The problem with the NASCAR series is this: even though it drives well year after year, it keeps introducing new things one season, then stripping them out the next. A few years back, a story-based career mode that started with you drag-racing a NASCAR pro at a stoplight and ended with you winning it all was introduced. It was fantastic and everyone loved it. Now it's gone.
Instead, a severely pruned career mode gives you a plot-free progression through races and "license tests" that teach you new techniques. And while you still get to pilot trucks while working your way up the racing ranks, you don't get to drive the Featherlites this year. They're another casualty of progress. So is the car designing bit from last year, the "Team Control" elements that enabled you to cooperate with other drivers, and split-screen racing for two players. Yep - if you want multiplayer, it's online only. If you want to race the guy sitting next to you on the couch, you'll need two 360s, two copies of NASCAR 08, two TVs and a sizable online pipe.
We will give the developers credit for adding something in place of the missing parts, however. There's a new head's up display, supposedly very similar to what the pros use, that shows you all sorts of useful data about the state of your car, your lap times, and so on. The new NASCAR rules are also here, though only the die-hards will notice most of them, and the cars can be deeply customized - assuming you know enough about cars and racing to have some clue what to tweak. Oh, and the sleek "Car of Tomorrow" is drivable.
Unfortunately, when you get onto the track, you'll notice that the other drivers still don't behave quite as intelligently as they could, and sometimes race in ways a real-world driver never would - forcing you in turn to either drive more riskily than you'd like just to avoid a wreck or to break the rules yourself and risk punishment.
NASCAR 08 looks great on the next gen systems: PS3 and 360 are virtually identical, with the 360 version running slightly more smoothly. HDTV nuts note: the 360 version also goes to 1080i resolution, while the PS3 is limited to 720i. But ultimately, like an import tuner with fuzzy dice and neon running lights but no steering wheel, you can't help feeling that some of the most important parts are missing.