I’ve Been Through Detox, but I Can’t Get Rid of my Need for Speed!
Need for Speed was one of those automotive franchises that was really starting to wear out its charm throughout the years. The last entry in the series, Need for Speed: Carbon, definitely left a lot to be desired. Even on the young next-gen consoles, Carbon proved to many automotive fans that their favorite genre was quickly running out of ideas. But the folks over at Black Box and EA have completely overhauled a redesign of the series in the form of Need For Speed: ProStreet. Of course it was a little bit of a gamble, but it paid off in spades. Need for Speed: ProStreet is, to say the least, an awesome game.
First of all, there’s the look of this game. Everything is extremely detailed and brought to life in full HD all the way up to 1080i. The tracks vary considerably in terrain and environment depending on location, and the cars look extremely realistic. One thing that is especially noteworthy is the crash mechanics here. When you bump, crash, or even swipe an object, your car reacts in specific ways. Little pieces of your car will ding, dent, or even fall off. The amazing look of this game is probably the first facet of this game that will impress you. I can honestly say that the Need for Speed franchise can finally compete with the Gran Turismo franchise in terms of overall look. A pretty amazing feat really, when you consider that the Gran Turismo franchise has been leading the way in the automotive genre for the last ten years.
But as amazing as the game looks, the graphical upgrades are really the least of the new features when it comes to overhauled, unique, and impressive features. Need for Speed: Prostreet is really the first game to replicate the world of professional street racing. Sure other games have tried to tackle the “hardcore” or “underground” world of midnight street racing, but Need for Speed: ProStreet proves that legal street racing not only makes a great game, but it’s also extremely fun.
One really unique feature of this game is that its career mode has somewhat of a story to it. You play as a newcomer to the professional street racing scene, and the basic idea here is to work your way up the ranks and eventually challenge the reigning champion, Ryo. To do that, you’ll have to become an active participant in the weekend culture that is professional street racing scene. You’ll participate in a series of race days which will be composed of a number of different racing types.
There are four broad spectrums that the different racing events fall under, with several sub genres under them. Your general arcade-style race is covered by the grip event, which consists of regular grip, grip class, time attack, and sector shootout races. Regular grip and grip class are essentially the same kind of “get to the finish first” type of race: the only difference is that in grip class you race with more advanced racers on the same track as you. It’s important to note, however, that these other racers are not competing with you; they’re just on the same track. Time attack mode challenges you to get the best single lap time. Generally, you’ll get two or three laps to try and get it right, and the good thing is it doesn’t matter where you place in the end, just that you have at least one good run. The last of the grip modes, sector shootout, is pretty unique. Essentially, the track will be divided into four quadrants. Depending on how fast you clear each quadrant, you’ll get a certain number of points. Get the most number of points and you’ll set a record for that quadrant. The idea is to “own” all four sectors for the most amount of points possible.
The next type of race is the drag race. I have to say that I was probably most impressed by this mode because of the level of intricacy it provided. The drag race comes in two flavors: half-mile and quarter-mile, and both require some serious precision driving. When you first begin a drag race event, you have to heat your tires up without overheating. This is accomplished by accelerating just the right amount and balancing the acceleration with your tires’ friction. You are able to see a little gage that has a little green indicator that shows how hard to press the accelerator to balance the friction effectively. But it’s not a matter of just hitting it once, you’ll have to continuously match the acceleration with the friction, and the result is a very challenging burnout device. Once you’re done heating your tires, it’s time to drag. The drag race mechanic is extremely sensitive and relies on two things: your car’s power and how well you can shift gears. There’s no such thing as an automatic is drift mode, so those who avoided the automatic transmission in earlier games (although I don’t know why you would) will have to learn pretty fast how to deal with a manual transmission. One of the best things about the manual transmission in Need for Speed: ProStreet is how responsive the gear shift is. You shift your gears up and down via the right joystick, and the result feels just the same as if you were shifting in a real car.
The third type of race is the speed race. This consists of two different speed-centric races: top speed run and speed challenger. Top speed run is a lot like sector shootout in the fact that it divides the track into sections. After each section, your speed will be measured and added to your score. And as you might expect, the driver with the highest top score is the winner. Speed challenge is a little simpler, and features a very simplistic track that tests how fast you can get from one end to the other.
The last type of event is the obligatory drift event. Luckily, there aren’t too many drift events throughout the game because the whole obsession with drift racing has made for some pretty stale gameplay lately. Unfortunately, the drift mechanic still feels pretty old in Need for Speed: ProStreet. This is really a shame because all of the other modes felt so fresh, but I suppose you can’t win them all can you?
Each race day in the game can be made up of any amount of these events. After winning a certain number of events and accumulating enough points, you’ll win the day. But if that’s not good enough for you, you can also play a little harder and dominate the day. The advantages to dominating the day are pretty sweet; you’ll get access to new prizes, get more unlockable content, and of course, more money. Win and dominate enough events, and you’ll be able to unlock special showdown race days. These are special race days that may feature special competitors or sponsors, and you’ll have to do your absolute best to move on from these! Once you pass through all of these, however, then it’s on to the real challenge: the kings of street racing. There’s a total of five “kings” of the pro-racing scene, one for each mode of racing, and then the overly great Ryo, who seems to be good at almost everything.
Once you’ve cleared the very lengthy career mode, you may want to try your hand at racing online. The online racing system in Need for Speed: ProStreet consists of both ranked and unranked user-created race days. You can either create your own or join someone else’s race day and compete in a variety of events. However, one thing that’s important to note is that you’re not required to complete the race day, and you’re free to leave at any time when you’re not actually racing.
The best feature of Need for Speed: ProStreet, however, is not its awesome graphics, nor its fresh experience. It’s the controls. Automotive game fans the world over know that each series has its own feel to it, and Need for Speed is no different. Control schemes for this series have generally been arcade based and lacked any real depth. However the effort put into the depth of control of this game is very apparent. Each of the four modes of racing controls in subtly different ways, and racing aficionados will definitely be able to tell the difference. The right trigger acceleration is also very responsive without being abrasive, which is quite an improvement considering some other automotive games where the overly-intense acceleration made high-speed turns more difficult then they had to be. And, as I said before, I have to admire the right joystick gearshift. It creates such a realistic experience, and it has enough sensitivity to judge you’re reaction time effectively.
Overall, I really can’t express how pleased I am with this game. The automotive genre has been suffering lately from a veritable plethora of games without much collective substance behind them. It’s pretty easy to become disillusioned with a genre that seems to be stuck in a continuous loop of identical gameplay. But thankfully, Need for Speed: Prostreet has come to the rescue with a whole new look, a whole new control scheme, and a whole new way to race. Thank goodness!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.9 Graphics
Absolutely beautiful; this one can really compete with Gran Turismo for the title of best-looking automotive game. 5.0 Control
Perfect balance of sim-style sensitivity and arcade-style handling. Different control styles for different racing styles are a perfect fit. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Could have used more support in the music department, but the character voiceovers, most notably that of the DJ, sound very believable. 4.7 Play Value
Online modes, a very lengthy career mode, and almost endless customization options give this one extensive replay value 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.