NASCAR ’07 drives you smack dab into the world of round-track racing. The goal of NASCAR, other than advertising, is to create an environment where you can experience all the aspects of NASCAR-style racing, including that of a team owner, or just a care-free driver looking for your next ride. And NASCAR ’07 does both of these very well.
The instant race option provides all the NASCAR tracks and the ability to race as any of the drivers we all wish we were. The beauty of NASCAR ’07, though, is that each driver carries with him his real-world skill sets, as well as his real-world allies and rivals. This is where it gets fun. The rivals, depending on how ticked they are from you slamming into them, do everything in their power to take you out, including slamming into you as you try to pass. It seems unrealistic unless you have actually watched some of the NASCAR rivalries throughout the years come to a head on the track. The only thing it misses is being able to have an actual fight after the race. The post-race, pre-made (yawn-inspiring) clips will sometimes show you and another driver having it out, but since this is a race sim and not a fight sim, you do not really get to throw down. Add-on, anyone?
You can, however, prove your prowess as a driver by entering into a number of various other game types, including the Dodge Challenges (notice the advertising), Fight To The Top, and Chase For The Cup. The Dodge Challenges mode consists of various re-created scenarios of outstanding performances in a real-world race. Each scenario is preceded with an actual driver interview regarding the particular event, and you are then charged with attempting to be as successful in that same scenario. Your reason for doing this? One is the pride that comes with knowing you are just as good as they are (yeah, right), but more practically for the game itself, completing each one earns you skill points. The points system is used throughout the game, and every race in every game type gains you additional points depending on how you finish, how you performed in the race and whether you used the AI assistance. These points can then be used to “purchase” the ability to use additional tracks, access additional drivers and other unlockable items and skills. I used points to get access to the late, great Intimidator himself, Dale Earnhardt, then blasted my way around the track in honor of the legend.
In Fight To The Top mode, the goal is to get a sponsored ride and work your way through the ranks until one day you race the coveted NASCAR series. You can also purchase teams and become a team owner, taking care of all the details of that team including hiring drivers, setting up sponsors and dispersing the purse back into your finances. Like the various modes EA is playing with in its Madden, NCAA and NFL Coach games, Fight To The Top also includes faux email and voicemail from agents and other drivers regarding your performance in a race, a challenge for another race, or just to tell you how much they hate you. It really does pull you into the world of racing without having to spend the thousands (millions?) required for a successful car on the real-world track.
As with most games, NASCAR ’07 has a few quirks that can bring your nerves to the edge. First and foremost is driving a car in a steady turn with a thumbstick. I don’t care how good you are, a steady line is near impossible unless you have actually gone out and purchased a wheel/pedal system for your Xbox. Yes, a straight line is vital to drafting on these round-track events. While annoying to the Nth degree, fighting the stick is not enough to steal the fun away. As you make adjustments to your car, a turn here, more spring in the front, more air in the tires, a little different gearing in the rear, you can bring your car to drive more suitably to your taste and closer to first place. In that respect, NASCAR ’07 provides a dose of reality, because real-world drivers set their cars up differently anyway. You have full reign in the car setup and are able to test and tune before each qualifying race.
While NASCAR ’07 allows you to setup your car suitable to your driving habits, even if you take the poll on a track you still may struggle to win. Pit strategy, race strategy and even the use of your teammates all make a difference in whether you are able to win. Of course, you can also just brute your way around the track, but that makes for a lot of rivals, really fast. And a lot of rivals makes for a real struggle to get past the other cars.
As in previous NACSAR games, NASCAR ’07 brings back the voice commands to interact with pit crew, teammates and other drivers. The idea is great, but the usability is not what I would call functional. It sometimes misinterprets commands, and at other times responds to background noise from the game itself. However, the Pit Crew is amusing at times. So, if you have a headset, use it. If you don’t, though, I wouldn’t necessarily buy it just for this game.
Bottom line: if you are a NASCAR fan, go buy this game; it will provide you with plenty of gameplay, every second of which you will cherish. For other racing-game fans who enjoy the likes of Forza, TOCA and GTR2, you will want to go rent a copy, give it a try and see if you enjoy the round-track style of racing. Some don’t quite understand the challenge it presents. Perhaps you will learn to respect it and ultimately realize how much fun it really is. There are enough tracks, styles of play, and vehicle genres to enjoy playing NASCAR ’07 for a long time to come. Now if you will excuse me, my fans are waiting for my autograph.
- Overall: 8.4
- A genre-specific racing sim that immerses you in the world of round-track racing, NASCAR ’07 does not disappoint.
— Durward Holt