IGN Review of Need for Speed: ProStreet
EA's Need for Speed series has long been an ever-evolving franchise, one that changes up its focus, mechanics and style every couple of years. Though the game sells incredibly well, the developer/publisher doesn't like to sit still. This obviously means that the series has had its ups and downs, and unfortunately Need for Speed ProStreet isn't one of the ups.
ProStreet is a game that doesn't really seem to know what it's trying to be. It's been years since we've seen a Need for Speed title that focused solely on track racing, with the franchise branching out into open world settings with a story, cop chases and all sorts of other things to make it stand out. ProStreet, however, goes back to the track-based racing, putting the player into race after race on closed circuits, and then sending them back to a menu after each race is over.
This setup is perfectly fine and, in this case, does work well to some extent, but there's not really a whole lot of extra "stuff" outside of the races that makes it seem like Black Box had a good idea of exactly what it was trying to accomplish. Yes, the fundamentals are there and the setup does work well, but the bulk of the presentation doesn't feel all that robust, especially when compared to what we've seen in recent years.
As well, the control scheme and arcade vs. sim aspects feel a bit confused. ProStreet adds a ton of great customization options to the franchise, which we'll get to in a bit, but the driving physics are anything but realistic. They're an odd in-between of the two and wind up in some place that really just does not work very well at all. The series has generally had strong racing controls, but those were somehow lost in the latest game.
Most of the cars in the game feel like caricatures of their real-life counterparts, but not in a good way. Most every vehicle drives like a boat and feels very reluctant to want to turn at all. Even vehicles in hardcore driving sims like Gran Turismo turn with much greater ease than most any of the vehicles found here, and yet the game isn't even trying to be ultra-realistic.
A few of us around the office drive some of the cars that you'll find in the game, like a 2007 Civic Si (which is identical to the '06 in the game) and a 2006 Pontiac GTO, and none of them handle anything like the real deal. ProStreet's version of the GTO barely turns at anything above 30mph, and doesn't really instill any sense of its 400hp engine. The real Civic Si is a nimble little car, but ProStreet's Si feels very top-heavy and slides around corners like they're covered with ice.
And though we don't drive every car in the game, it's clear that most of them, if not all, do not drive like what we would expect from the real thing. It's sad, too, because this one, huge fault brings down a game that would otherwise be fairly solid.
Though there's not a lot of pizzazz and whatnot to it as we mentioned before, the Race Day progression does offer up a nice assortment of race events for you to partake in. Each Race Day features a handful of events -- be they grip races, drag races, sector challenges or what have you -- and pretty much all of them are good fun.
Drag races start out with a mini-game where you heat up your tires before heading to the line, and then it's all about timing your shifts, using your nitrous at the right time and keeping your car in a straight line, which can be tricky when you get to the really fast cars. The tire heating mini-game can get a little old, especially since each drag race event has three runs, so you'll play the game three times in the span of a couple minutes, but it's fun to try and shave a couple hundredths of a second off your time by getting a perfect start.
The Sector Shootout challenges can be fun, but there were a few occasions where we had problems with the driver AI and the basic setup for the event. The idea is that the track is broken into a number of sectors, and if you can post the best time for a sector you'll score points. The score counts down as time rolls on. So if someone scores 350 points on a sector, but then you come through and score 360, you'll add that total to your score. Score less, though, and you'll get zero.
It's a good idea, except that it's fundamentally flawed. You begin in a staggered manner instead of all at once, so the lead car automatically has a chance to set the record for each section and score points. You don't lose any if someone bests one of your times, so the lead automatically has a huge lead. As well, if there are ten sectors on a map, and one car has set the record on all of them, and then you come in and beat nine of those sectors by a small margin, you'll still be way behind because you've gotten zero points for the tenth and the other scores were close enough that it doesn't make up the difference. Had you lost your points when someone else beat your score, everything would have been fine. But as it is, it's fundamentally broken.
The track design is decent, but nothing stands out whatsoever. All of the races take place out in the middle of nowhere on closed-off tracks, so you won't see too many interesting trackside vistas or what have you. They're also all rather flat and most of them lack characteristic turns or sections. They're all different enough that you'll quickly learn the layouts and won't be confused as to what track you're on at the start, but nothing here screams great track design.
The car customization features here are great, however. As with a number of the previous games, you can swap in new visual parts for your car and change in and out internal upgrades that'll boost your performance. What's cool though is that AutoSculpt, which was introduced in last year's Need for Speed Carbon, now actually affects performance. Changing the angle of certain parts will increase or decrease drag, which then has a direct impact on your acceleration, top speed and handling.
As well, you can now tweak a number of settings like shock spring rate, roll, nitrous boost and whatnot to fiddle with how your car will perform. If you don't know what you're doing you can just leave them at the default settings, but these let you go in and mess with the metal if you want to.
The online options also have a cool new component in that while you're perfectly capable of partaking in live races, you can also set up a Race Day for others to race in. The difference here is that it's not a live event, so other players can go in and compete at their own leisure and the person with the most points at the end of the time period wins. You can mix and match any of the event types, lock down the available cars or leave the selection wide open and basically set up the Race Day however you want. It's a great idea that works quite well and allows players from all over the world the ability to compete without having to worry about time zone differences.
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