NASCAR 09 - hands-on

One good way to race on a variety of courses is to dominate Own a Track mode. Starting this mode displays the whole dang country on a map with little dots that represent all the NASCAR tracks. The goal is to take over as many raceways as you can, and your opponents will be your Xbox Live friends (or the AI if you don't have friends). You capture tracks by racing on them and placing well. Then you get to leave audio taunts that your friends will hear when they log on and see that you've taken over two-thirds of the country. It's a persistent world so even when you aren't playing the game, they can recapture raceways from you, which could make this mode feel pretty close to a part-time job.

For those not interested in owning all the tracks, there are now three Cup Series in career mode that can be raced and unlocked in order. However, if your reputation gets high enough, you have the right sponsor contracts and can fulfill any other requirements, you can skip to the second or final Cup. The Sprint Driver Challenge starts you in the center of map of oval shaped links. Each link has four challenges that must be completed and then a boss race in the center, before the surrounding links can be unlocked. The boss we looked at had the standard "semi-encouraging, but I'm still going to beat you" type of video, and appeared to be some kind of pro driver.

There are plenty more features that we saw too quickly to know much about, but we'll just say that NASCAR 09 seems to be packed with things the racing series has added on over the years as well as some new stuff, too. Thescreenshotsmake it obvious that the game is right on track visually, but we'd like to make special mention of how realistic and pretty the smoke effects are. We would've crashed on purpose if we weren't so concerned about our rep. Look for NASCAR 09 in stores sometime this June.

Apr 10, 2008