NASCAR: Chase for the Cup 2005™
Developer & Publisher: EA Sports
Game Rating: E (Everyone)
Release Date: 8/10/2004
$49.99 / $9.99: Game Stop Roseville 6/17/2007
Last year’s EA stock car offering, Developer & Publisher: NASCAR Thunder™ 2004, was an impressive achievement that set several benchmarks for success, most notably the aggressive and popular grudge system, which gave AI racers the ability to remember when you screwed them over, and get back at you in a later race down the road. Stellar, shiny graphics and an incredibly robust career mode were dampened, however, by the lack of online multiplayer support. With NASCAR® 2005: Chase for the Cup™, EA Sports has embraced Xbox Live® and rebuilt last year’s game from the asphalt up. This is the deepest, fastest, craziest NASCAR racer yet.
You will see the changes in NASCAR 2005 right from the start, when you are matched with your first pro racer on the streets of a large metropolitan city. Wha—? Street racing in a NASCAR title? See, I told you things changed. Yes, you start off this game (and your new NASCAR career) with a flat-out street competition against Ryan Newman, Viper against Viper. Once you beat him in this short, exciting race, he’ll give you a call on your handy cell phone (NASCAR racers can get your phone number even if you’ve never met them—now that’s power). Get used to the phone; it’s going to be the main interface for various elements of your Fight to the Top career.
So if Fight to the Top is the career/owner mode, what’s Chase for the Cup? Simply the best re-creation yet of the real NASCAR tournament system (and the first Xbox® version of the new NASCAR point system the pros use). This ten-race championship mode gets its own separate game mode, or you can play it as part of the Fight to the Top mode. You get four authentic racing series to compete in, including the NASCAR Busch series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Featherlite Modified Series (probably the first one you'll race in), and the biggest competition of them all, the NEXTEL Cup Series.
As we have already mentioned, one of the coolest aspects of NASCAR 2004 (since it lacked Xbox Live) was the competitive feel of the grudge system. And really, wasn’t it about time the AI racers started fighting back? They’ve been taking heat from this reporter since the days of Night Driver, so one figures they’ve earned the right to go after you, right? One problem — this system was really hard on new players, since even the slightest unintentional bump could transform Dale Earnhardt, Jr. into a mobile engine of bloody-minded vengeance. Fortunately for the innocent, doe-eyed ranks of NASCAR fandom, you’ll largely get to settle these feuds off the track, in street races just like the one that got you into this business. Better yet, you now have a lot more control over creating rivalries thanks to the intimidation button — if you hit this button when you’re drafting behind another racer or slamming into his bumper, he’s more likely to get ticked off. This means the noobs can avoid the hate, and veterans will have more control of their favorite rivalries.
Die-hards needn't worry that things have been dumbed down too much or de-NASCAR-fied, because the hardcore racer now has even more options for tweaking individual cars and their own self-created teams. Xbox Live play means you’ll be able to take on other online racers and their own teams in 44-car blowouts that let up to four gamers compete online in one race. We’ll have more details on all Xbox Live brings to NASCAR 2005 in an upcoming article, but, suffice to say, EA Sports and Xbox Live are going to bring great things to the world of online stock car racing, with all the trimmings.
Racy Career Mode: NASCAR Culture Injected
NASCAR is a bit of an enigma in the popular sport consciousness of America. It isn't typically spoken in the same breath as the NFL, NBA, MLB, or even the PGA. At the same time, when can you last recollect seeing a race on TV and not seeing the stands packed to absolute capacity with fans that rival the frenzied best of any sport. They—and by they I mean the millions that follow and care for the sport—could rival the most ardent fans of the big three (football, baseball, basketball) when it comes to a thirst for the sport and all things authentic to represent it.
NASCAR® 2005: Chase for the Cup™ is Electronic Arts' (EA) answer to these fans. EA has realized that the wants and needs of NASCAR fans vary a bit from the typical sports fan. Whereas a die-hard Madden fan may want a bigger scope in the playbook, a wider variety of animations, or more control of their favorite team in franchise mode, much of what drives a NASCAR fan is the culture of the sport itself. Yes, the accuracy and authenticity are equally important, but there is an attitude that is specific to NASCAR. It’s this addition of NASCAR culture to an incredibly deep and feature-rich career mode that helps put NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup into a league all its own. Need further proof? Here are a few examples.
