NASCAR 08 Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
We've already seen two versions of NASCAR 08. First we played the PlayStation 2 version and it's fair to say it was an enjoyable, if not spectacular game. The Earn Your Stripes mode was particularly enjoyable. Then we looked at the PlayStation 3 version and we were hoping for more of the same albeit with much better graphics. However, it turned out to be quite a different game and the Earn Your Stripes mode was sadly absent. Here we have the Xbox 360 version of NASCAR 08. Disappointingly, it's practically a carbon copy of the PlayStation 3 version.
The modes on offer in NASCAR 08 are Race Now (which as the name suggests provides a quick way of jumping into a race), The Chase, Season, Toyota Racing and Online. The Chase forces you to take mini-game challenges to earn licences and with these licences you'll be able to earn contracts. You'll have the option of six licences: Superspeedway, Speedway, Short Track (C.0.T.), Speedway (C.0.T.), Road Course (C.0.T.) and Superspeedway (C.0.T.). The mini-game challenges act as tutorials and attempt to get you up to speed with the handling of the cars and the skills you require to succeed. To those who haven't played a NASCAR game before I daresay this will be a welcome inclusion. The goal in The Chase mode is to win a NEXTEL Cup championship but there are an awful lot of mini-game challenges before then, especially if you want to acquire all of the licenses. The Season mode allows you to race a single season as your favourite driver and there are a variety of schedules to choose from including: '07 Schedule, '07 Chase for the Cup, Custom Schedule (any combination of at least five events) and you can also choose from some Pre-Set Schedules. Toyota Racing offers more mini-game challenges and a Test and Tune mode allows you to tweak your car settings and save your ideal setups, which can then be loaded during a race session.
Taking a look at the modes on offer, a few things become obvious. First of all you'll notice that there aren't many modes on offer, especially when compared to other EA Sports titles, and secondly there is no career mode in the game. Some have classified The Chase as a career mode but there are too many mini- game challenges here and it doesn't feel like a true career mode at all. If I had to pick the biggest complaint I have with NASCAR it's the absence of a mode that's going to encourage long term play. In racing games it's the career mode that keeps you coming back for more. One-off seasons and challenge modes are all well and good but they don't do enough to encourage long term play and NASCAR enthusiasts would certainly be looking for a career mode to invest their time in and not short lived modes that will probably be completed in a few weeks at the most.
It's not uncommon for the AI in a racing game to show some aggression. Unfortunately, the AI in NASCAR 08 seems to be overly aggressive at times. Sometimes, and it doesn't seem to happen all the time, the AI has no compunction about ramming right into your car and at times it seems as though the AI opponents are doing their level best to wreck your vehicle when it would be simpler to drive past you without making contact. To compound the problem of being banged into quite a bit, there are occasions when you'll find the handling twitchy using the default control settings. We don't have access to an Xbox 360 steering wheel so can't comment on whether using one improves the handling.
NASCAR 08 certainly looks OK on the Xbox 360 but the graphics are not as good as you might have expected them to be. The car models look decent however and the damage modelling is actually quite impressive. The graphics look a little sharper on the 360 version but there's not much difference between this and the PS3 version of the game. There are no problems with the general performance of the game and the frame rate remains smooth throughout. The game runs at up to 1080p which is certainly an improvement on the PlayStation 3 version.
For the most part, deaf gamers shouldn't have any problems with NASCAR 08. The game's cutscenes are not subtitled, which mainly concerns The Chase mode, but this isn't too much of a problem as they do give some hints on how to go about the challenges. All of the objectives are shown in text so you'll always be aware of what needs to be done to complete a challenge. Radio communications you'll receive whilst driving are not subtitled, which is a disappointment because some of the verbal information that is given is actually quite useful and deaf gamers will miss out on this completely. The HUD does provide quite a bit of information however, so at no point does it become problematic to play the game which is fortunate given the aforementioned omissions.
It's difficult to actually evaluate NASCAR 08 because the game doesn't really have any direct competition with the game being the only officially licensed NASCAR game at the moment. It's a fair bet that if you are interested in NASCAR then you're going to want to get your hands on the game. Looking at the game in a general fashion and comparing it with other driving games, you could argue that the game comes up short for having a lack of modes, an uninspiring online offering and decidedly average graphics for a Xbox 360 game. If you're looking for a driving game you're going to be better off elsewhere, but if you have an interest in NASCAR then the game is certainly good enough to keep you interested, if you can live with the sometimes aggressive AI.