NASCAR 98 for the PlayStation captured NASCAR racing like no other video game had done before. But instead of just making a few tweaks and rereleasing the same game this year, Electronic Arts went back to the drawing board and tried to create an even more realistic NASCAR experience. A ton of new options and features really bring in the technical side of racing. On the gameplay side, the cars handle a little more realistically, but otherwise gameplay remains roughly the same.
NASCAR 99 features 31 current NASCAR drivers and their cars, plus six legendary drivers. There is a total of 17 different tracks that all accurately re-create real-life NASCAR raceways like the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sears Point, and Michigan Speedway.
You'll spend the majority of your time with the game adjusting your car settings so your car performs as well as possible for each individual track. Since all you really do on the track is pick your racing line and go as fast as possible down the straightaways, coast into turns, and power out at the appropriate time, the difference between winning and losing rides on your car settings. The semirealistic damage mode also makes the game exciting, since if you rub up against an opponent or a wall a bit too hard you can blow a tire.
Visually, NASCAR 99 comes across a little flat. All of the cars and tracks look completely accurate except that the colors are even more dull than last year's NASCAR. However, the game is chock-full of great visual effects like how the tires leave tracks when peeling out or when you hit the brakes. It's also cool to see that when you scrape against the wall, paint smudges from your car are left behind. All of this paint trading can be seen from five different camera angles. The inside-the-car view really makes you feel as though you're right in the driver's seat, although it would be extremely helpful, not to mention realistically accurate, if there were a rearview mirror in the car.
The music in NASCAR 99 is old-fashioned rock that perfectly matches the spirit of the game. The two-man announcing by Benny Parsons and ESPN's Bob Jenkins sounds pretty good and is occasionally funny. Also, your pit crew now shouts instructions and advice over the radio. They'll let you know when a car is moving up on you or when you should pit.
Overall, NASCAR 99's numerous options make it the most authentic NASCAR game to date. Unfortunately, EA didn't dramatically improve the game's graphics and sound effects from last year's title. If you have never played a NASCAR game, but like racing games, you should definitely try NASCAR 99 before you buy. Let's face it. A racing game that is packed with straight stretches of road and a bunch of left turns isn't a whole lot of fun from a gameplay standpoint. As a casual NASCAR fan, I can appreciate what NASCAR 99 is, a really good NASCAR racing simulation. But if you're a racing-game fan, you'll probably get tired of NASCAR 99 very quickly.