Reviewed by Tinnanski - 09.30.06
Elliott Sanders and his #19 Dodge grace the cover of Electronic Arts Tenth NASCAR installment. We hit the track to see what has changed since 06 and we examine its first treatment onto the Sony PSP. Strap in your belt and get ready for another ride with those good ol' Nascar boys in EA Sports, NASCAR 07.
Racing around in a circle might not be the average gamer's idea of fun, but for NASCAR fans nothing can be better then the high octane, bumper to bumper action. NASCAR 07 like most sports oriented games really appeal to the fans and if they are luckily they snatch up a few onlookers. The problem with NASCAR is that it doesn't branch out much past the core audience.
NASCAR 07 remains close to the last years NASCAR edition (NASCAR 06: Total Team Control) without making too many adjustments to the roots of the game. EA Sports really doesn't have any competition in the Stock Car racing genre, so one might think they are asleep at the wheel. The newly implemented Momentum system shows otherwise, these guys aren't asleep. This new mode tries to get your adrenaline running by adding new effects and rewarding the player for keeping up a good high speed pace. Combined with the new graphical tweak of motion blur, this new momentum system is a success which helps build some intensity in the evil oval.
The Real Mod
Modification is still the key to any successful NASCAR game and all the purists will agree you need to be able to fine tune every aspect of your car. A few modifications is sometimes all you need to find the right fit to bring you closer to the front of the line. Sadly if you're not really into tuning your car then NASCAR 07 might loose some of its appeal. I'm glad the series is slipping away from the arcade style of gaming and more into the simulation side. Racing fans, we know it's easy to find an arcade racer then a good simulation game. It's either Forza, Toca, or now NASCAR for a more realistic race.
Sure is Perdy
Rounding down the graphics is a good showing for the Xbox. I'm sure this is the last year for the Xbox to have support by a lot of the major developers, so I'm already looking forward to the next-gen version of NASCAR. The car models, locations and design is standard and is faithful their real life counterparts. The audio also keeps the same presence from previous years. All the in car sounds are great, from the car engines roaring over the pavement, to the chatter of the pit crew giving your player advice on winning the cup. It's more of less what we've come to expect. They also have support for custom soundtracks if the in game tunes aren't to your liking.
Cups, Series and Tours
Some series are made up most of the real drivers like the Nextel Cup, Craftsman Truck, and Busch Series, then others like the Whelen Modified Tour is made up of created fantasy drivers. This only hurts the realism with the fake players, but this is easy to overlook if you're a casual NASCAR fan, rather then the hardcore. Also, on the lack of realism is that EA removed all the Alcohol-related sponsors. I guess it might be sending the wrong message to the kids, but when the cars are full of beer logos in real life, I don't see the problem. If you're going to remove the booze wait for NASCAR to make an official ruling. It's pretty funny even imaging NASCAR without the Dale Earnhardt's Budweiser Car or the Coors Light Stremme.
Fight to the Top
Speaking of the real life racers, EA has tried to model the real racers persona into the game with unique A.I. for the drivers. This helps bring a sense of realism in the game without one preset level of artificial intell. Nothing is easier then mastering a game because the computer does the same stupid mistakes over and over. When you try to work your way to the top in the mode "Fight to the Top" you better be ready to lay claim to the track. It's a battle field and aggressiveness and momentum will help you pull through.
What we are left after the career mode is an online mode which seems to always please fans along with the exceptional Doge Challenges which have been updated. Most gamers will be situated in Fight to the Top for the main course of time. This career mode seems to take up a lot of time when trying to manage everything from merchandise prices to your crew. Not to complain because I really enjoy these Madden-esq type season modes, but other games might find it a little tedious. I'm not even going mention Ace Moneymaker and the autograph mini-game, let's get real shall we.
She controls like a Beauty
For the controls we have a satisfying experience which can be unforgiving if you don't have a sensitive touch. The total team concept is still left in NASCAR 07 which is used to give your teammates commands. Working with another car on the track is a good way to equal up the playing field against more experienced drivers. If you've played last years games then you know how this one controls and the importance of the Pit Stop, watching your gauges and using your team to your advantage. Although I think it might be a bit much for racing newbie's, for the average racing fan you'll have nothing to worry about.
The PSP Translation
NASCAR 07 stays pretty true to the console version for the PSP. The controls are little extra sensitive, but overall translation works well on the handheld. One bonus that is unique to the PSP is that you can save mid game which is perfect if something comes up while on the go. The PSP also has multiplayer support which allows up to four people compete in the season mode, doge challenges and normal racing. The only draw back to the online mode is that the amount of computer controlled cars is limited down to ten online and it doesn't support game sharing, so friends will have to own a version to get in on your game.
What's missing from the PSP version is the Total Team Controls, so strategic planning with your team on the oval is a no go. As you can expect the graphics and sound are of a slightly lower quality, but the graphics still come out crisp on the PSP's screen and the audio, well, the audio is standard and is best heard through headphones. You can't really knock the PSP version, overall its as solid as the console and doesn't skim out on the game modes. EA Tiburon did a great job working with both versions and I look forward to next years PSP NASCAR offering.
NASCAR 07 is an improvement over last years NASCAR game online by a small margin. The A.I., updated roster and momentum system is the biggest draw which I assume is enough for Nascar fans to pick this one up. For the casual racing fan, we are going need a boost in accessibility you start to see them pile in. The series really has peaked out on the Xbox and we are ready for the next generation.
The PSP version is an excellent transition keeping up equally with the console version. You will probably only want own one version, so its either gaming on on the go or sitting in front of a TV. I was really impressed in the quality of the handheld version and it shows a lot of promise considering this is EA first NASCAR PSP title.
Game: 7.5, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 6, Mojo: 7 Final: 7 / 10