I’ve never understood the incredible popularity of NASCAR racing. Maybe it’s the fact I’m European and thus have grown up with Formula 1 and rally racing, but still. Aside from the spectacular crashes every now and then, what the hell is interesting about seeing a bunch of cars constantly veering to the left? And another one of life’s great mysteries: why release this crap here on the old continent, where no-one cares about the sport -let alone the game- anyway?
Describing NASCAR 08′s gameplay can be done in one simple sentence: keep turning left.
Admittedly, it takes a lot of skill to constantly stick to the perfect racing line, but nevertheless, that’s pretty much it. Shoot me if you want, but I for one consider NASCAR to be the most boring racing game out there. Hardcore fans of the series will probably disagree, but then again, I’m not one of them.
NASCAR 08 feels like it should have stayed in the oven for a couple of more months (hell, for all I care, they could have kept it in the oven forever). For one, it lacks a career mode. All you get is some Toyota challenges, a season mode and ‘the chase’.
The chase is where you pick up the basics, earn licenses, sign a contract and ultimately participate in one season. Though, admittedly, everything is explained well, the game just isn’t interesting enough to keep you busy and most gamers will quickly put the controller down due to lack of excitement. For what it’s worth: the game also has an online mode, but it’s hardly worth spending time with. Save for the ridiculously low number of people online, the game also suffers from terrible lag and disconnects.
The presentation is passable, but nothing more. The game maintains a steady framerate, even with over 30 cars participating in one race.
The cars look decent, but suffer from a lot of jagged edges. The speedways lack any sense of atmosphere, even with lots of spectators. The soundtrack is what I liked most about the game, due to a nice mix of rock and americana. Engine noises are bland and monotone (what did you expect?) and the ESPN commentator is even more sleep-inducing than watching a Sarah Michelle Gellar movie.
So, in short: if you’re an American and for some reason happen to like the sport, you might get some enjoyment out of this game. For all the others: there are dozens of vastly better racers out there that at the very least involve turning right from time to time. And for those of you suffering from insomnia: this game will certainly put an end to your misery.