NASCAR 06: Total Team Control Hands-On

Our voice is heard as we experiment with the voice command features in EA Sports' latest oval racer.

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In our last look at NASCAR 06, we got to see the team controls in action, using the right analog stick to signal team members and issue orders, such as calling for blocking and drafting, pit orders, and, of course, the teleportation-like car-swapping ability. What we didn't get to see, unfortunately, was that team-order functionality using the promised headset support. At today's EA Sports press event, we had a fully functional headset this time around, and now let our voice be heard with this latest build of the oval racer.

The difference between using the right analog stick and a headset when issuing orders in the game is tangible. For one thing, you won't be as reliant on the command icons featured with the stick, some of which can be a bit vague at first. Furthermore, you'll have access to your entire repertoire of team orders when issuing voice commands, instead of the handful available to you that are mapped to the analog stick.

Voice recognition commands in NASCAR 06 come in a number of different flavors, starting of course with the ontrack commands such as "drop back," "move over," "block for me," and "hold position," among others. Each time you issue an ontrack order, you'll first notify the particular teammate, not by calling out his number, but by calling out his position relative to your own. "Top teammate" and "bottom teammate" would indicate the driver farthest ahead and farthest behind you in a race, respectively, while "left teammate" or "right teammate" would call those team members on either side of you.

You'll also be able to give pit instructions via voice in NASCAR 06. Once you enter gasoline alley, you can choose such car maintenance options as change left- or right-side tires (or all four, if need be), repair damage, add fuel, and add or remove wedge, among other commands. The game interface can also be controlled with your voice in NASCAR 06: you can toggle the best line on any race course found in the game; activate or deactivate the HUD: turn on and off driving assists; and even toggle your car's mirrors.

As you bark orders into the headset, you'll be hearing feedback from your crew chief and team members relative to the commands you request. To this end, you'll also be able to request specific information from your spotter and pit crew, such as lap time, best lap in the race, the location of your teammates, the location of the race leader, and when your next scheduled pit stop is. The feedback, along with regular updates on track position from your spotter, will be relayed to you in quick order.

Voice recognition support will work with the standard Xbox Live headset provided on Microsoft's console, while PS2 owners will need to pick up a USB headset in order to take advantage of this feature. For the hardcore fan, the investment should be worth it, as the voice recognition ability seems to up the authenticity quotient significantly. There's still some further development needed for this feature--not all of the commands we issued were immediately recognized by the game, and you'll need to enunciate very clearly--but we hope to see these quirks resolved in the final build. Stay tuned to GameSpot Sports for more coverage of NASCAR 06 as we get closer to its release later this year.

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