April 10, 2008 - NASCAR is a brutal, unforgiving sport. The cars are speeding tanks, the drivers are tough as nails, and the beer in the stands is usually terrible.
Although there's a lot of drama to be found on the NASCAR circuit, the sport gets a lot of flak from non-fans for being nothing more than a series of left turns by cars that all look pretty much the same. And despite the huge popularity of NASCAR as a spectator sport, its accompanying videogame franchise has had a hit-and-miss history.
Last year's installment, NASCAR 08, was met with mixed reviews, due in part to some handling peculiarities. This year, the developers at Electronic Arts' Tiburon studio are back with another go at the game, and they've addressed the control questions raised by some of last year's armchair NASCAR drivers.
We recently got our hands on an early build of NASCAR 09, and we can report that it includes a good amount of control customization, allowing you to choose between Normal and Pro driving styles. Normal contains both Rookie and Veteran difficulty levels, and Pro opens up a Legend difficulty while still boasting the other two.
Different combinations of driving styles and difficulty levels turn various features on and off. For example, a Pro driving style on Veteran difficulty will turn braking help on, turn qualifying assist off and set steering help to low. These settings also affect your ability to gain reputation points -- the less assistance you get from the game, the higher your rep multiplier.
Rep is what you'll need to get the attention of sponsors, driving teams and other racers as you make your war through the game. The more juice you have, the better off you are.
Once you choose between Normal, which is more forgiving, and Pro, which is more toward the simulation end of the spectrum, you can further tweak your steering sensitivity in the control setup menu. NASCAR 09 also allows you to fine-tune your car's performance settings, offering adjustable sliders for gearing, handling, downforce and suspension.
With your controls tweaked to perfection, you'll get in a car, name your driver, pick your sponsor and choose a team before heading to the track. Race modes include Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (career mode), Season, Sprint Driver Challenge and Test & Tune. There's also a Race Now quick-race option if you're just looking to hop into a contest immediately.
The racer we created, Cloover McCoy, hopped straight into the career mode because he's hungry for victory. He didn't find it. With Pro controls chosen, he couldn't make it out of the middle of the pack in the handful of races we tried and received numerous black flags as a result of shoddy driving.
With the Normal control scheme flipped on, however, we owned the oval, lapping the slowest drivers easily for three wins in a row. We haven't spent much time with NASCAR 09 yet, so it's too early to say if our career mode winning streak will continue. But from what we've experienced so far, the two driving setups are completely different and allow for a range of styles and abilities.
One of the big additions to the NASCAR videogame experience this time around the track is the Wonder Boy himself, Jeff Gordon, whose eerily realistic avatar guides you through the game. He was there (appropriately consoling) when Cloover McCoy lost his second sponsor; he walked us through our first race; and he helped us choose the driving style best suited for our marginal skills.
Well I was going to get this until I found out there are 2 versions... 1 EU and 1 USA. The versions are not compatable so even if i get it I cant race against the americas late at the weekends. 1 sale lost
Glad I read this thread. I was thinking of getting this until I learnt from you guys that the two versions are incompatible (why can't they do that with FIFA lol). Has anyone played the demo? Is it still worth getting?