Anyone hankering for a refreshing new perspective into virtual racing will find NASCAR 06 an attractive proposition.
- Innovative team racing concept
- Innovative voice support
- Solid, reactionary artificial intelligence
- Challenging yet approachable car physics
- Tons of options and modes.
- Voice recognition system is far from perfect
- Graphics look aged, especially on the PS2
- Much of the game remains unchanged
- Four-player online maximum is not enough.
Its other merits, or lack thereof, aside, EA Sports is doing something very interesting and probably very right in its console NASCAR series. It's changing the way we look at racing. Slowly and deliberately, it's transforming competitive driving from a lonely solo sport to one that brims with interaction. It's turning us from mere drivers into owners and managers, off-track decision-makers and career-seekers. Certainly EA isn't the first to move in this direction; but with this year's game, that sort of teamwork is clearly now at the forefront of the experience.
In NASCAR 06: Total Team Control, EA ups the peripheral intrigue from last year's NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup by throwing us into a world where drivers don't race merely for their own personal glory, but that of their entire team. They communicate constantly with their allies; they swap cars with teammates in the midst of the action; and they ultimately have a chance to buy their own team and govern darn near every facet of it. The game's vehicular physics and graphics have not been significantly altered--and that may be a detraction for some--but anyone hankering for a refreshing new perspective into virtual racing will find NASCAR 06 an attractive proposition.
As its name suggests, NASCAR 06 sets its sights squarely on North America's preeminent and currently most popular racing "league," the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It doesn't quite feature all the drivers and vehicles in the four series it showcases (the Whelan Modified Tour, NASCAR National Series, Craftsman Truck Series, and the granddaddy Nextel Cup), but it comes close enough for all but ultrahardcore fans. It packs a couple dozen real life tracks (now including Pocono), many real-world sponsors, a ton of racing modes, and oodles of real and imaginary teams. In this way, it's very similar to the other top-level, licensed NASCAR games we've seen in recent years.
But it's what isn't similar that matters most. Arguably, the most important (and certainly the most publicized) innovation in the latest NASCAR is its concept of "squad-based racing." And the truth is that this whole team thing is pretty cool. Indeed, many indoctrinated drivers may recognize the same thing we did--that they'd never given serious thought before to working as part of a team. Isn't this whole racing thing all about personal glory? Well, no--not now, it isn't.
In NASCAR 06, you can't simply go about your business, thinking everyone else is the enemy. This will undoubtedly come as nothing short of a revelation to many longtime virtual drivers, who've likely spent years perfecting the art of nudging and bumping and imparting glancing blows to nearby cars with the sole intention of bettering their own position. You're certainly welcome to do that in NASCAR 06, but you'd just better take care with whom you do it. If you do it to a nonteammate, he just might build a quick grudge and become your sworn enemy, spurred ever onward by thoughts of malice and car-thumping revenge. That much hasn't changed. But if you bop a member of your own team into a wall or into a spin, he'll not only get a hate on for you, but may also finish the race in a less advantageous position. And that, in turn, has negative repercussions for your team ranking, your team status, and ultimately, you.
But there's far more to this team concept than steering clear of your buddies. The game also lets you communicate and pseudo-interact with a whole host of allies. First and foremost are your driving colleagues, with whom you can bark orders such as "hold position," "work with me," and "drop back." The particularly nifty thing is that they actually respond in a realistic fashion. For instance, you won't see your comrade suddenly apply the brakes as if he's getting ready to park when you ask him to "drop back." Instead, he'll carefully pick his spot and gradually comply. Alternately, if he's caught up in a fender-to-fender duel with another driver and you ask that he "move over" to clear a path for your car, he might decide that's not something he should do at the moment.
When used correctly, these orders can have a perceptible impact on the results and your team's progress. Indeed, one of the most effective things you can do is set up two- or three-car drafts to theoretically blow by the opposition. Conversely, one of the most ineffective things you can do is worry about a bunch of orders in short races, where there really isn't enough time to fully take advantage of them. In the end, you'll see that teammate commands work best when you've selected medium or, preferably, long race distances, where you have enough time to fully implement and perfect your pack mentality.
Undoubtedly, the most fascinating command you can issue is "swap cars." Say you've moved into a good position on the track but your teammate is mired near the back of the pack. You merely issue this wonderful instruction and you're immediately--and quite literally--catapulted into his car, while he moves into yours. The visual effect of flying through space into your compatriot's machine is a thrilling ride all by itself, but the possibilities it creates are even more fun. Take over your buddy's ride and steer him to a better finish, and you'll improve your team's ranking and prestige. Of course, you'd better hope you can do a better job than he did; otherwise, it's all for naught.
But while interteam communication is certainly an innovative wrinkle, it's the manner by which you can do it that's especially exciting. Yes, the game accepts button presses for each of its commands, but adopting that style severely restricts the number of commands at your disposal. Moreover, you're forced to hunt for buttons when you should be driving. A far, far better way is available to those lucky folks with Xbox or PS2 headsets. If that's you, you simply speak your peace into the mic and get on with your racing.
When you do connect your headset, the game will automatically recognize it. Through it, you'll immediately hear voices of your crew chief and what seems like an entire panel of advisors and spotters. Other sounds, effects, and music will continue to originate from your television or usual sound system. All this verbal advice and information really adds to the sense of being there.
- Player Reviews: 50
- Game Universe:
- NASCAR 2000 (PC, N64, PS, GBC),
- NASCAR 2001 (PS, PS2),
- NASCAR Thunder 2002 (PS2, XBOX, PS),
- NASCAR Thunder 2003 (GC, PS2, XBOX, PC, PS),
- NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona (PS2, GC),
- NASCAR Thunder 2004 (PC, PS2, XBOX, GC, PS),
- NASCAR 06: Total Team Control (XBOX, PS2),
- NASCAR 08 (PS3, X360, PS2),
- NASCAR 09 (PS3, X360, PS2),
- NASCAR Rumble (PS)
- Offline Modes:
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
4 Players Online