NASCAR 09 Updated Hands-On

We stamp our foot down and yank the wheel in our look at EA Sports' upcoming NASCAR game.

From the outside looking in, NASCAR and the video games inspired by the sport are just a bunch of people turning left. But stick yourself in the middle of a pack of 43 cars, all fighting for position in a crowded field, and you can immediately appreciate the kind of skill it takes to find success in this kind of oval racing. For years now, EA Sports has been working to find a balance between re-creating the intense racing action of the actual NASCAR racing events and appealing to the broad NASCAR crowd, some of whom might not be ready for going wheel to wheel with the likes of Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Jeff Gordon's on hand to make sure you know your way around NASCAR 09.

Enter NASCAR 09, EA's latest oval-racing game, and one that's looking--at least based on our limited hands-on time with the game--to come closer to finding that balance than previous games in the series. The crux of that balanced approach will be the two handling settings you can choose from in the game: normal and pro. With normal handling, your car will feel more rigid and stable when coming into contact with opponent cars, and it will have more grip in the corners. That isn't to say you won't be able to send your car crashing into the wall, but for the most part, the car will be a bit less squirrely than in the past. On the pro setting, the cars will behave more realistically in the corners, will be more liable to spin after contact, and will seemingly be more dependant on the setup you choose as you're turning laps.

During our hands-on time with NASCAR 09, we took laps on a couple of different tracks--Atlanta Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway. Though each oval course has its own characteristics, the Atlanta race we ran felt like a pretty good representation of what to expect from the oval racing in the game. Producers on hand were quick to point out the improved AI that is aimed at creating a better racing experience for NASCAR newcomers and veterans alike. As they explained, cars will better race in packs together, and for racing rookies, it will be easier to catch up to the pack if you fall behind.

Your reputation as a driver will also affect how cars will behave toward you on the track. If you increase your rep, drivers with a lower reputation will be much more apt to get out of your way if you come storming up behind them on the track. At the same time, your reputation (which is represented by a point total) is always changing, based on how you perform during career races and in the various challenges. If you have a bad stretch of races, your rep might decrease significantly, and it will be up to you to once again gain that rep back by working harder on the track or tackling challenges. While you can gain rep by winning races, you can earn additional reputation point modifiers by dialing down the assists in the game.

While the AI improvements weren't immediately apparent in the oval racing, once we hit the road course at Infineon, there were some good things of note. After qualifying 19th on the grid, we found ourselves in a tight race to the first corner. We managed to cut someone off, and not only did that AI-controlled driver hold on to his car, but we noticed some pretty canny braking by the AI. In previous NASCAR entries, it wasn't uncommon to have opponents slam you from behind, and we're cautiously optimistic about that being a thing of the past in NASCAR 09.

There will be plenty to do in NASCAR 09, including a full career mode, quick race, online support, and a mode called Sprint Driver Challenge. Similar to the Tiger Challenge in EA's Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, this mode will have you competing in a series of events that will test your skills on a variety of track types and in various situations. A map of challenges will be laid out, and you'll be able to make your way through the map, picking your events from multiple available paths. Event types are varied; for example, a speed-trap event will challenge you to maintain a certain level of speed around a track. One particularly fun event has you trying to avoid cars as they pile up in a wreck, with tire smoke billowing all around you as you weave your way through the mess. Once you complete a certain number of challenges, you'll go up against real NASCAR drivers the oval racing equivalent of boss battles; we saw one where you had to finish ahead of Casey Mears in a two-lap race at Daytona while avoiding contact with the walls and other cars.

Watch yourself in the turns, else your Car of Tomorrow will be yesterday's news.

Finding success on the track will reward you performance points for your car, which you can spend on your ride to give you enhanced performance on any of the track types found in the game (speedway, super speedway, short track, and road course). Within each of these track types, you can spend your points on things like engine, chassis, aero, and durability improvements. Note that these performance points are separate from the tuning elements on your car. The strategy with performance points will be in deciding which points to use when, and you'll want to always keep your calendar handy to know which events you have coming up so you can spend your performance points wisely. In addition, certain types of contracts you sign in your career will sometimes award you with additional performance points.

Online racing should be a feature that keeps NASCAR 09 players coming back for more after the game is released. The game will support up to 14 drivers online and will also have an improved leaderboard system that's dubbed "Own the Track." Here, you'll find a map of the US denoting every track found on the NASCAR calendar, followed by icons denoting which tracks you "own" and which ones are owned by your friends. That ownership is based on a variety of factors, including overall miles driven, best lap time, average lap time, LPI (laps per incident), average finish, and opponents beaten. As if owning a track over your buddy isn't insult enough, you'll also be able to create a taunt to further rub his face in it. In addition, your overall reputation score will also affect matchmaking when you're looking for races online.

