Drivers, Start your Engines!

For most, the closest they may ever come to the thrill of driving a NASCAR around a track at neck break speeds is watching others do it on television.  Well, with EA Sports NASCAR: Chase for the Cup 2005 video game we all can get a little bit closer to the drivers seat.  The newest offering from EA Sports and the exclusive consol game of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Chase for the Cup adds new features to past staples to create a great all around racing game.


One of the key features found in Chase for the Cup is the expansive career mode called Race to the Top.  In this mode you create your own driver then race your way all the way to the Nextel Cup Championship.  To get to the top is no easy task though.  You have to start all the way at the bottom racing in the NASCAR Featherlite class.  If you're good enough you can move your way up to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Busch Series, and finally the Nextel Cup.  If that isn't enough, you can take time to race in the production races in a Dodge Viper or the stylish Ford GT 40 and many others.  Chase for the Cup is also the only game to include the brand new championship point system being used in real life on the NASCAR circuit.


With so many racing series to dabble in, EA already had what many hard-core NASCAR fans were looking for, racing, racing, and more racing.  Well, the good times don't stop there.  Chase for the Cup offers a ramped up grudge and alliance system.  Adding an "intimidation" function, which allows you to draft super-close to the rear bumper of the car in front of you, and a running hero/villain tally based on how you race allows you to build a reputation throughout your career.  Be careful though, if you are like me and think rubbing is racing, you may find yourself being challenged after the race!


In addition to punking your opponents on the track, Chase for the Cup also brings an expanded managerial system to the game.  You can now manage drivers, pit crews, races, and if you have the cash to, you can have teams in every class racing to bring home the bacon, all for you.


If for some reason you don't want to make a career out of racing, that's ok too.  Chase for the Cup offers other options to get your racing fix.  In the "Lightning Challenge" mode you can participate in some of NASCAR's greatest moments, only slightly modified to give you a chance.  If you are finding yourself at the end of the long line of finishers at the end of races then you can shoot over to the "Speedzone" mode and practice various skills of racing such as passing, blocking, or drafting.  Chase for the Cup also includes a mode that features the new championship point system in NASCAR that pits drivers against each other over the course of the last ten races of the year with each driver separated by 5 points each to start.  You can pick your opponents or let the CPU do it, then race for the cup!  Chase for the Cup also allows you to race a full, user customizable season in any of the four series offered.  


If you have this game for Playstation 2 or Xbox you can play online.  Online play offers the option of playing in four player racing with a full field of AI racers. If youa re lucky your opponents may include the likes of NASCAR pro's, or at least your neighbor nest door.


As far as the technical aspects of the game go, they are the same high quality that anyone would expect from an EA Sports game.  The audio is offered in Dolby 5.1 and roars and squeals as you charge your way around the track.  The graphics are supplied by a very capable graphics engine that offers highly detailed visuals of everything from the Turn 4 wall at Daytona Speedway as you rocket past or the face of your hated rival, say Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart, as they berate you for taking them out.  The physics of the game play aren't quite Gran Turismo A Spec quality but they are good enough, especially with the great settings feature that allow you to change your car for each race and track.  Add that to the fact that it is offered on all three next generation systems and this game once again meets EA Sports high standards of technical quality. 


Well, we're finally at the finish line, and in this reviewer's opinion NASCAR: Chase for the Cup 2005 wins as a great all around game that features great graphics and sound, numerous features, and is suitable for the craziest fan or the casual gamer.  Start your engines indeed!  

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