I'm a fairly new NASCAR fan. I got interested in the sport a year or so ago and it didn't take me long to be completely hooked. I love it.
I think that part of what got me hooked and helped me to understand a lot of the ins and outs of the sport was borrowing NASCAR Chase for the Cup 2005 for the PS2 from a friend. I had it for a few months, and absolutely loved it. It was a great game!
Having given it back, I missed it and figured it was time I bought my own. The newest one should be the best, right? With this in mind, I actually considered getting a PS3 just so I could play it in full HD.
Boy am I glad I didn't! I found NASCAR 08 a few days ago on sale for the PS2 and picked it up, and MY GOD is it ever a huge step backwards! What's wrong with the folks at EA Sports? Did anyone actually play this crap before they released it?
Firstly, I think Tony Stewart is great, but if I have to look at his grinning mug one more time while the game is loading stuff, I think I'm going to want to hurt him. It's an ugly screen, and shouldn't be in your face at every opportunity. That just smacks of lazy design.
Secondly, what's what's with the boring screens while I'm in the menus and deciding what to do next? In 2005 it had your driver standing there with a meter showing what his general disposition. He changed his look depending on whether he was a "hero" or "villain". It was something to look at and provided a little information, giving you something to shoot for in the races. Now you just get a boring screen of nothing. If they haven't got any better ideas, at least don't toss out the reasonably good ones that are already there!
So that's the setup to the game. The complete lack of creativity makes you think they didn't even try.
Finally… the gameplay itself. What were they thinking??? Why can't I use the second thumb stick to manage my throttle and brake? Hasn't this generally been established as the best way to play a driving game with the controller? Instead I'm forced to use buttons that make it extremely difficult to know how much gas I'm giving or not giving and generally just end up hurting your fingers as you mash them down to ensure you're giving it all it's got.
I had this problem with Gran Turismo 3 before discovering that using the second joystick was the better way. In playing that, I wished there were at least a little meter on the screen showing how much gas you were giving so you'd know when pressing the button a little harder wouldn't help you any. Lo and behold, exactly such a meter showed up in GT4. Of course, using the joystick controls (which that game defaulted to) made it a moot point, but at least it was there.
Not here. There's a number of different control schemes available, but NONE of them let you use the right stick for throttle and brake control.
I've tried them all now, and what's worse is that none of them make it convenient to shift gears so driving with the auto tranny seems like the only playable option. That's just ridiculous!
So what's the right stick being used for? All it does it shift my view around so I know whether there's a car beside me or behind me or whatever. It almost sounds useful until you realize how disorienting this is while flying around a track at 200 mph. And really… isn't that what the spotter is for? The spotter generally does a fine job of telling me when someone is beside me and when I'm clear. I don't need to see it for myself!
Now on the topic of the spotter…
When there's something I need to know about, and it's not an object on the track somewhere in front of me, shouldn't someone be telling me about it on the radio? Yes, of course they should. I shouldn't have to take time out of my 200 mph blast around the track to go reading up on what my team might want me to do next.
Sadly, that's exactly what the game expect you to do. Every now and then, scrolling across the top of the screen, slowly, in small letters, are some sort of team orders giving you some task or other that they want you to accomplish.
Now try reading such a thing while negotiating traffic at high speed through a corner. It's absolutely ridiculous!!
For the most part then, unless I'm cruising up a straightaway in 1st place, I have no idea what these orders are so I have no hope of accomplishing them other than by pure chance. Brilliant concept!
All in all then, this game has been a complete disappointment. I'm wondering now whether I should go searching the used game bins for NASCAR CFTC 2005, or whether maybe their 06 or 07 games might have been the shining point of this series.
As for 08… don't buy it. You'll be nothing but disappointed.