NASCAR 09 will also feature some key improvements over last year's effort, including (mercifully) the ability to skip through yellow flags after accidents. As big fans of car customization, we're curious to see what EA has in store in that area, and we'll be bringing you all the latest details on this and more for NASCAR 09 in the near future.

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Discussion

41 comments
Gribb85
Gribb85

Nascar Simracing for the win, y'all!

BIGJosher
BIGJosher

WTF is Grind, it is Grid you idiot.

Wild_Wilco
Wild_Wilco

You would have to be a genuine **** to spend money on a next gen console and then pay money for a Nascar game. Nothing against Nascar at all, but it is like paying for a loaf of bread and only making bread sandwitches with that loaf. A Nascar game is like that, a sandwitchless sandwitch. A gameless game.

x_cosmo_x
x_cosmo_x

i think im gonna pass and get GRIND!!!

BraindeadRacr
BraindeadRacr

As much as I love NASCAR, EA's standards of quality is just crap. NASCAR '08 was just flatout trash, and from what it looks like - They're not in the mood to improve.

26McMurrayfan
26McMurrayfan

This looks and sounds SO much better than the game last year. Last year's game was thew worst.

I_AM_GAMER
I_AM_GAMER

jake181249 "you know what screw all of u who dont dont have the respect and ahve the ablilty to strap yourself to a 500 hundred horse power machine it may be a redneck but they have more balls then all of u and next time u judge something make shure u have the balls to get in one and then come back and tell me" I have rode/driven a real nascar @ Richard Petty's place in Orlando...It was awesome. The games for the last 8 years...are not.

Duke_Bootee
Duke_Bootee

EA Sucks they make half-assed games, Every NASCAR game ive played is like floods of poisoned water. EA is an evil monopoly.

wiiguy13
wiiguy13

I lost my interest in nascar plus Nascar 09 is nothing compared to other racing games for the 360.

speedjunkie4
speedjunkie4

I stopped having interst for NASCAR when they changed to the team format. And i lost my interst in the games, too.

chavi03
chavi03

2 acrobatic monkey, although i dont like nascar EA has made tons of good games so you suck ass. there wuz skate,all the need for speeds, all the NHLs, all the maddens and so much more so you seriously dont have any taste in video games at all loser!!! youre not worthy of even posting somthing on this site. EA RULES

piller86
piller86

ya where did all the F1 games go screw NASCAR its not even fun to listen about alls it is are alot of STOCK cars going around in a circle for 5 hours on end!

DamageIncM
DamageIncM

Not on PC anymore? By the way, about Formula 1 games... WHERE ARE THEY?! The last pretty awesome one was like far over a half decade ago! They should create this awesome realistic one, like Codemasters does it. Hell, Codemasters shóuld do a separate Formula 1 racer. I've always enjoyed them as a kid, now I want the "real" deal. :P And it would sell too, I'm sure enough people want one. Especially now there hasn't been a big one since many years ago. I've looked for recent ones through GameSpot anyways. And the ones that aren't too old were apparently crappy.

taj7575
taj7575

yeah, i used to h8 nascar, but now its pretty sick

paulsh_d
paulsh_d

Quote "the improved AI that is aimed at creating a better racing experience....As they explained, cars will better race in packs together, and for racing rookies, it will be easier to catch up to the pack if you fall behind. " In other words rubber banding AI. That unfortunately counts me out.

NA3D
NA3D

Lets hear some more information about career mode, custom cars, and so on. I think it is funny that they tried to boast about the AI last time around, and they are trying to do it again. While, if you do it right you cant boast that much about AI twice in a row unless you have made vast strides both times, and we all know EA Tib. is unqualified to do something like that. Long story short, I aint buying what they are selling until I know what is really going on behind the curtain.

gator921
gator921

Hope this is better than last year's product. Would like to see them bring back the voice commands to get information from the spotter and hooking up with team mates during a race, like NASCAR Total Team Control had on the original XBox. I'm still waiting for EA to bring the "Dirt to Daytona" experience... that would be a really deep career mode, where you start on modifieds on dirt tracks and move up to full blown Cup races.

