As if cornering the market with every other sports genre wasn't enough, EA has put the pedal to the metal and screamed out of the pits with this tidy little racer. But surely NASCAR's all about going left, right? Well, yes it is, but EA has waved a touch of its magic gloss over it, and the end result isn't half bad.
Preceded by EA's trademark glitzy, MTV-style intro (complete with mid-western rock soundtrack), players are immediately thrown into a race and introduced to the most notable feature of the game. Because NASCAR racing is all about teamwork, you aren't restricted to one car. Spin off at any time, and you can access the team controls with the R stick (an interface that works surprisingly well on the fly) to hop into a better-placed team-mate's car. There's a limit to the number of times you can do this during a race, though. This means it never becomes a cheating gimmick, but a strategic godsend, especially when you find yourself shunted off and at the back of the 46-car pack.
But it's not all about switching between cars leapfrog your way up the field. Holding a smooth racing line is punishingly, yet enjoyably tough, requiring the gentlest touch on the throttle and wheel. It's amazingly rewarding to trickily drift behind an opponent for several seconds (the competent AI drivers hold about as steady a line as an epileptic fisherman once they know you're behind them), take a slightly higher line round a corner, then power out of it with increased speed. Driving like this requires concentration, but it never gets laborious or boring.
Add countless career options, tournaments and Xbox Live multiplayer, which features an entire field of AI drivers, and you've got a complete racer. Not to everyone's tastes, but still a great drive.
Drives a fine line between hard work and enjoyment, though stays high enough to be worth checking out.