Though it hasn't yet taken the entire country by storm, NASCAR fever continues to grow at a steady rate--and in the areas where it is popular, you'd think it's the best thing since sliced bread. So it's no surprise that EA is working on a new NASCAR game due out later this year titled, simply, NASCAR 07. Based on our look at the game at EA's press event today, this sequel will get more deeply into the strategy of driving in the NASCAR format, and it'll add in some gameplay features that fans have been requesting, to boot.
The biggest addition to the 07 game is the tracking of driver attributes. Each of the roughly 35 drivers in the game is ranked based on his ability to drive different types of races, and these component stats add up to an overall rating. Some drivers will naturally be better at some track types than others, but luckily you can earn points by racing cleanly and pulling off fancy maneuvers, which you can then apply to boosting your rating in a specific category. So if you drive well enough, you can conceivably mold your driver into the best in the game, though this will probably require a lot of dedication.
Apparently fans of EA'S NASCAR series have commented to developers that they'd like to be able to jump straight to the Nextel Cup in the game's career, so the team has added a series of qualifying rounds that you can optionally take part in. If you perform well enough, you'll get to sign a new contract that will earn you more money and move you up the ladder more quickly. This will essentially act as a sort of shortcut through the career mode if you can hang with the demands of the qualification rounds.
The developers wanted to emphasize the sense of speed in the game this year, so a few subtle tweaks have been added to make the action feel faster. Alternate camera angles will get you closer to the pavement, for instance, and a tastefully applied motion-blur effect around the edges of the screen helped make things look more hectic too, from what we saw. This is all in line with the team's design philosophy this year of getting closer to the core driving, and toward that end the team has made a few tweaks to the default gameplay options, such as turning on pitting and tire and fuel wear by default, which gets you a little closer to simulation-style gameplay. But you can still tweak all these options as much as you want, of course.
Aside from these changes and additions, fans of the NASCAR games from EA can expect all the same options and gameplay modes that were available last year, including the teammate features and the agent who will guide your career path as you become more popular and successful. NASCAR 07 is due out in early September, so we'll bring you more on the game in the coming weeks.