Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: November 15, 2007
Remaining loyal to a video game franchise is like sliding onto a comfy sofa or into a well-worn pair of jeans; you know what you are getting, and it's that knowledge that keeps you coming back for more. As an avid fan of the Need for Speed franchise, I picked up Need for Speed ProStreet for the X360, knowing full well what I'd be getting into ... or did I?
There's a really light storyline here that tries to explain why the protagonist needs to win races and climb up the ranks: He wants to avenge his honor by defeating hotshot Ryo Watanabe, who had maliciously mocked him before their peers.
First and foremost, the graphics in NFS ProStreet are impressive. Normally, photorealistic cars are restricted to the more involved driving simulation titles, like the Forza and GTR series, but NFS ProStreet has its fair share of beautifully crafted vehicles. The game simply looks and performs great; there weren't many frame rate drops, anti-aliasing issues or "jaggies." The scenery also looks good, with the textures being on form and the smoke and dust effects working well. It's not going to teach any lessons to Motorstorm in the graphics department, but it's certainly good enough.
Another welcome addition is a realistic damage model, an aspect that has been sorely lacking from previous iterations. It's impressive to see a bumper hanging on for dear life or a windshield cracking, but the damage also gives you a little something to think about at every turn. You see, in NFS ProStreet, you actually own the cars in your collection, so if you break 'em, you also have to pay for them out of your own wallet. This may seem like a great little touch, but if you aren't careful, your car will suffer and you won't be able to race ... but if you don't race, you can't earn money to fix your cars. Quite the Catch-22. Additionally, since you spend your cash on fixing up the cars that you have, you can't spend your money to obtain new and better vehicles. As in previous NFS titles, you can personalize your vehicles to be more aerodynamic.
Perhaps my biggest gripe is in how the game is laid out. There is a fair amount of gameplay here, and while many people can spend a lot of time simply dolling up their cars, there are quite a few different events in NFS ProStreet in an attempt to keep things interesting. Events include drag racing, drift racing, grip racing and racing between checkpoints — quite literally, "speed" is the name of the game here. The actual races are decently balanced, and the AI is fiendishly apt in some events, but I still felt that the strings you along instead of letting events flow naturally. My favorite is the drag events; if they're done correctly, they'll only last a few seconds.
There are racing days or events you can attend, but there is no provisional track for testing out your cars or taking them for a spin. This, in itself, is another problem, since I really can spend hours painting and decorating the cars; as such, the overly structured and all-too-brief setup of track days seems to be a complete waste of effort. You get to "face off" and have doom-laden showdowns, but I still found the gameplay to be a little too restrictive.
The audio in NFS ProStreet was the biggest selling point for me. You see, I have an unhealthy obsession with 1960s American muscle cars, and this title pumps out every single rumble, squeal and thunderous crash of every car's engine to the point that every race is enjoyable. For anyone with surround sound or a gaming chair, the engine-revving sounds are truly overpowering and immersive. The accompanying commentary is rather annoying, but you can control this by turning it off and cranking up the engine sounds. The audio playlist is somewhat limited, and after a while, you may find that it is a tad on the repetitive side.
On the Xbox 360, you can create your own multiplayer race day by picking a location, race types and even which cars can participate. You can play these race days online in ranked and unranked matches, and while there was some lag, and the racing was a little choppy, it was still very fun. If the single-player mode is anything to go by, though, all of the preparation and setup will only yield 10 seconds of additional gameplay anyway.
The sheer amount of advertisements in NFS ProStreet seems somewhat hypocritical. On the one hand, EA is trying to sell the white-knuckle racing experience to the cool kids, and on the other, I can feel the icy grip of EA's corporate squeeze on the underground "sport" of racing, somehow trying to sanitize it to the point of boredom. In-game advertisements are everywhere you turn in this title; even the achievements are sponsored by auto insurance companies and part manufacturers. An unfair gameplay quirk is that you can use Microsoft points to purchase cars that you have yet to unlock, so as long as you're willing to invest a few more dollars into the game, you can zoom past the early competition.
Need for Speed ProStreet for the X360 marks a return to classic NFS gameplay elements, with the introduction of more realistic damage models. It's certainly a great half of a game; the somewhat limited gameplay aspects, pretty lights and revving engine sounds are good enough to make the title entertaining and fun, but they're not enough to comprise a convincing whole game. Consider it a worthwhile rental, but I'd recommend trying it out before committing to a full purchase.
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