Review By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-4|
|Accessories:||Memory Stick Duo, Wi-Fi (Ad Hoc)|
As perhaps America’s fastest growing sport, you’d think that the video game market would be flooded with NASCAR titles by now. That’s definitely not the case on the PSP, as over a year after its release (and 2.5 years after the system's release) NASCAR still remains the only title on the system featuring the good ol’ boys of racing. That’s a shame too, because there’s definitely room for improvement over what EA brings to the table here.
Feature-wise, NASCAR doesn’t come up short. The game allows players to play four different series, including the NEXTEL Cup, NASCAR National Series, Craftsman Truck, and even Whelen Modified series. You’ll experience all of these in the Fight to the Top mode, which simulates the career of a wheel jockey working his or her way from the bottom to the top. This mode is pretty deep, as it tracks your driver’s status as a hero or a villain, total number of fans, top rivals, and more. Each race run by your driver under contract earns your driver money and prestige as you work your way to the top. There are also voice and email messages from agent Ace Moneymaker and others, to keep the player up to date on the latest goings-on in the world of racing.
Other gameplay modes include Season, Speedzone, which presents several different blocking, drafting, passing, and time trial challenges to overcome, and Dodge Challenges, which recreates real-life scenarios for the player to earn skill points in. There’s also local wireless play for up to four players, although I was unable to test this due to the lack of true online play. Altogether these modes represent a pretty diverse lineup of modes not found in most racing games, even though the latter two modes can be completed pretty quickly by skilled players.
Like its console brethren, NASCAR tracks skill points based on the actions that occur during a race. Favorable actions like winning races, leading laps, and drafting will earn the player points, while scraping the wall and making other mistakes will deduct points. Earning lots of points will allow the player to unlock new tracks, cars, sponsors, and more to enhance the game, and gives the player something to strive for and the game significant replay value. These also tie into the Instant Rewind feature, which allows the player to instantly reverse a crash or other screw-up in Full Auto fashion by spending earned skill points.
All of this is fine, but where NASCAR fails to qualify is in the actual racing itself. It’s not that the gameplay isn’t solid, but it doesn’t stand out in any real way. The sense of speed just isn’t there, so it never really feels like you’re barreling down the backstretch of a speedway at 200 mph. That in itself is not really that bad, since the frame rate is consistent, but the controls are also less than ideal. The analog stick feels a little too loose, making it virtually impossible to maintain a decent racing line anywhere except on a straightaway. This in turn forces the player to lose precious seconds on every lap, and forces the player to continually nudge the analog stick rather than turning it smoothly. Again, that too is still playable, but hardly ideal.
NASCAR is a solid game, but the gameplay just isn’t compelling enough to give it long-term appeal to anyone not born and bred a NASCAR fan. Bargain hunters are likely out of luck too, as the lack of a new NASCAR game since this one’s release in September 2006 has kept the price high on the used market. With no new NASCAR game on the horizon though, this may be racing fans’ only option for some time to come.
Posted: 2007-12-06 20:01:15 PST