NASCAR 09 Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Last year's NASCAR 08 was a decent racing simulation that certainly pleased fans of the sport but it certainly could have been better. The biggest complaint was the lack of a true career mode. There were other complaints too, such as an overly aggressive AI that certainly had no desire to refrain from crashing into you given half a chance. The steering was too sensitive which when combined with an aggressive AI meant the game wasn't as good as it could have been. Here we have NASCAR 09 and it has to be said that it's quite improvement on last year's game.
The modes on offer in NASCAR 09 include Test and Tune (essentially a practice mode that allows you to get accustomed to both your car and the different circuits), Sprint Driver Challenge (a collection of 75 different challenges that will put your driving skills to the test), Season, Race Now and most importantly of all, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup which is a fully fledged career mode. XXbox Live play is also supported allowing up to 14 players to compete against each other. Unfortunately you can only have one-off races in online play and there's no support for competitions or leagues etc. A leaderboard is provided however, so you can see how your performances compare with other NASCAR fans from around the globe.
The highlight of NASCAR 09 has to be the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup mode. After doing a few laps to see which driving model you prefer, you'll pick a car and get to customise it before heading out for your first race to earn some Rep Points. Finally you'll choose a sponsorship contract and a team contract before beginning the season in earnest. During the course of your career you'll want to earn as many Rep Points as you can and you'll earn them by doing well in races whilst driving your custom car. The contracts you sign have conditions and Rep Points can be lost if you don't meet the conditions or fail to finish races. Rep Points can also be earned by completing the challenges in Sprint Driver Challenge. In addition to Rep Points you'll also want to amass Performance Points which are earned by successfully completing contract conditions and successfully completing Driver Challenges. Performance Points can be used to improve the engine, chassis, aerodynamics and durability of your car for speedway, super speedway, short track and road course races. In short the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup mode is an addictive career mode that will keep you coming back for more.
One of the good things about NASCAR 09 is that you can tailor quite a lot of the game's settings to find a configuration that suits you, effectively giving you a choice of playing the game like an arcade racer or a simulation. If you don't want to race with all of the rules and penalties enabled (and to be quite honest there are too many yellow flags at times which can break up the flow of the races) you can disable them. You can even play through the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup mode with them disabled if you wish. The strength of the AI can be adjusted to suit your ability too. Finding the game too easy? Up the difficulty level of the AI and you'll find the AI putting up a much better challenge. The game even comes with two driving models. The Normal driving model is essentially an arcade-style racing model that provides a very forgiving method of control. The Pro handling model is more of a simulation driving model and will be the driving model of choice for anyone who prefers a more realistic method of control. Incidentally the handling has improved quite a bit this year and the racing is much more enjoyable as a result.
NASCAR 08 was a little disappointing in regards to the quality of its graphics. Thankfully NASCAR 09 looks much better and has no performance issues which is great to see. The in-car views are particularly impressive and for the immersion factor alone they are the best camera angle to drive from, although there are quite a few alternatives if you'd rather drive using an external car view. If there's one complaint we have in the graphical department it's that the crashes look rather bland. In a game such as NASCAR 09 you expect the high-speed collisions to look dramatic with debris scattered everywhere. However the crashes in NASCAR 09 look rather weak which is slightly disappointing.
NASCAR 09, like most sports games, won't cause deaf gamers any problems. There are several omissions however. In-car communications are not subtitled, which is a shame because quite a bit of information is given verbally during the course of a race. Fortunately you can bring up a vehicle telemetry visor by pressing the X button at any time during the race and this will keep you up to date with all of the crucial information. Whilst you're on the game's menus you'll see plenty of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. His comments aren't subtitled but you do see text giving you the gist of what he says. On most menus you'll find an option to Ask Gordon which is essentially an aid if you're stuck on what to do. Pressing the Back button will give you advice but it's verbal only and of no use to deaf gamers. Thankfully none of these omissions cause any real problems.
It's clear that the game's developers took notice of the criticisms that were levelled at NASCAR 08 because a lot of these issues have been addressed and NASCAR 09 represents a good improvement on NASCAR 08. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup mode adds much needed depth to the single-player game that was sadly absent from last year's game. The racing AI is also better this year and you won't find yourself being crashed into anywhere near as much. The handling has also been improved and as a result the game is a lot less frustrating than NASCAR 08. In fact, all things considered this is the best EA Sports NASCAR game we've played in quite some time and anyone with even half an interest in the series should definitely give it a go.