EA releases their second next gen version of NASCAR. Does it take the checkered flag or does it end up in the pits with a broken engine? Okay enough of the silly cliched review quotes and onto the review. This review is for the PS3 version and I'm pleasantly surprised.
This review may come as a bit of surprise to some of you, given my love-hate relationship with EA Sports. In the last year, EA showed it's brilliance with the release of FIFA 08 and NHL 08, NASCAR 09 falls right into line with those two releases. NASCAR 09 is such a big step forward for EA and it almost conjures up the magic of NASCAR 05, which was the last great game in the series. EA has gotten rid of the"total team control" play type, the rival and ally system, as well as other goofy gimmicks, replacing them with a game that is fun to pick up and drive. This year's game can lean to either the sim side or the arcade side depending on your preferences, which based on different forum impressions has made the masses very happy. Graphics The graphics are neither spectacular nor mundane. They do look pretty good though. EA gets a pass on this due to the need to have all 43 cars on screen at once. The much prettier racers out there like Project Gotham Racing but others don't have a 43 car requirement. The car models look lifelike and the tracks do as well, and the transition from day to night on some of the tracks is almost lifelike and a much welcome addition to the series. Sound Short of the nauseating soundtrack, the sound in the game is great. The engines sound lifelike and the spotter gives much better commands this year as far as pitting, and letting you know when you're clear and when you have cars around you. I don't mean to downgrade the soundtrack, but I'm not really a fan of any of the bands or artists featured.
Extra Features EA has implemented the ability to change and share paint schemes online this year via the EA locker and via the Paintshop, and to them I simply say "Bravo". NASCAR by Papyrus did this years ago, and it's about time this functionality made it to console systems. I love being able to download schemes from the internet and put them on to my PS3. Right now I have several different schemes for the various series and it's just a matter of deciding which one I want to use. Not to sound like a broken record, but this was a brilliant move on EA's part and is one of my favorite parts of the game. I've seen Dale Earnhardt's old scheme, Rusty Wallace's truck scheme and several other historical paints as well as some new ones. I'd love to see this feature expanded on next year by allowing the user to edit real life drivers' schemes since they change paint schemes at the same rate most of us change pants.
Online I've raced a few races online and noticed no lag and I've also downloaded a few schemes from people's lockers as well and noticed no problems. The online portion of the game is very good and I'd love to get some online games in with some of the WNR readers. My PSN name is itsmedave. Feel free to send me a friend request.
Gameplay This game is flat out fun to play. You can play it as sim as you like or as arcade as you'd like. I'm sure that for some experienced racers out there, it's not sim enough, but for someone like me, it's perfect. I'm not a fan of NASCAR at all, but I do love the career mode and I hope that the modified cars as well as some of the other tracks make their way in next year (Gateway, Nazareth, etc). The career mode is challenging and there's nothing more fun to me than starting out in the truck series with a low team and low sponsor and making your way up to the Sprint Cup Series. I love that EA took out some of the fluff and replaced it with much better racing models and much better controls. NASCAR 08 was undriveable for me, but with 09, the controls are spot on. The AI was challenging to me at the top levels and they always seemed to make a race of it with me. Bottom Line If you're a fan of NASCAR or just a fan of games with great career modes, then NASCAR 09 may be just the ticket for you. This is EA's best NASCAR effort since NASCAR 2005 and it appears that they're on the way back. This game is definitely worth a purchase to a NASCAR fan or to anyone who has any interest in racing as it's one of EA's best efforts in years.