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I like to think of myself as something of a NASCAR fan. I'm no diehard, but I enjoy catching a race every now and again, and I especially enjoyed several of the excellent NASCAR video games produced by EA Sports over the years. In fact, ever since the release of the Wii, I've been eagerly anticipating the console's first title based on the popular stock car racing series. The long wait finally ended on February 10, 2009 with the release of NASCAR Kart Racing, but the end result isn't exactly all I had dreamed of.
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The NASCAR games I knew and loved on the last gen systems were deep and enjoyable sims that would allow you to run every lap of every race in the Sprint Cup series, if you so desired. You could have realistic cars take realistic damage, if you so desired, and could set it up so that you would need to pit just like the actual racers. Of course, you also had the option of turning all that off and doing short races where you could crash all you want, ignore the pits entirely and speed through the entire NASCAR season in a lone afternoon. Sadly, none of those options are available in NASCAR Kart Racing.
So just what is here, you may ask? Well, there are three difficulty levels (rookie, veteran and legend) and the option to use GameCube controllers instead of the Wiimote or Wii Wheel, if you so desire. There is a quick race mode, a challenge mode, as well as best lap, precision driving and distance challenge events. There are speed boosts and various cartoon-style power-ups on the track, you can powerslide, you have buttons for gas and the brake--in short, it's pretty much your typical kart racer. There is one gimmick of note, and that is the ability to draft off a teammate to gain boost and even slingshot your way past the competition. Still, while this is a novel concept, it doesn't make this fundamentally different from other, better kart racers currently available for the Nintendo Wii.
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Graphics and Sound
Visually, I have to admit, I dig the look of the game. The drivers themselves are done up in a caricature style, and their cars have similar paint jobs to the real thing. They don’t look all that bad on the whole. Sound is a different story, though. Every character in the game speaks in sort of a Sims-ish type of gibberish, and the music is so dreadfully dull that is kills any enthusiasm I had for playing this game. Seriously, NASCAR on TV features blaring rock-and-roll. Why wasn't that used here? For that matter, why are there no actual driver voice-overs? Weak effort, EA.
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The one aspect of this otherwise generic kart racer that might get stock car fans pumped up is the list of NASCAR drivers included in the game. You've got many to choose from, including the #24, the #48, Junebug, Smoke, Happy Harvick, Shrub and the King as an unlockable. If you don't know who I'm talking about, they are, in order, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Richard Petty. Then again, if you didn't know what I was talking about you probably aren't really all that interested in a game called NASCAR Kart Racing, now are you?
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As someone who had really been waiting for a decent NASCAR racing game to hit the Wii, I can't properly express just how absolutely crushed I was after playing NASCAR Kart Racing. It's nothing more than a generic kart racer that just happens to star real-life drivers and feature a drafting gimmick that really isn't all that great anyway. As a NASCAR game it pales in comparison to the likes of Chase for the Cup or NASCAR Thunder, and as a kart racer it lacks the personality and online play of Mario Kart Wii. Unless you're an absolute NASCAR junkie, skip this one and hope that next time EA Sports comes through and gives Wii owners a proper stock car racing sim.