NASCAR 08: Kick the Tires First
EA's Tiburon Studio, home of Madden and NCAA Football, revs out the first next-generation NASCAR game. And although the improved graphics introduce lifelike, dynamic smoke and bring the colorful sponsored cars to life in glorious detail, NASCAR 08's overall package doesn't offer as much under the hood as previous installments of the franchise.
The game has plenty of positives, especially if you're new to the fastest-growing sport in America. The career mode focuses on acquiring 20 licenses that will teach gamers how to pull off real on-track maneuvers, including drafting, bump drifting and performing a slingshot or cannonball. ESPN commentator Jerry Punch explains the ins and outs of racing on the various types of tracks and with the game's different cars. A new vehicle telemetry visor, which can be turned on or off, provides visual representations of air drag and live updates on the vehicle's tire pressure, engine RPM, lap/split times and more.
For those who've played the NASCAR games, skipping the career mode is probably the best choice. This version's career mode pales next to past games, in which you could drive from the Featherlite vehicles (omitted in NASCAR 08) through to the Craftsman Truck, Busch and Nextel Cup series and have a real career. But this game features the cars of tomorrow, the new Toyota Camry and the ability to fine-tune any vehicle in more than 40 areas (something NASCAR gear heads will especially appreciate).
There's a lot that's new to real-life NASCAR racing this year, including new rules, and as a result, NASCAR 08 offers a different experience, even on PS2, which lacks the visual upgrades and the ability to race against 15 other drivers online. All of the games feature a full field of 43 cars (36 for Craftsman Truck races). The best way to play is with a steering wheel peripheral from companies such as Logitech or Microsoft. The PS3 game allows for steering with the Sixaxis controller, which worked well, but the steering wheel is the best way to excel.
Despite a lack of depth, this game is worth buying if you're into NASCAR.
-- John Gaudiosi
NASCAR 08 Everyone; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($60); PlayStation 2 ($40) Electronic Arts, EA Tiburon