NASCAR 08 smokes its tires

It's got to be tough for mega-publisher Electronic Arts and NASCAR developer Tiburon to come up with new tweaks to the NASCAR formula every year. You don't have nearly the number of roster updates that other sports like football and basketball have, and other than occasional changes to safety gear or engine design, there are few new rules changes to incorporate. Yet, this is one of the most popular sports in the metaverse, so you damn well better give the folks something new every year. This year's big news for the game's arrival on 360 and PlayStation 3: they're rolling out driving lessons for beginners, serious tweakage for the hardcore, and bigger, better crashes for everyone.

The crashes just make sense: this is the first year for the series on PS3 and 360, and it's been rebuilt from the ground up with crazy-advanced catastrophysics - a fancy term we just made up that basically means that when someone wrecks, they wreck friggin' huge.

As for the driving lessons, this year's career mode will have you completing approximately 160 mini-challenges as you pedal-to-the-metal your way through the Craftsman Truck Series, the Busch Series, and the Nextel Cup series. These goals are steadily drip-fed to you and are designed to provide microcosmic examples of the situations real drivers will find themselves in, and will teach you to be a better racer. You'll learn how to draft properly on a superspeedway, conserving gas so you don't have to hit the pit quite so urgently. You'll acquire the slightly dirty technique of bump-drafting on short tracks, constantly pushing the other guy forward.