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Matt Keller
05 Nov, 2007

NASCAR 08 Review

PS3 Review | Slack-jawed yokels making left turns in fast cars, or is there more to it?
We are sure that a bunch of our readers are probably curious as to why we are reviewing NASCAR 08, or why the title is even available in this country, given the limited fanbase for American motorsport within Australia, and its rather limited appeal. I advise that you stop busting my balls and just read, dammit. Because you know, NASCAR 08 is totally relevant to our coverage – if it is on shelves in any PAL territory on a system we cover, it is fair game. Even though we absolutely hated Talledega Nights, and have never sat down and watched a full NASCAR race (or even felt a remote desire to) in our lives. Electronic Arts has had a bit of a stranglehold on the NASCAR license for about 4 years now, and that has pissed off a lot of people for a number of reasons, namely a) the quality of Papyrus’ simulation and level of experience, having worked on NASCAR games since the early 90s b) Tiburon’s lack of experience and c) Electronic Arts’ exclusivity has resulted in minimal progression, with very few new features introduced in each new NASCAR game. NASCAR 08 is Electronic Arts’ first outing on the new generation of consoles, and while it captures the basic essence of the sport, we can’t shake the feeling that it is a barebones effort.

It's almost like rush hour traffic, but without the psychotic taxis and buses

It's almost like rush hour traffic, but without the psychotic taxis and buses
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In a style typical of Electronic Arts in this new generation of consoles, NASCAR 08 has actually lost a whole bunch of features and other refinements introduced in the later entries of the NASCAR series on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The total team control system is nowhere to be seen, and players can only partake in a single season, rather than playing through a full career mode. The game has all but one of the professional drivers involved in the NASCAR competition, but is missing two tracks – Montreal and Mexico City. Players can race full, half, or shortened seasons of the Nextel, National or Craftsman series, or give the Car of Tomorrow a try. NASCAR 08 is a lot more than just turning left at 300km/h for the better part of your Sunday afternoon.

The latest addition to NASCAR 08 is the chase mode, which requires players to use the slipstream of the other cars in order to get to first place within a set time, usually 60 seconds. It might sound a bit silly, but the game launches you into the most basic parts of the chase mode the first time you boot up NASCAR 08 because frankly, it is the best way to teach players the dynamics of a NASCAR race. Players complete a series of ten tests in order to earn themselves a license. The game has a number of different licenses for players to earn, like the super speedway and Car of Tomorrow licenses, so it will take a while to get up to them all. Once players have acquired a license, they will get an offer from one of the teams for two races – fulfill the conditions of the contract and you get to race with them for the season. The chase mode is where most of the meat of the game is, but it just doesn’t compare to a proper career mode.

Not that sort of rear ender, you sick little monkeys

Not that sort of rear ender, you sick little monkeys
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Players will need to be up to scratch on how to race in NASCAR, because the game is particularly unforgiving – one mistake can send you from first place to dead last, and depending on the length of the race, you may never recover. The steering controls in the game are pretty touchy, so if you do not have a steering wheel or a feather touch, you may be in for a lot of frustration. Various assist options and sensitivity settings can be adjusted to help players, and SIXAXIS control is a worthwhile option, though not quite as good as a real steering wheel. There is also whole variety of customization and tuning options available for those that want to get under the bonnet, and these custom tunes can be shared with friends online. Touchy steering does not help defend against the game’s particularly brutal AI, who loves to bump into the player’s car at the best of times. Even more frustrating is the fact that the AI has a tendency to defy physics, often times causing dangerous crashes yet coming out unscathed. The game doesn’t even allow players to make their way through the crash – it steps in and puts you into autopilot while sorting out all of the flags.

The mileage players will get out of NASCAR 08 will probably depend on just how deep their love of the sport runs. If you’re one of those folks that likes to run a full season with a full lap count for each race, then you’ll likely get a ton of time out of the game, whereas someone who just wants to run the bare minimum number of laps is probably only looking at a 8-10 hour run through the majority of the game’s tracks. NASCAR 08 does have options for online play for up to 12 competitors, but players should be aware that the game is particularly spotty online – often connecting to a session can be an ordeal in itself.

The car kind of looks like it was built from products purchased at Home Depot

The car kind of looks like it was built from products purchased at Home Depot
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One would expect with the extra power of the new consoles, NASCAR 08 would look significantly better than its predecessors, but this just is not the case. The game suffers from low quality textures on the cars, shimmering and aliasing. The tracks themselves look a bit barren compared to previous offerings – there is just not as much life in the crowd. The only thing that does look good is car damage, as cars will react to the vast majority of collisions and bumps during a race. The game has a pretty typical track selection for an EA Sports effort – lots of rock of various sorts. The in-game sounds are particularly unspectacular, with plenty of engine revving, and a crew chief who sounds like he’s falling asleep at the mic; you’d think the boss be a bit more into it.

It's not that NASCAR 08 is a bad game, it just happens to have the exact same problems faced by every EA Sports offering so far this generation. NASCAR 08 just does not stack up to what was available in the most recent game on the last console; in terms of its visuals and its feature set, the next generation version of NASCAR is a big disappointment, and most certainly a step back in the series. Think of it like building a house – NASCAR 08 is the foundation, and as the generation goes on, the features and upgrades will be added that make it more complete (until they tear down the next generation and start over again). EA Tiburon is off to a reasonable start with NASCAR 08, but only the most hardcore fans of the sport will want to look at this one.
The Score
NASCAR 08 feels very bare, though there is still a reasonably good foundation for EA to build upon for future years. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
Can you use a Logitech G25 wheel with this?

Good Review
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2007

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