Yes, I know that a lot of people think NASCAR is the left-turn sport, but if they would sit down with NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup for a few hours they would realize that the game and the sport is a lot more than that. NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup is probably one of the most thorough and complete racing games I have played. Not only does it let you race as a driver in the Featherlite Modified, Craftsman Truck, National (Busch), and Nextel Cup series, it also lets you buy a team, after you earn enough money as a driver, and manage all the ins and outs of owning a racing team.
So, in-between racing, qualifying, and practicing you will be signing autographs via a mini-game, setting souvenir prices, choosing your team’s colors, car’s paint scheme, and sponsors on top of tweaking your cars settings to your liking. But, if you don’t want to do all of that then you can just choose to be a driver, pick what team you want to race for, and focus on becoming the champion of all four series.
As a driver in the Fight to the Top mode you will start your career in the Featherlite Modified series and as you win races you will be asked to drive in test sessions for other teams from the other series. If they like what they see then they will ask you to sign a contract to drive their NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Busch or Nextel Cup rides. You can actually participate in multiple series at the same time. If there is a schedule conflict though, you will lose that race automatically unless you are the owner of your own team and hire a driver to race for you at one of the events. Electronic Arts has pretty much covered every aspect of NASCAR in this game and it should keep you busy for a long time.
EA has also done a great job with the graphics in the NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup. You will be racing against 42 other drivers on the track at the same time with little to no slow down even when all the cars are on the screen at once. You will also not see any pop-ups or if they do occur you will be too busy trying to pass everyone or avoiding a wreck to even notice. I know I didn’t notice any after many hours of playing the game. NASCAR 2005 does have some anti-aliasing problems so expect to see some jaggies and a little bit of shimmer but neither are that bad and they don’t take away from the game at all. Your car also takes damage and you will see the dents and things like your bumper hang off scrapping on the ground causing sparks in real-time. The damage also affects the handling of the car if you have that option turned on, so you will want to keep the bumping and banging to a minimum.
I know people say “Rubbing is racing” but the more you do it the more damage you will do to your car and your respectability. This leads into the Intimidator Control that has you gaining allies and rivals throughout the race. You will become a hero or villain depending on if you help other drivers by being a drafting partner, banging them out of the way or intimidating them causing them to make a mistake. The more you play nicely the more Hero points you will gain and this will help you gain respect from the other drivers and they will help you draft. But, if you play the bad guy and knock everyone out of the way you will earn Villain points that increase your ability to intimidate people on the track, but you may get an ear-full after the race from the driver you intimidated. This is a cool feature in NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup and adds a lot of variety to the game. I know that I had a hard time not bumping people to gain positions in a lot of the races, so I ended up being more towards the villain side of the spectrum even though I was trying to play nicely.
Speaking of playing nicely, the game’s controls and gameplay are really nice and intuitive. You will have no problem getting accustom to the controls and button layout, especially if you have played other racing games in the past, since the controls are very similar. NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup controls very well and gives you multiple levels of driving assistance. You can play the game where it controls the braking and other things and all you have to worry about is steering and accelerating or you can handle the braking also but have other assist options turned on. Lastly, you can turn all the assistance off and fine tune your cars settings to get the handling exactly as you want it. You can also race using an automatic or manual transmission. I tried the game with the standard Dual Shock 2 controller and the Logitech Driving Force Pro steering wheel and enjoyed it with both controller types and have no complaints with either.
Good thing the controls are good in NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup because you will need them in all the different modes of play. I have already mentioned the Fight to the Top mode where you start off in the Featherlite Modified series and progress through until you win the Nextel Cup championship, but there are a decent amount of other modes to also keep you busy. The first one is the Chase for the Cup mode where you participate in 10 races following the new Nextel Cup rules introduced in 2004 to determine the champion of the series. Another mode is the Season where you race an entire season in any of the four NASCAR series available in the game. Lightning Challenge is another mode that is available that allows you to relive some of the greatest moments of the 2003 NASCAR season. Speedzone lets you practice specific skills like passing, blocking, and drafting. There is also the standard Race Now mode that lets you race a single race of your choosing in any of the series. Production car races are also available in NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup that allow you to race Dodge Vipers, Ford GTs, Chevy Corvettes, and other production cars and trucks in road coarse races. These races remind me of the Need for Speed series for some reason and they were a nice touch to break up the standard stock car racing.
You can also play NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup in multiplayer mode on and offline. Offline multiplayer mode lets you race one other person or three other people if you have the Multitap via split-screen. You can race in any of the series and enjoy beating and banging your friends around the track. Online multiplayer mode allows you to race up to 3 other people online with the other 39 drivers computer controlled just like offline multiplayer mode. You can also check out the leaderboards to see where you rank and track your online racing career. So, once you finish all the offline modes there are still more people to race and records to beat online.
Vinyl records are no longer around since they have been replaced by CDs these days, but if you like the music in NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup you can buy it on CD at your local record store. Featuring rock music from Foghat, Papa Roach, Atomship, Submersed, Magna Fi and more, Electronic Arts has once again decided to go with licensed songs for the NASCAR 2005’s soundtrack. All of the music is decent in my opinion but if you don’t like rock music or these bands then you might want to turn the soundtrack off. Actually, you won’t here the music that much anyways if you play the game in its default sound settings mode. The default sound mode does not have any music during the races and instead you hear your spotter telling you if you are doing good or bad and if any cars are around you. The voice acting in the game is really good and there is enough variety in your spotters statements that it doesn’t get repetitive where you get sick of listening to him. EA also got Michael Waltrip to do some interviews for the game and NBC Sports, Bill Weber, to do the announcing in the game for that authentic sound and it works really well.
The sound effects in NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup are also very well done and you will be able to hear the roar of your motor as you fly around the track at close to 200MPH. You will also hear the crunch of metal and screeching of tires when things don’t go as expected. With the good voice acting for your spotter and announcers, plus the great sound effects EA Sports has hit the nail on the head with this part of the game too.
What can I say? NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup is one of the best racing games I have ever played. Yes, I am a big NASCAR fan and if you like NASCAR, I definitely recommend the game because you will not be disappointed. If you are not a NASCAR fan then you should at least rent this game, because I think a few hours with it and you will realize that racing three wide at close to 200MPH takes more skill than you would think. Plus, with the road courses and production vehicle races there are more than just left-turn oval tracks to race on. With great graphics, sound effects, voice-acting, replayability, gameplay, and controls, plus decent rock music NASCAR: Chase for the Cup takes the checker flag in 1st place.
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