The in-car view provides the most excitement.
There are five different camera options when driving. The in-car perspective delivers the most exciting driving experience; every turn seems to be magnified and demands your utmost attention. NASCAR 09 offers two different driving styles in the game to go along with the different viewing options: normal and pro. Normal is the easier of the two styles in that it lets you be a little less precise when taking turns. Conversely, the pro driving style requires a more experienced driver with steadier hands to be successful. To master the driving controls, it certainly takes some precision behind the wheel at first. The slightest wrong move and you'll slam into the wall if you're not quick enough to correct. Despite the sensitivity of the controls, they're accurate. When racing at almost 200mph, the stakes are high and your every turn must be precise, and the controls reflect this. However, it's really not that difficult to remain on the road and become the pack leader once you've adjusted to the game. Overall, the computer AI is definitely not as aggressive this time around. Drivers will still attempt to fight for position, but it's nothing like the road rage exhibited in the past.
NNASCAR 09's graphics are adequate but the crashes could use some work. The problem is that you rarely get huge collisions that result in cars flipping end over end. Most crashes result in one driver bumping another and spinning out of control until the yellow flag comes out. It's more realistic that huge crashes don't happen that often, but it would no doubt add to the excitement of the game. The graphics aren't stellar, but they still look pretty good considering the number of cars onscreen at any given time. All of the tracks are the same from a year ago and look nice, but it's difficult to notice any major graphical flaws when you're consistently driving more than 170 mph.
Online play was difficult last year, and it hasn't gotten much better this season. EA has changed the number of allowed drivers in each race from 11 to 14. The change to 14 is nice, but that just means that there are now three more drivers who can bring out the yellow flag by being reckless. Fortunately, users can turn off yellow flags and collisions when racing in both ranked and unranked matches. Keep in mind that you may have to wait a while for a race to start, though. Sometimes the process of getting a race started will actually take longer than the race itself. However, once you actually do get online, you may find that there are some advantages. For starters, when the yellow flags aren't coming out, there's a lot more action during the race because so many drivers are fighting for position. Furthermore, the lag doesn't seem to be a problem, despite so many drivers playing at once. NASCAR 09's online play also includes the ability to share paint schemes with other users. This cool and unique feature is another attempt to pull the NASCAR community a little bit closer together. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game played the same both online and offline.
There are plenty of crashes, but they all feel a bit subdued.
The sounds within NASCAR 09 are a great complement to the game. The noise from all the crowds and the engines sounds lifelike throughout the game. Additionally, the spotter does a solid job of helping you navigate through the field by consistently letting you know if there's an opposing driver running down low or up high. The music on the soundtrack has a nice mix of hard-rock tunes featuring such bands as POD and AFI to help set the mood on race day.
The bottom line is that NASCAR 09 is a good racer but doesn't provide the same level of excitement as the real thing. Regardless, it's at least a small improvement over last year's game in nearly every way. If you're willing to spend the time adjusting some of the settings, you'll find NASCAR 09 to be a fun and challenging game.