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Gameplay additions this year feature just a few new components – driver ratings, the Adrenaline Meter, adjustable car handling – and they really turn out to be tweaks instead of innovations. Still, as NASCAR 06 wasn’t in major need of innovation, those tweaks serve to ignite already good NASCAR racing to appeal to the left-turning driver in all Xbox gamers as another solid, winning-the-checkered-flag NASCAR franchise entry from EA.
I like all kinds of racing games -- arcade, sim, motorcycle, car, firetruck, whatever. NASCAR 07 has its positives -- the skill points and driver attributes being a few of them, and the hefty set of races and cars you can compete in round out its replay value well. In its own way, NASCAR 07 also replicates the sport community of NASCAR extremely well. As for racing, it's still not that fast of a game, although the controls have tightened up, and though it sounds silly, out of car mano-a- mano driver fisticuffs would have added that spark this year's game seems to be missing. This isn't the end-all be-all NASCAR game in the series, but it's far from being the worst, too.
It’s been more than five years since I took more than a passing glance at a NASCAR title, so I have to admit I was expecting something so much more than what I got. NASCAR 07 isn’t a terrible game, but it could be so much better. It just seems so sterile and totally focused on racing and nothing more. Granted, there are a lot of options and race modes, but they all still boil down to driving in circles. There are a few minor enhancements to the gameplay, but nothing that should warrant another $40 leaving your wallet, especially if you already own last year’s game. I think it is going to take a next-gen system to boost this game out of the pits, and if we can’t get it on the 360, maybe we can look to the PS3 for a true NASCAR experience.
All told, NASCAR 07 is a faithful addition to any NASCAR fan's videogame library. Once you get over the initially steep learning curve in handling the cars, you'll find yourself left with a surprisingly deep and entertaining racing experience. While the level of play may not be suited to the average racing game fan, hardcore NASCAR fans will be eager to experience their own Talladega Nights.
Whether or not EA Tiburon simply mailed it in this year is open to debate, but regardless of how or why it happened, the game is disappointing. NASCAR 07 is by no means a bad game, but the lack of compelling new features makes it tough to recommend if you already own NASCAR 06.
So let's go back to that original dichotomy question: Is NASCAR 07 a game, or a simulation? Well, yet again it's neither, and EA Tiburon has failed for the second year running to strike the glorious balance that it achieved with NASCAR 05. It's certainly not "bad," but it's hardly the definitive game of the genre.