This month I went speeding down the track with EA’s Nascar 09.
See the result in my review over at Fidget.
NASCAR is possibly the true artist’s car sport; a veritable ballet of control and reaction with three dozen metal boxes flowing round a circuit in a stream of movement, tidy, beautiful and masterful. Which is why it’s soon apparent that there’s something about Stock Car Racing that just doesn’t work outside of the real thing, sure it’s exciting and difficult in real life, but in a videogame, it’s just a lot of accelerating while you occasionally steer left. While NASCAR 09 goes some way to addressing this issue it still never quite manages to get away from the fact that it’s just a bad Sport to re-create digitally.
The game has all the usual flair and polish expected from an EA Sports production, with menus built around a car shop complete with racing Champ Jeff Gordon standing by at every turn with helpful hints and patient instruction. What’s more you can dress your car up in your own choice of painting scheme, even going as far as to upload to your PC and create anything you like, and show it off to your friends online. There are no shortage of tracks either, with most of the US stadiums re-created and available for use in the three championships open to you. The downside of all this is that the game itself doesn’t have the polished look that many recent games do, this is leaps behind the artistry of games like Race Driver: GRID, with a real workman feel to the graphics.
The racing itself isn’t the worst thing in the world, with the cars handling quite well, with plenty of movement as your tyres begin to burn up, leading to the point the burst and you weave about the road like the village drunk in an early Irish novel. Keeping track of your battered wheels can be done with a handy display and ought to add a level of strategy to the game, sadly it doesn’t. The fact is that nearly every single track can be won by simply keeping tight to the middle and ignoring the weaving done by the other cars. You’re never penalised unless you actually hit another racer, and that’s an unusual rarity since they are usually half a lap behind you. Even in warm-ups the AI drivers are so bad that I never once failed to qualify fore pole position.
So once you’ve gotten used to the mediocre graphics, the dull techniques and the utter lack of any real challenge; what else is left to this game? Well not a whole lot, in fact the most unusual and interesting feature which stands out is the option to turn on ESPN radio feeds and articles, from which you can access news on practically any sport you like which begs the question, if you find yourself spending your time ingame looking up the results of the Premier League, why are you even playing in the first place?