Timpura59
Timpura59

"Right - because rednecks have a strong presence in states like NY, MI, CA, NV, IL, PA and so on right? " I don't know about the other states, but in California, everything between the Bay Area and L.A. is kinda "country"....

Timpura59
Timpura59

"Right - because rednecks have a strong presence in states like NY, MI, CA, NV, IL, PA and so on right? " I don't know about the other states, but in California, everything between the Bay Area and L.A. is a little bit "country"....

ojalife
ojalife

F1 is still more sphisticated, but it isn't as competitive as NASCAR, there are many F1 races that look like parades, one car after the other. That thrill for racing is what took Montoya to NASCAR and other open-wheelers. It used to be a redneck sport, but not anymore, and 3 years ago I thought it wasn't interesting but now I found it cool, although I can't watch a whole race, I kind of watch the start, watch a couple of times during and then the last 50 or so laps. But it is great racing, and the games are really cool to play. Can't wait for it

VINNYHERMAN
VINNYHERMAN

Great point- (why ya here?) Here's an idea for a game- a shooter killing foreigners trying to break borders / scum bag wannabe's "gangsters" ? For freeing up jail cells by killing these scumbags ya could get some points for saving the redneck tax dollar-(so we could see mor NASCAR on weekends!) Now THAT'S REDNECK YEEE-HAWWWW! GET SOME!

VINNYHERMAN
VINNYHERMAN

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

systemfan1188
systemfan1188

"nascar is a str8 redneck sport, i would not dare to be caught watching it." Right - because rednecks have a strong presence in states like NY, MI, CA, NV, IL, PA and so on right? NASCAR is the most spectated sport in America..thats a lot of rednecks!!(Sarcasm). The sad thing is - peopel like Garcia_jx still find the need to post garbage like that - which obviously hints to the life they have. They hate NASCAR - but why are they on this page anyways? I see he's a raiders fan though - obviously has something to look forward too this year for football. Another 4-12 season?

GordonFan92
GordonFan92

WTF? Where is the Chevy Impala SS, Toyota Camry, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion? i don't want to be driving the "#24 Dupont Car" I want the "#24 Dupont Chevy". I'm guessing the trucks are still generic too.... GO JEFF GORDON!!! (3 dnf's but still in 13th, in place to get inside top 12)

jake181249
jake181249

you know what screw all of u who dont dont have the respect and ahve the ablilty to strap yourself to a 500 hundred horse power machine it may be a redneck but they have more balls then all of u and next time u judge something make shure u have the balls to get in one and then come back and tell me

GundamBlue
GundamBlue

garcia_jx "nascar is a str8 redneck sport, i would not dare to be caught watching it." then why you here?

garcia_jx
garcia_jx

nascar is a str8 redneck sport, i would not dare to be caught watching it.

garcia_jx
garcia_jx

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

sirpyke29
sirpyke29

I hope myself that this year is better. Taking away coop was dumb as far as I am concerned. They didnt have any of the features (or most anyways) from the previous years like the car swapping and all that other stuff. Not to say that all were good but on a next gen system I would expect a whole lotta features. On the brightside the smoke seems to be getting a little better if you can get past how pixelated it makes your car look when your in it. Maybe they will be able to get rid of alot of glitches too like havent the back end "bent" even though you didnt crash or when you went head on with another car it doesnt send it flying 100 feet in the air. Come on EA you guys are better than this get it together!

Razorlight6
Razorlight6

I hate these +1 year names. '09? It's so stupid since these are the drivers/teams for '08. The same goes for any other sports series that does this. I guess it's a buffer just in case the release date slip and the game ends up being release the year after. I wonder what they will call next year's game. NASCAR 10? Doubt it. Sounds like the tenth game in the series.

Pete5506
Pete5506

The game sounds good, hope it dose better then 08 did

alnors
alnors

wooow cooooooool

WarGrad
WarGrad

If Formula One is so "sofisticated", then why are drivers jumping from Formula One to "Redneck" NASCAR. BTW it is spelled sophisticated. At least this "redneck" can spell.

FreddoX12
FreddoX12

Wish they spent more time on sofisticated Formula one instead of Redneck Nascar.

fast_gtr
fast_gtr

omg i cant wait 4 this 1

t0xin_ven0m
t0xin_ven0m

They still need to re-add co-op splitscreen season/career....until that comes back, my Nascar experience will never be the same...

ArticRecon
ArticRecon

I hope this game turns out great! I was dissapointed with last years attempt...