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NASCAR 06: Total Team Control Review

Developer: Tiburon Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: August 30, 2005 Also On: PS2 and Xbox

NASCAR is America’s favorite pastime, at least Southern America’s. While I’m never thrilled to watch a NASCAR race, I am a video game driving enthusiast. It wasn’t always this way, actually. Back in the day, I rarely played racers. The first racing games that I actually cared for were Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64 (which doesn’t even involve cars), and Cruisin’ USA. In the past year, I’ve grown attached to Burnout 3 and the Need for Speed franchise. Never have I been interested in a NASCAR game, until now.

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NASCAR 06 Total Team Control is the first NASCAR game that I’ve played since the Nintendo 64’s 1999 version. In other words, it’s been a long time. I do know enough about the NASCAR games to tell that the team aspect of it is new to this year’s version of the game. EA expects you to work as a team in the various series, earning team prestige, as well as personal prestige.

The Interactive Crew Chief Controls are programmed through the menus. There are 8 total commands that you can issue, though it doesn’t mean your teammates will comply. These commands include swap cars, drift, block, hold position, follow, etc. The commands are given using the right analog stick. While the concept has never been tried before to my knowledge, I never found many situations where it became useful.

Fight to the Top is the most interesting of all the game modes available in Total Team Control. You create your own driver, get signed by a team, and start from the bottom, moving no where but up. The various series that you’ll race in are Nextel, Busch, Craftsman, and Whelen. You’ll start off at the bottom with a go-kart-like vehicle. You’ll be making bare-bones cash and have few fans. As you win races and gain prestige, you’ll get prospective teams to test your skills; if they’re impressed, they’ll sign you.

What I liked most about Fight to the Top was its sense of variety – not in tracks – in gameplay, in the speed of your car, the handling of your car. A go-kart won’t crash and flip, because it’s not going 180 miles per hour. Once you’re in the Busch series though, you better be sure not to smash into cars – or go over the far left line – because you’ll spinout. The cars in this game have a sense of power, once you get past the Whelen races.

Speaking of power, the graphics aren’t too shabby for a current-generation racing game. The road is covered with lines of rubber strips filling holes. Spectators flash their cameras from the crowd. If you crash into a wall at full-speed, you’re going to notice visual damage to the car. As you’re driving, pieces of your car might fly off; and don’t think it won’t affect you. You can run over debris on the track.

The other game modes include split-screen multi-player, an online mode, season, and a few others that I’ll go into more detail. Dodge Speedzone will be the first. In this mode you’ll have passing levels (try to pass as many cars on the track in x laps), blocking levels (try to prevent other drivers from passing), drafting levels (share draft with driver to earn respect), and time trials (go for the best time). The Dodge Challenge gives you a video interview, and then asks you to either rewrite or replay history. Take first as Jeff Gordon or hold it without being a reckless driver.

For a game all about making left turns (there’s actually a track that makes right turns), I sure found myself having a good time. I know the long hours that I invested would have been better spent on homework, but this game tends to suck you in. You’ll get to where you’ll need to practice before you try to qualify, then if you’re like me (an aggressive driver), you’ll go all-out on the track when the checkered flag is waved. There are autograph mini-games, fantasy sports on your cell phone, and a hero/villain system that are determined by your actions on the race track. Whether you’re a fan of NASCAR or a casual watcher of the ‘sport’, NASCAR 06: Total Team Control will likely have you hooked for weeks.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9.5
Final: 8.7
Written by Kyle Review Guide