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NASCAR 06: Total Team Control



Introduction:

As is true with many EA SPORTS titles, due to their exclusive license, NASCAR 06 doesn’t have to contend with other NASCAR games. Exclusive licenses aren’t acquired for the benefit of consumers, and games released under these licenses can end up making little or no progress from its predecessors. Let’s take a look at the new features offered in Total Team Control and see if EA has abused its exclusive rights to NASCAR games.

Gameplay:

During your first load, you, as Jeff Gordon, are immediately thrown into the midst of the Pepsi 400 trying to hold your lead after your teammate has crashed. This sequence is your introduction to car swapping, a new capability in Total Team Control. Car swapping is a part of a bigger feature which is the only significant in-game addition to NASCAR 06. This feature is Interactive Crew Chief Control. This feature allows racers to take full control of their team and use strategy to achieve the best possible team finish.

Interactive Crew Control operates out of the bottom-right corner of your screen. You have the option of selecting a driver to issue a command to and are then presented with a listing of commands to give. You can tell your teammates to prevent cars from passing, allow you to pass, share drafts, and even pit together. Other commands include instructing your teammates to move aside in order to allow you to pass, hold their position, or follow your car. Truth be told, the eighth command really isn’t a command at all.

The car swap “command” involves switching cars with a teammate. By doing this, you are able to bring slower cars to the front of the pack and set up blocks to assure a first place finish. This works best in longer races, where you actually have time to set your cars in the desired locations. I think this was one of the better additions to the game, as it really brings out the teamwork and strategy of NASCAR.

All of the commands can either be given through your controller or your headset. Total Team Control offers voice recognition to give commands, change options, change view settings, and even obtain information. In theory, this is a great addition to the Interactive Crew Control feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always pick up on your voice. You will find that the voice recognition software will have problems with certain words and you will end up saying things such as “HUD off” into your headset for double the amount of time it takes to manually change it with your controller. I like the idea and there aren’t problems for many of the commands, but sometimes the error in voice recognition will cause something completely undesirable to happen.

Besides what is mentioned above, the in-game mechanics are basically the same. The only improvement to AI is the new ally and rival system. This allows you to make friends or enemies on the track based upon your driving etiquette. The drivers you ram into will take an exaggerated amount of runs at your car and prevent you from sharing draft. Your allies, on the other hand, will tend to act as friendlier opponents.

That is it for in-game changes. NASCAR 06 is the same exact game as Race for the Cup, from an in-race perspective, aside from the items mentioned above. The main mode of play this year, Fight to the Top, has changed as a result of the more team-oriented gameplay. Fight to the Top involves joining a team to gain revenue. Eventually you will earn enough to purchase your own team to build your individual and team prestige. Team prestige is determined by the quality of your team in both racing and business aspects. You are able to invest in three different aspects: Cars, Crews, and Administration. As the owner of a team, you can control a team of racing superstars, but be cautious and select your drivers carefully. Despite the talent of your racers, if your team doesn’t have a good chemistry rating, you won’t be very successful as a team.

One thing I did like about the main single-player mode of play was the fact that the settings were very customizable. Diehard NASCAR fans can opt to participate in races that are 25% of the real races, and casual gamers can choose to compete in races that can be as short as 4% of the real thing. You can adjust the car damage to only affect the game from a visual standpoint. You also have the option to toggle things such as unlimited gas and tire wear. I think this was a smart move by EA to present an enjoyable game to both the casual and hardcore fan.

Another aspect of the game that could be appealing to gamers without Xbox Live is multiplayer through Play Now. Here gamers can race head to head for bragging rights on a single console. This will always provide a bit of fun. Who doesn’t like beating a buddy in a neck-and-neck race?

This being said, Fight to the Top is, on the grand scheme of things, too shallow to be considered a decent step forward for the franchise. It adds some interesting new aspects, but doesn’t really take them anywhere. The only reason to improve your prestige is for the sake of improving your prestige. I’d like to see some more depth added to this mode of play with little extras and perks to keep your prestige up. They could have included visual representations of a successful career in the form of cut-scenes, improved garages, and more of the like. EA SPORTS has managed this in other games, but they left it out of NASCAR 06.

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