A Lucky Encounter
When you first select the Fight to the Top career mode, you’ll be greeted with an opening cinematic. You’ll see yourself driving a sleek-looking Viper down the roadway, jamming to a little music and glancing over at a racing magazine. When you pull up to a stop light, another Viper appears next to you. You glance over and what do you see but race car driver Ryan Newman challenging you to a street race. If you win, Ryan recognizes your natural gifts as a wheel man and offers to get you started in the industry.
The Long Journey
But, do not think that, just because you got lucky against a pro, you’ll be catapulted to the big leagues in a hurry. No way.Chase for the Cup takes its career mode seriously. Rookies have to pay their dues, so by participating in what many think of as the minor leagues of racing. You’ll be competing in the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds, Craftsmen Trucks (yes, you’ll be racing trucks, too), and the Busch Series. Of course, if you do well in these leagues, you’ll eventually be able to try your hand in the NEXTEL Cup Series.
Villain or Hero
This little feature bears a lot of resemblance to recent wrestling games. Wrestlers are generally thought of as a “heel” (bad guy) or “face” (good guy). Similarly, racers can be thought of the same way. Do you race dirty, bumping and nudging people (using the intimidation button) when it’s uncalled for and generally ignoring race etiquette? If you do, chances are your fellow drivers and racing fans will treat you like the evil driver you are. It might win you a few races, but it might also create several rivalries.
Your rivals tend to take things very personally, and they’ll be gunning for you out on the track. They won’t necessarily try to run you off the road, but they will make your racing life difficult. It is always a trade-off ,though. If you ride real nice-like, you may get taken advantage of by some of the more mean-spirited, win-at-all-costs drivers on the circuit.
As Involved as You Want to Be
You will also have an opportunity to get as involved as you would ever want to be in the behind-the-scenes aspect of the racing world. You can sign contracts to race for other owners or even buy a whole racing team with your winnings. With a whole team under your wing, you can dabble in Research and Development, twiddle with your pit crews, and even hire computer-controlled drivers to drive for you. You will be able to enjoy all the perks and frustrations of owning and managing a team.
NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup is about letting you taste the fullness of the NASCAR experience. It’s about the actual races, the alliances and rivalries that are so natural to the sport, the gradual ascent to the top-tier of racing, and managing a team as you see fit. It’s about offering you the NASCAR world and giving you the opportunity to do what you want with it. Touch the broad strokes or dive into the minutiae — it is up to you!
EA SPORTS™ made sure to go the extra mile with NASCAR® 2005: Chase for the Cup™. In addition to all the improvements they made to the game’s look and feel, they also included an amazing amount of depth. The really big news for racing diehards is the fact that Chase for the Cup is the first game to incorporate NASCAR’s new scoring system, but EA went on to include over a half-dozen different modes to test your skills as a driver and owner, with a handful of special races and historical scenarios to keep your eyes glued to the road.
Fight to the Top
Fight to the Top is the game’s career/story mode which casts the player as an up-and-coming driver. After you impress Ryan Newman in an impromptu street race, you are given the chance to compete in real NASCAR events like the Featherlite Modified Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on your way up to the all-important NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. As you win races and progress through the game, you’ll build up skill points, cash, and prestige (as either a hero or villain) that will affect how sponsors, fans, and other racers treat you on and off the track. Once you’ve made your mark, you can choose to continue as a driver, become a driver/owner who manages the men and machines on an entire racing team, or combine both elements (though this takes careful contract management, since you can't play both roles in the same series of races). As a driver, you can improve your skills and win races, but as the driver/owner you can manage your team to make the big bucks as well as achieve victory and glory. The owner/driver also has to manage the media and contract negotiations, but both drivers and owner/drivers have to deal with the enemies and allies made during each race—AI drivers will help or hinder you throughout the season based on how you treat them on the track.
Chase for the Cup
An offshoot of Fight to the Top, Chase for the Cup mode lets you make the same driver and driver/owner decisions, but only for the intense final 10 races of the season. You can take part in the Chase as a normal course of events during your Fight to the Top, or you can play the Chase as its own separate challenge. When you do this, each driver is separated by five NASCAR points with ten races left to go. It’s your job as the driver or driver/owner to see that your car and your team earn the championship cup.
If you don’t feel like Fight to the Top or Chase for the Cup hold enough drama for you, you can always take on one of the Lightning Challenges. Each of these races recreates a real historical situation from NASCAR’s colorful past, and puts you in charge of rewriting history. Sometimes you’ll have to win a race by holding off Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, or Bobby Labonte without the historically accurate benefit of a yellow flag or Labonte’s empty gas tank. Each Lightning Challenge is unique, with careful instructions that lay out the scenario and how you are supposed to achieve it. Each also pays off with Skill Points that you can use to unlock new cars, tracks, and other goodies.
