsiders who get a glimpse of the sport, racing in lines around tight ovals, waiting for the inevitable spin out, yellow flag pace car and then start all over again, doesn't really seem like motor sport.
 nascar09pack.jpg Developer
PS3, PS2, Reviewed on Xbox 360

Not when compared to Rally or V8 Supercar racing, in my opinion.

And so it goes with Electronic Arts latest attempt at bringing the good ole sport of NASCAR to the small screen. 

Visually NASCAR 09 looks okay, car internals are nicely presented, with the drivers gloved hands showing the less than frenetic wheel work needed to guide the heavy racer around the banked turns of each race way. 

It is the presentation of raceways that take the graphical award here, and though there are no weather effects to be seen, each raceway has a personality of its own, and effects such as shadows creeping across the track as the race goes on are nice.

The engines of these four wheel brutes sound enormous, drowning out most spectator sound effects but thankfully not your in cockpit crew radio.

The supercharged cars and trucks (we call them Utes in Australia!) do have an awkward floating motion across what must be super flat raceways when viewed in third person, and crash animation and effects (you know the thing we come to the races for) are somewhat diluted and toned down, most likely on purpose.

The guts of NASCAR 09 has players spending a great deal of time in the workshop, customising a racing vehicle or following NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon's advice as his photo realistic representation takes you through signing up with a race team, latching onto a sponsorship contract and presenting the various challenges that await budding petrol heads.

There is plenty to do once you are set up.  The aim is to build (and risk) reputation points in a series of events ranging from a set of 77 driver challenges up to full career mode.

In the driver challenges, players will be asked to fulfil certain conditions to unlock a further set of similar challenges.  These could simply be race around the circuit, without touching the wall, or get into the Pits (without breaking the Pit Lane speed limit) in a set time. 

There are also one on one duels with renowned NASCAR drivers.  These Boss Battles once complete also open up the possibility of a 'I Own This Track' boast.

Moving into the three different Cup challenges, Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Craftsman Truck Series, players will be race over the different events attempting to not only simply win each race but also to fulfil their contractual obligations to team and sponsor.

On to the actual racing.  Once a player has decided on the Normal (arcade) or Pro (simulation) mode of control it is onto the tracks.  Most of which are banked oval style of varying lengths.

Thankfully there is enough variation here to mean that when it comes to car set-up, changing down force, suspension and other handling settings – all of which can be saved for each track, it makes sense to practice a few  laps before going in for a timed qualification lap.nascar091.jpg

Once racing, it is a matter of keeping your lines clean and taking the opportunities when they rise.  Passing is difficult, even with the help of a slip-stream effect slingshot around your opponent.

If, like me, you are not the most patient of drivers, and happen to nudge the car in front, a drive through the pits penalty in the form of a black flag might be heading your way. 

Then there is always the ever present danger of a spin out causing the pace car to come out and guide the lads around the track while the damage cars are moved away.  On the down side, there does not seem to be much in the way of damage inflicted, and AI cars are rarely totalled.  On the plus side however, it is not always you involved in the yellow flag incidents.  Having fallible AI is a good sign in a racing simulation, unlike big name titles such as Gran Turismo where this unreality is glaring .

There is plenty to keep track of as you burn up the laps, with your team giving advice on the opposition over the radio, and a Heads Up Telemetry that can be called upon to give details about your cars performance.

There is an online mode, though sadly no split screen racing to be had.  The multiplayer features Quick Match and Custom Match options along with leaderboards and more, sadly I never had a satisfying experience racing online, but this could be a regional effect only.

Generally, NASCAR 09 provides a comprehensive, white knuckle racing experience around Speedway, Super Speedway, Short Track and Road Track events.  My formulae, was simply to get pole position during qualification and stay out in front for the entire race.

This approach predominately saw me finish either first or last in a race.  Nice and simple, much the same as the brutal racing presented in NASCAR 09

7 spin outs out of 10nascar092.jpg

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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