By on December 15, 2008

Need for Speed Prostreet is a huge departure from the NFS series, featuring only legal racing. That’s right; the ultimate “I don’t wanna grow up” game has grown up. By banishing typical NFS staples – illegality, police chases and near-invincibility – EA Sports has made a serious racing game. Unfortunately, that places ProStreet squarely in the crosshairs of established franchises like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, who’ve cornered the market on “serious racing.” Against this lethal competition, ProStreet falls far short of establishing a beachhead.

The game’s heart is its career mode, which is structured in a series of “Race Day.” Each race day has a minimum point requirement for victory. If you collect enough points after a few races, you don’t need to finish the entire event to unlock more Race Days. However, you can choose to continue an already-won Race Day to collect even more points and earn a “Domination” victory, which unlocks better rewards and gives you more cash.

And so, you go from Race Day to Race Day, unlocking other Race Days. Gone is the “Free Roam” which allows you to meander through the city, exploring the limits of the car or trying to incite the police play bumper tag with you. All the various types of races within each Race Day are standard fare for experienced Xbox racers: straight-up races, time trials, sector shootouts and drag races. The only “free time” allowed is race practice.

It’s not a bad set-up for a pure racing game, but there are many disappointments. Track-based drag racing, for example, is new to the NFS franchise. It was an idea that must’ve sounded cool to a bunch of geeky car/gamer guys sitting around on bean bags, but wasn’t. Each NFS drag race starts with a burnout. The goal: heat your tires by keeping your revs in a specified power band. Do well and you’ll be catapulted at the green light.

From there, drags are ridiculously easy. Time your shifts to claim a victory. Presto. No race lasts longer than 24 seconds. (Surprise!)  In other words, it’s pure tedium; especially since most Race Days include at least one drag event. In comparison to the canyon duels– an innovative wrinkle introduced in NFS Carbon– drag racing is a non-crashing bore.

The other issue with Race Days: car typing. When you buy a ride, you select one type of racing for the vehicle: grip (standard racing), speed, drag or drift. Switching a car from one mode to another deletes all previous tuning. Obviously, some semi-pro racers optimize their cars for one type of event. But forcing gamers to do the same adds little value to the game, and another dollop of ennui. It seems obvious to me that a stock Corvette Z06 would be a competent dragster and time-attacker all at once.

Another unfortunate mystery: why an all wheel-drive (AWD) car can’t enter drift events. Seriously. I can still recall earning the “Drift King” achievement in NFS Carbon with an AWD R34 Skyline, a car known for its ability to drift. Yet in the next game of the series, the car is apparently unable to drift.

On the other hand, ProStreet introduces damage modeling to the series. Not there’s much to it; there three basic states of damage, each of which hampers your performance slightly. And of course, it costs money to repair your car (which you must do at the end of each Race Day). Unfortunately, there’s no distinction as to what’s been damaged (e.g., steering, engine, gearbox) and how each type of damage hinders you.

Forza’s guiding line is shamelessly aped, though ProStreet’s line is nowhere near as accurate. Follow it at your own risk. Most cars handle like buses at any speed above 40 mph. Some car rumps still have that cartoonish jiggle under acceleration. The steering is vague and imprecise as always. Visuals are not much better than Forza Motorsport 2 (released a year earlier) either.

NFS, in any incarnation, has never been a purist’s driving game. As long as it had that taboo underground  feeling, the arcade feel and a city to explore, you’d forgive the unrealistic driving, where brakes are an afterthought and a Viper can hit 120 mph in 1.5 seconds. In a more adult setting, NFS’ driving flaws are laid bare.

And yet someone at EA decided to let NFS step up into the big leagues. Wong answer. Let’s hope EA returns ProStreet to the streets or… no, that’s it. That’s what they need to do.

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11 Comments on “Videogame Review: Need for Speed ProStreet...”

  • avatar

    “Drag racing, new to the NFS franchise”

    They had street drag racing in NFS Underground 1 and 2.

    Does this one force you to make garish visual mods to you car to progress through the game? I always hated that about the Underground games. The other thing I can’t stand is the “rubber band racing” where the AI will cheat you by artificially keeping the race close. I go to Gran Turismo when I want real racing, but I do have fun with the NFS games, especially NFSU2 with the free-roaming environment.

  • avatar

    Good review, Samir. It really does seem to be the most “confused” NFS game so far. Still pretty fun, but the franchise seems lost in the woods all the same.

    Also, High Stakes was the first NFS to feature at least visual damage, IIRC. I think it was also the first to have customization.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    High Stakes may have had visual damage, but it did nothing to the car itself. You could still drive along after ramming a tree so hard that it brought the car to a stop instantly (since trees and other objects were immovable objects). Nonetheless I think it was the zenith of the series, followed by a branded Porsche-fest and then a series of increasingly buggy “so cool it hurts” rice-fests.

  • avatar

    Demetri, you’re right, but in NFS Undercover, there was no warmup sequence.

    Also, High Stakes was the first NFS to feature at least visual damage, IIRC.

    Even up until Carbon, damage in those games was only cosmetic. When this game was being developed, EA’s developers made a huge deal about how realistic the damage would be. It was, to say the least, an utter let down.

  • avatar

    Underground’s slot-racer drags had you avoiding obstacles, jumping jumps and blocking other cars. This one’s an honest-to-goodness straight-up drag. Which is why it’s boring.

    I played ProStreet all of once. It’s completely pointless, simply because it’s no patch on Forza or Gran Turismo, except for drift, and you can’t enter all the cars in drift. Free-roam was the only reason ever to buy NFS Underground 2, Carbon and Most-Wanted (though the city in Most Wanted really wasn’t all that great, and I wish Carbon’s canyons were contiguous with the main-city), and without that, NFS is just another arcade-racer.

  • avatar

    I’ve always felt that the original Need For Speed was the best of the series. The car modeling is actually better than that of every NFS except for “Porsche Unleashed,” the fifth version. It has cops, traffic, and legitimately interesting segment courses. And it’s still fun to play even now, 13 years after it was released. I really wish they’d go back to the original formula.

  • avatar

    well i’m a fan of the NFS franchise, but i must say, as much as i enjoyed the rampaging in the underground and carbon games, nothing comes close to the difficulty and vehicle damage of the NFS 5 Porsche unleashed.

    I havent played pro street yet, but if they are trying to get to GT standards, they have a very long way to go, i’d prefer if they’d stay where they are and keep it fun.

  • avatar

    I’d prefer a lengthy gallery of the girl featured in the cover art. Sorry, but I don’t play these games so that’s the part that interests me. And the box just isn’t enough.

  • avatar

    NickR :
    December 16th, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I’d prefer a lengthy gallery of the girl featured in the cover art. Sorry, but I don’t play these games so that’s the part that interests me. And the box just isn’t enough.

    And also include that RX-7!

    I’m also with you about playing video games. I think my wife was hinting about getting me a Play Station for Christmas, however I just do not have the time anymore. I’d rather spend that money on a real vehicle (like my Jeep).

  • avatar

    Interesting that the “serious” ProStreet can’t hang with Gran Turismo or Forza, especially when you consider that Gran Turismo and Forza are basically arcade games compared to the truly serious simulators such as GTR, Live for Speed, and iRacing.

  • avatar

    im very confused with this. ive read the book and i still cant figure this out. i made a 65 pontiac gto witch is my dream car and i cant even play it. how do i play it??

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