Novices and veterans alike will appreciate the Dodge Speedzone, a series of skill challenges that players must master. The preset challenges can, for example, require you to pass a certain number of cars within the time limit without taking too much vehicle damage or falling below a certain speed. Other challenges include blocking tests, drafting tests, and time trials.
NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup also supports multiplayer races (two-player splitscreen and four-player online via Xbox Live®) and lets you participate in any of the NASCAR series directly from the main menu. With this much action, this is one chase that will be on for quite some time.
Electronic Art's new Xbox Live®-enabled pro-racing spectacular, NASCAR® 2005: Chase for the Cup™, is packed with more in-depth features and nuts-and-bolts control options than you might think. This is not Project Gotham Racing®-style street racing with tricked-out rides, but your ability to modify every last detail of how your car races—and how freakin’ cool it looks while you do race — is much deeper than you might have expected. EA has taken their character creation model and applied it across the board, giving you four different looks, or schemes, for each of the four racing classes. And, now, I proudly (and a bit sheepishly) present my own design schemes from Chase for the Cup, along with how I built them.
Every aspect of the look of your vehicle and your driver's gear is available for modification. Customization options are broken into three main categories: Graphics, which defines the car's basic paint job style (choose from graphic schemes that add flames, stripes, waves, particle effects, and more); Paint Colors (combine and match colors to suit your preference or the graphics style); and your Sponsors, who label your car (and driver). Get customizing by choosing Custom Car Garage from the Features menu.
Scheme 1: NEXTEL Cup
- Graphics: I went with a Ford Taurus for the basic chassis, despite my father's warnings over the years. The pain scheme is called flames, we’ve got a full set of decals (you can also choose light, none, or medium decals), and the Big Outline look on ol' number 47.
- Paint Colors: Our primary color is a bright yellow, secondary is that bright neon pink, and the highlights are mullet-guy green. Details are bright red, with blue and yellow numbers. Because that whole red-and-orange-flames-on-black look is overrated.
- Sponsors: I'll admit I chose my sponsors on this and the other schemes entirely on aesthetic value—how well do they go with the paint scheme? To that end, our primary hood-mounted sponsor is the Little Trees air freshener, a fine product I endorse in real life, too. We've also got a touch of The Sopranos with the addition of the Waste Management sponsorship and the stamp of the UAW. Not-cho Nachos and Simian's Petting Zoo round out the "companies" who bring you Scheme 1.
Scheme 2: NNS
- Graphics: After the flash of Scheme 1, I went the opposite way with the Ford Taurus from the first scheme in the NNS series, which I nicknamed "the Tuxedo." The simple stripe pattern is called "stripe" (natch). Number 11 fits the stripe-y theme, and no one uses decals on a tuxedo, so there are none here.
- Paint Colors: Black and white, baby. No colors here, except the Goodyear logo on the tires.
- Sponsors: Stylistically, I wanted to go with black and white logos for the black and white tuxedo car, so we've got the sharp-looking Motorola on the hood and tail, Monte Carlo, and the almost impossible-to-spot NASCAR and theglen.com logos.
Scheme 3: Craftsman
- Graphics: Time to leave stock cars behind and move on to stock trucks. This time around, I actually built the entire car blind, navigating the menus with my eyes closed just to see what would happen. The result is the Bars paint scheme on number 55, with a full set of decals.
- Paint Colors: The blind building continued into the paint scheme, and to my surprise (and relief) turned out pretty cool. It's sort of a Joker-style mix of purple and blue-green, with black numbering highlighted with red. I think it works.
- Sponsors: I was most worried about how the sponsors would turn out, but I needn't have been. The Maxell and R. Cranium logos fit the style nicely.
Scheme 4: Featherlite
- Graphics: The blind design was a fun experiment, but I still haven't had a chance to make a scheme that evokes my childhood hero Evil Knievel (look him up, kids. I'm sure he's on the Internet somewhere). The Funnel paint scheme gives us a smooth, 70s look and lays the foundation for the patriotic additions to come. And, nothing's more American than good ol' number 69. There's a full set of decals, though it's hard to tell—this class doesn't use many.
- Paint Colors: As you can see, we used the Fren—er, the American flag as the basis for all the colors. Red, white, and blue, in case you were asleep for civics class.
- Sponsors: Again, I hunted for sponsors that matched up with the color scheme, and in the patriotic world of NASCAR that wasn't too tricky. Wincraft provides splashes of red, and Ron Waste Disposal adds a jazzy flash of white.