|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 10, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
From the moment you begin playing NASCAR 09, you can tell this is another EA/Tiburon sports game. From the menu design to the gameplay structure, nearly everything about this title reminded me of Madden. Of course, this is a very good thing, not only because I am a huge Madden fan myself, but because it gave me the impression this title would give me a deep and engaging automotive sports experience, just like the deep football experience of Madden.
The first hour or two of the game feels very restricted and only consists of Jeff Gordon showing you all the different ways to play the game. It seems very linear, which is a big no-no in automotive games. However, the good news is once Jeff steps off a little, you are actually able to experience all the different modes of the game. I was actually overwhelmed at first with all the options available to me and was unsure how to start. However, the game is organized extremely well and has a central point from which you can decide what you want to do.
The individual season mode will probably grab the attention of most gamers, and allows you to create your own car and racing persona. From there, you can run a short season, medium season, or full Sprint Cup season. You'll b able to take your car on the road and compete in races from Florida to Arizona and everywhere in between. Races generally have around ten laps, and I was struck by how long most races were. Instead of a five minute race like you would find in Gran Turismo or Need for Speed, races will generally take about twenty minutes to complete. Furthermore, if you plan to practice and qualify, they can take even longer. So, if you're looking for a casual pick-up-and play experience, the season mode will definitely leave you a little more committed than you might have originally wanted. The length of the races during season races also becomes an issue just because the gameplay can get pretty boring during those twenty minutes and is only punctuated by a few non-interactive pit stops, especially if you have the competition beat and are just riding the track until you run out of laps.
Luckily, there is a much shorter mode that features faster and challenging gameplay. The Sprint Driver Challenge mode features several high intensity challenges that range from remaining above a certain speed to passing a certain amount of cars. There are also a few "boss" battles in this mode where you will be pitted against racing legends and it will be your task to reach the finish line first. This mode provides the most fun, and is extremely fast-paced. Some challenges take only a few seconds to complete, while others will take a few minutes, but all of them are very fun and will probably take more than one try to complete successfully.
Although the main focus of NASCAR 09 may be the Sprint Cup Series, there are also other racing series you can participate in including the trucks-only craftsman series. It is great to see a NASCAR title incorporate some of the lesser-known series, and I had actually never raced in a Chevy Silverado before now, so that was definitely an interesting experience.
Graphics in this title are extremely sharp and have the type of sheen you would expect from a Tiburon release. Cars are slick, and damage is subtle but realistic considering the durability of stock cars. Tracks are very realistic, but lack a certain amount of detail other automotive titles have recently been able to produce.