NASCAR 09 is the twelfth and final installment in the EA Sports NASCAR series, it is the sequel to 2007 game NASCAR 08. It is developed by EA Tiburon and released on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in North America on June 10, 2008. On March 12, 2008, EA announced Jeff Gordon as the cover athlete for NASCAR 09. Through the career mode, "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup", Gordon leads a mentoring program, a new feature offered in NASCAR 09. In October 2007, Electronic Arts moved the PlayStation 2 game development to a new studio in North Carolina to be able to get better information with the NASCAR teams in an attempt to improve the game. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were still made at the old studio. Due to the development team using certain resources to work on key features in the game, no car manufacturers are present in this year's title. To date, this is the last NASCAR game to be produced by EA, and probably the last NASCAR game for the PlayStation 2, after suffering from slumping sales, the difficulty of installing new features, and the lack of popularity. In 2009, NASCAR Kart Racing was released, replacing any 2009 installment for the annual series. It may be EA's last game before their exclusive license with NASCAR expires. Yet the door to NASCAR games for the PlayStation 2 has been shut, as Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5 was not featured for the sixth-generation console. For game players in Canada, while the game was still released only in English, the instruction manual and box cover were bilingual, with text in both English and French.
Jeff Gordon mentors the player in the new "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" career mode that has a completely revamped 3D menu interface. With Jeff's help, the player signs contracts, builds their reputation, and earns performance points by winning in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (PlayStation 2 only), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. One new feature in NASCAR 09 is "Own The Track". This allows the player to compete against friends or other gamers and own all 22 tracks in the Sprint Cup Series. Also new is the new "Sprint Driver Challenge", in which the player complete challenges in all sorts of situations to earn rep and performance points. In the game there are two driving styles available for the player to choose from: Normal and Pro. The Pro driving style is more suited for experienced players, while the Normal mode is better suited for beginners.
The game also allows the driver to build his own car from the ground up. Over one million setup combinations are available to make the car handle better and run faster. Unfortunately, the PS2 version has the regular setup like NASCAR 08.
Also new to NASCAR 09 is the Paint Booth Customization Feature, similar to Papyrus' NASCAR games. For only the second time in the franchise's history (first appearing in EA's NASCAR Sim Racing for PC), a car customization template is available online which creates endless possibilities for personalization. Players are only able to see their friends' custom designed car skins when racing against them online, not non friends. The online connectivity of Paint Booth allows players to download a car template from EASports.com and import it into editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, giving users a multitude of design options. They can then upload those images into the game and show off their dream machine on the track.
The demo was released on May 29 on Xbox Live and June 5 on the PlayStation Network. Best Buy released the game with a special edition cover featuring Elliott Sadler, who receives sponsorship from Best Buy. Sadler previously appeared on the cover of NASCAR 07. Downloadable content (for money) was added in July 2008; among the content was the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course for the Nationwide Series and new car paint schemes for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide. This content is available for Xbox 360 and PS3 as of August 8. Also, there are three downloadable paint scheme packs that feature special paint schemes for cars already in the game. For example, there is Kyle Busch's Snickers car and Carl Edwards' Aflac and Claratin car in the first pack. They are just like the other cars in the game with no manufactures. They cost 200 MS points on Xbox LIVE as of April 1. It is also available for PS3.
IGN gave the Xbox 360 a score of 6.5/10 and the PlayStation 3 version a score of 5.9/10. The reviewer noted that the overall presentation was lacking excluding Jeff Gordon's green screen mentoring in the game. He was also generally disappointed with the gameplay saying, "The controls are decent, and the Sprint Driver Challenges are quite fun. But the racing itself is a tepid, repetitive experience with no flair". The reviewer also noted that the PlayStation 3 version suffered from texture rips, clipping and slowdown while the Xbox 360 version had a smoother framerate.
X-Play gave the game a positive review giving it a 4/5, praising the graphics, racing, and career mode. But noted that it has a clumsy interface and EA's online policies needed a lot of work. In their video review they said the A.I. is "fairly fair, nothing crazy, just alright".
Future of Series
As of 2009, this is the most recent installment of EA Sports NASCAR Series. Electronic Arts has stated they would not make another title due to slumping sales, lack of popularity, and the difficulty of installing any new features. NASCAR Kart Racing was the only NASCAR-themed game produced by EA for the 2009 season. EA's exclusive license as NASCAR's official video game producer is expected to expire in 2010. The NASCAR license has been picked up by Polyphony Digital for use in Gran Turismo 5, with a trailer shown at E3 2009 displaying NASCAR vehicles racing around Daytona.