Video Game Preview: "NASCAR 09" is Set to Roar into Stores this Summer
by Scott Juba
Published: April 11, 2008
“NASCAR 09” is set to rev into stores this June. Will it roar to victory lane or sputter at the finish line? Racing gamers will have to wait for the finished version of the game to answer that question, but EA Sports seems intent on correcting some of the issues that plagued the series’ first entry on next-gen consoles.
After “NASCAR 07,” which was perhaps the best title in the franchise to date, “NASCAR 08” seemed to be stuck in reverse at times. Although the visuals looked magnificent on the next-gen systems, the driving experience was frustrating. On some tracks, no matter how finely the set-up was tweaked, the handling could be a nightmare, particularly in traffic. Even worse, opponent AI often seemed oblivious to your position on the track. Getting rear-ended on restarts was common and other competitors were more than willing to spin you out during the race, whether it be the first lap or the last. NASCAR fans love aggressive, hard-nosed racing, but professional drivers at this level are usually more intelligent about picking their battles. Getting knocked out of the way on the last lap at Bristol is more believable than being spun out on the third lap of the Brickyard 400 for no apparent reason. A more realistic opponent AI could have greatly improved the quality of the racing experience.
“NASCAR 08” was also less accessible to casual gamers than previous titles in the franchise. The default set-ups were rarely competitive and the varied difficulty settings oscillated between being far too easy or much too difficult.
Despite these flaws, “NASCAR 08” offered engaging competition on certain tracks and did a great job of creating a genuine sense of speed. In fact, for people willing to spend a significant amount of time mastering the game, it still managed to be a quite enjoyable ride. That (coupled with EA’s reputation for consistently creating the best sports video games) provides hope that “NASCAR 09” can supply a top-flight racing experience.
“NASCAR 09” boasts a rebuilt handling system and according to EA Sports, this year’s edition will be more accessible to newcomers while still challenging experienced gamers.
Four-time champion Jeff Gordon will serve as the cover athlete for the game. Gordon’s involvement extends beyond having his image grace the packaging. In the career mode of “NASCAR 09,” Gordon will be a guide and a mentor as virtual racers work their way toward becoming the next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. “It’s exciting being on the cover of NASCAR 09,” Gordon says. “The game is as real as it gets and it’s been great being involved with it on this level. I look forward to helping gamers in NASCAR 09.”
If Gordon’s experience on the track can translate to creating a realistic racing experience in the game, NASCAR fans across the country will be making a pit stop at their local game shops on June 10 to pick up a copy of “NASCAR 09.”