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NASCAR 09 knows its audience, and has delivered to them for many years. But it seems that even this 2009 edition of the game struggles to convince the British hairpin loving F1 aficionados that there is more to NASCAR than ovals and yellow flags.
Over the years I have really enjoyed some of the EA sports offerings, so was hopeful that their latest race game NASCAR 09 would be a corker, particularly given the eleven year development of the NASCAR brand. This game is clearly aimed at an American market, but can it hold it's own here in the UK with the likes or Dirt, Grid and GT5 prologue?
UK and America are two very different cultures. You say tomato I say tomato and all that. And in motorsport too we are also similarly divided, although here we differ over what constitutes interesting and boring. The Americans have never really got into F1 and likewise we in the UK have never really got into NASCAR. I guess I just don't see the point in tracks which are simple ovals, circles or rounded rectangles. They just don't do it for me I'm afraid.
I just need to have corners and crests and hairpins to fulfill my motorsport appetite.
Am I shapist? Well no. I just need to have corners and crests and hairpins to fulfill my motorsport appetite. But for the sake of fairness and (of course) my readership, play it I must. Who knows, perhaps I'll even find something unexpected along the way. The least I could do was to give it a shot and not judge the game by it's cover.
Popping the disc into the PS3, my expectations had somehow risen. After all this is the 15th game in the series, with that kind of history and game development I should be in for a treat! And with the latest generation of consoles, driving games are getting better and better, how bad could this be? It should wow me with sharp graphics and realistic driving dynamics. I should at least be able to get past the boredom of track layout by enjoying the immersive visuals of todays games.
As soon as I hit the track the driving dynamics fall short of the likes of Grid and GT5 in their realism. The feel through the force feedback is virtually non-existent, leaving you with no way of predicting oversteer accurately. Starting off from the pits is also annoyingly unpredicatable and very unrealistic. I also found, on one of the only non-circular tracks available, the cars feel like they are going really slowly compared with other recent games I play. In contrast, on the straight forward circular style tracks I found it way too easy to qualify in Pole and then just drive around with my foot flat to the floor simply steering around all the curves, even with all the driving aids turned off!
The overall lack of controllability leaves me cold and I found the whole process of racing fairly unrewarding.
Strangely though, my biggest bug bear has nothing to do with the graphics, the driving dynamics, or the track shape. Instead, it is the yellow flag system. Now, I understand this must be in the game because it's what happens in real life, but it is just annoying. The slightest rub on the wall or touch with another car and out comes the yellow flag. This in turn stops play whilst you get a replay style video of all the cars going around slowly. Then ten seconds or so later you get to race again.
It just makes a boring game even more boring in my opinion.
Now for me this is pointless. The point in real life is to slow the cars to prevent further accidents and therefore injury to the competitors. The system is in place for safety, not for spectacle or enjoyment and certainly not because it makes the racing more interesting. So why oh why replicate it in a game? As far as I know no-one has ever been killed whilst playing any of the previous NASCAR race games, so why do they need an elaborate yellow flag system? It just makes a boring game even more boring in my opinion.
The tracks, obviously modeled on the actual NASCAR series, are just too samey and circular to satisfy me. I found the racing in the most part either too easy or too uncontrollable because of the games lack of feel. The focus in this game is too much on recreating NASCAR and not enough on the actual driving realism. So unless you are a big fan of NASCAR and therefore may well enjoy the large amount of NASCAR celebrity name dropping and statistics, this is not a game I could recommend amongst the strong competition available at the moment.
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