EA’s NASCAR series has finally made the jump to next-gen systems but, unfortunately, the transition hasn’t been a smooth one. Like all of EA’s other sports franchises, the first attempt at NASCAR on 360 is bare bones, visually unimpressive, and suffers from some seriously flawed gameplay. Oh, and you get all of these “great” features for an inflated price of $60! NASCAR 08 is a complete mess, and you’re much better off sticking with the last-gen NASCAR games.
- Title: NASCAR 08
- Platform:Xbox 360
- Publisher: EA Sports
- Developer: EA Sports
- ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
- Genre: NASCAR racing
- Pros: Instant replay
- Cons: Very thin features list; so-so graphics; horrid gameplay; challenges and contracts are lame
NASCAR 08 offers a quick race option, where you can pick any car class you want (trucks, Busch series, Nextel Cup series, Car of Tomorrow), any track you want, adjust the number of laps, number of CPU cars, caution flags, etc., and then just go out and race. There is also a season mode that is pretty straightforward where you just pick a driver and then race through the season. The main single-player mode is The Chase, but it probably isn’t what you think it is. Rather than a fast, ten race shootout for the Nextel Cup, The Chase mode in NASCAR 08 this game’s career mode. You are tasked with doing challenges such as staying in the draft or passing a set number of cars, so you can earn licenses, which will then allow you to earn a contract, so you can then (finally) actually enter a race. It is a long, frustrating, and rather lame process that just stands in the way of what you really want to do with this game. Luckily, we still have the season mode or online play when you just want to jump in and race.
Where NASCAR 08 will really let you down is out on the track. EA went for more of a simulation feel this year, but they made the cars extremely hard to handle. Unlike years past where you just hit the gas and start tearing around the track, in NASCAR 08 you have to be very mindful of tire wear/temperature and a dozen other things to keep you from spinning out. It takes one lap for the game to register your tires as “warmed up” and you have some feeling of actually being in control, but that first lap while your tires are still cold is as frustrating of an experience as I have ever had with a NASCAR game, and you have to put up with it in every single race you run. Once you have completed a lap and you don’t have to worry about constantly spinning out, you find out that the normal gameplay isn’t really all that much better. You car always wants to pull to the left whether you are in a high banked turn or on flat ground, so having to constantly make course adjustments to keep your car going straight is a chore and not very fun and until you get used to it, will result in you spinning out when you overcorrect. The cars just plain don’t handle very well here. Couple that bad handling with some horrible AI, and you are in even more trouble. It seems like the CPU drivers either can’t see you or simply don’t care that you’re there, as they will slam into you going into every single corner. That really seals the deal there. Even when you finally get used to the slippery handling of your own car, you’ll have other drivers wrecking you every other lap. Not fun.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, NASCAR 08 is certainly the best looking NASCAR game yet, but it doesn’t stack up well against other Xbox 360 racing games. The tracks are just bland looking and the cars look more like plastic than metal. It looks okay, but isn’t really going to impress anyone.
The graphics do contribute to the difficulties in controlling your car because your car doesn’t feel (or look) like it is connected to the road. Rather than smoothly turning and behaving realistically, they pivot on a central point, which isn’t natural and isn’t realistic and makes trying to stay on course or make corrections more difficult than it should be since it doesn’t behave like it should compared to real life. You can switch to a camera either on the roof or in the driver’s seat, which does absolutely make it feel better, but then you don’t get as good of a view of the action. It is very hard to control from the third-person views, though.
The sound is pretty good overall. The engine noises are loud and sound just like they should, and the commentary and analysis is pretty good.
Overall, NASCAR 08 is a disappointment on every level. To start with, it is missing modes and features such as total team control or intimidation that have been introduced over the past few years that really helped improve and deepen the experience. We get less features but the price jumps up to $60, yeah, that makes sense. And on top of that, the gameplay is significantly worse than before due to a number of reasons. I can appreciate the fact that EA wants to tweak the gameplay and go for a more simulation-style of driving, but the controls, AI, and even the overall look of the game all only serve to make this transition much, much harder than it should be. This game just isn’t all that fun to play. Rabid NASCAR fans will force themselves to get used to it, but for casual fans or just gamers with any sense, it only will take a few laps before you put the game up for good and head back to last-gen NASCAR games that are actually fun to play. Give it a rent or play the demo on the Xbox Live Marketplace to see if this new style is something you can get used to.