The latest game featuring the fine art of turning left isn't remarkably different from its improvements-packed predecessor, though it does have a few small additions.
Most of the modes and features from NASCAR 06: Total Team Control return in NASCAR 07: online racing, Fight to the Top mode, team controls, voice command recognition, rivals, car swapping with teammates and driver attributes that affect overall performance. The minigames have been replaced with challenges based on real racing moments introduced by actual drivers.
Many of the bugs have also been worked out so cars are less jittery (especially online), the game rarely freezes and there are fewer annoying in-game animation sequences. The jitter you do see is caused by looser car controls, making it difficult to drive in a smooth, straight curve until you win many races and improve your driver's attributes.
Less emphasis is placed on the racing squad this time around so that if you corner well, play nice and drive bump free, you'll fill a Momentum Meter that will improve your driver's speed and handling through an entire season.
Graphics are improved well enough to eliminate panels blinking in and out of existence and enable better vehicle damage. Damaged panels and blown tires either crumble in place or fly off to become obstacles. Tracks also maintain a bit more wear and tear throughout a race with more scrapes, lingering smoke clouds and additional motion blur around the edges to help things feel a li'l more speedy.
While racing online we did notice that two of the smaller changes we like really irk the more experienced NASCAR game fans.
The first is that you can now pass on the apron - the area outside the track opposite the wall that is technically out of bounds - without a drastic loss of speed or control. That's great for those who are less adept in the ways of the mini joystick but grating to those who like to stick to the rules.
The second is that you cannot bring tweaked-out cars online, which forces everyone to race with the same car. A newbie with nimble fingers won't have to worry that Long-Haul Harry unlocked every beneficial car part, only that he or she is better behind the wheel.
Get close to the car in front of you and, besides borrowing their wind by drafting, you can now also use an Intimidator command to virtually stare them down, forcing them to move out of your way and become a cranky. The next few times you see them on the road, however, they'll likely block your pass attempts.
The combination of changing driver attributes, loose car controls and more aggressive AI rivals makes for many more crashes which lead to sudden changes in position.
The main difference between the handheld and console releases is that the PSP only supports ad hoc wireless racing between nearby systems and the console versions can be played online. Besides more gamers logged online for the PS2 than the Xbox version, the console games are nearly identical.
Although NASCAR 07 remains pretty much the same decent core game as last year's model, this year's model is just a little more fun for newcomers and a little more chaotic for long-time racers.