Need for Speed: ProStreet

2008-12-07 21:54:08

Need for Speed: ProStreet(Xbox360)

I've been a long time fan of the Need for Speed series, playing all of them except the original, Hot Pursuit 2, Underground 2, and Carbon. I even played the rediculously shitty Underground 2 on the Nintendo DS.

If you think that Raging Geek is a FPS Snob, you should hear him go on and on and on about how he loathes to play racing games on his console, mostly because he swears by his ACT Labs Force RS system, a 129 dollar PC racing product that is Belt Driven Force Feedback, 9 buttons, paddle shifting, pseudo-leather wrapped wheel.

I watched the game evolve from cartoony graphics and small list of cars in NFS2, to Chromed sports cars with police scanners and radar detectors in out of the way woodland environments in NFS3: Hot Pursuit, which is also our first brush with the law. NFS4:High Stakes arrived later with vehicle damage and pink slips. NFS:Porsche unleashed was the first in the series to no longer carry a sequel number, and also a complete retool of the car handling physics, and strangely for the series, be completely focused on 1 car brand.

I really think that Geek liked NFS Hot Pursuit best because the lack of vehicle damage, I've seen him race in that game and if he was in a real car, his ass would be flipped over and dead by now. Probably also why he has never really beaten 4 or Porsche.

NFS returned to it's previous success with a sequel of a sequel no less NFS:Hot Pursuit 2(which I assume they're glad they dumped the initial numbering scheme otherwise we'd be looking at NFS5:HP2) The cops are back, although the helicopters dropping explosive barrels seems a little too arcadey for most gearheads.

Exploding barrels? I mean seriously I'm sure if that was even remotely realistic we'd be hearing about the lawsuits on the news from guys outrunning the cops and receiving shrapnel and burns to their body.

Soon after Fast and the Furious came out we began to see tuning and mod communities flourish and what better way to capture that than in game? NFS:Underground was the first of these with it's ability to mod your cars with aftermarket parts to gain the edge on your opponents, and to paint and modify your cars appearance with spoilers and hood modifcations as well as vinyls and sponsor stickers. This was the first of the games to bring us the Drag and Drift gameplay types, and lead us into Underground 2.

No one can miss the fact that Fast and the Furious completely changed the design path EA took from now on. That movie has made it's mark in so many ways.

Underground 2 brought us a new dynamic in that Free Roam came to be. Instead of clicking in a menu for the race you wanted to be in, you drove to the race, on the streets of a virtual city. Free Roam was a powerful new feature and was generally welcomed by most. It became an integral part of the next 2 games in NFS lineage.

Free Roam I have to admit is a very powerful thing, it changes the game from a click and race, to something more visceral. Instead of feeling like I'm driving a car in small bursts, I'm spending all of my gameplay time in the car, unless I'm in the garage. and even then, I have to drive there. So suddenly I'm driving a car through a realistic city, and it must have put quite a burden on the map designers as now their generic racetracks had to match up with something more, they had to fit into the city, so the player could revisit the course without being in the race event, maybe to do some practicing.

After Underground 2 hit the scene we finally saw what I believe to be the greatest culminating point for the franchise. Most Wanted. NFS:Most Wanted features the best of everything that ever was NFS. It has Free Roam in a city that has weather effects, and suburbs, downtown, seaside, woodlands, and a highway to work with. It has a wide array of cars and all the tuner mods from the previous games. The police are out in force, and there's actually a storyline in this game.

I have to apologize in advance for what you are about to endure. Geek is going to go on a bender about his favorite NFS game of all time, and ironically enough it's one he hasn't played on PC!

The story in Most wanted was that you were some underground racing prodigy, and some guy fucked up your ride before a race and caused your car to become a mass of scrap metal just before you could beat him in a race. He played dirty and got away, and is surrounded by a posse known as the Blacklist. You have to race and beat each of the blacklist members before you're given a shot at the head dog, the guy who screwed with your ride. In addition to this the cops are riding your ass as well, and will be trying to keep tabs on you.

The game really did bring all the elements of the older games together, and thus it does kind of make it a defining game, but I think he should also consider Carbon since it is similar and brings in muscle cars(which I prefer).

Carbon built on Most Wanted by allowing use of old school muscle in addition to new age tuner cars, and placed it all in a night time setting. It also brought in Auto-mold, the ability to morph your cars looks like putty.

I'm sure you all are wondering at this point why I'm filling your head with the history of NFS? because as my regulars might already know, with sequels it's important to know the games past before you can really appreciate what a massive pile of steaming shit the current iteration is.

If you were to pick up NFS:ProStreet without even glancing at reviews or the back of the box, as fanboy players might do(I mean if you liked the last 10 iterations why not buy the 11th? it's Maddenology 101!), what would you expect out of ProStreet? I tell you what I'd expect, only the best stuff to be continued. Free Roam, Tuning, it says ProStreet on it so maybe there'll be some legit racing on real life streets rented out for the event. I dunno, just about anything that is opposite of what ProStreet really is?

And what this means is that you should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS read the box before making a purchase, This is the equivelant of buying the 3rd Ninja Turtles movie and expecting Secret of the Ooze. Sometimes companies makes mistakes, we can only hope EA puts us back on the right path.

It's become apparent, and maybe is because of all the writer strikes recently, but EA has seemingly given up on doing any real storywork or hell even research into their own past. ProStreet is the equivelant of NASCAR for tuners. ProStreet has as much to do with street racing as NASCAR has with "stock" cars.

Anytime to take Pro of anything, you're gonna lose sight of what made the product good. Major League Gaming? is all about scrimmaging and playing specific maps with only the best loadouts, no room for craziness or creativity. Pro Magic the Gathering? collect the most broken cards of a series and use them or you will lose. ProStreet? take out the exhiliration of dodging traffic and avoiding police for the safety of a balanced ruleset and isolated racetracks.

You start off driving a 240SX in an event as a guy named Ryan Cooper. This is your character throughout the game, you don't pick the name, you just have to deal with it. You would think that EA would've at least put in the option to model your face of your character if they were gonna stick you with a shitty stock name right? nope, you wear a helmet. I guess you're the most safety minded individual in the game since your the only one who does wear a helmet. Keep in mind EA has face editing software in almost every sport type product they own. Why not use it here instead of keeping our face inside a shitty looking helmet. Especially considering we're wearing a helmet, but also cargo pants and a tshirt. I figure if you're gonna wear a helmet, you'd also wear a fireproof suit right? Not here apparently, this is bizzaro world, where a helmet is the only protection you need(well at least from seeing your own ugly face maybe.)

The lack of a face generator in this day and age is upsetting, but I understand the helmet as they want you to imagine yourself behind the visor. It does look overly bulky however.

Once you own people in the original race some real life tuner champ says the scene is going to shit because they're gonna let you join the scene and tears off in a cloud of smoke. The announcer(which sounds identical to the guy they used in Skate, I'm almost certain it's the same Black Box EA employee doing it and he sounds like a complete dufus.) then talks about the Drama and tells you not to worry about it. I don't know what the deal is with EA these days making the announcers your buddy. But they seem to make it appear that you and the announcer know each other, without giving you much other details about it.

I don't know if street announcers all sound like whack jobs but the guy they used for skate/ProStreet sounds like a dufus, and almost like he's trying to hard to act purposefully like a dufus, and of that, I don't know which is worse.

Enter Battle Machine, the first series of race days. Basically you progress through a series of race days which include anywhere from 4-10 events per day in order to accrue cash, and rep to advance to the "showdown" where you take down one of the 4 showdown kings, which eventually allows you to face the dude who spat in your face at the beginning of the game. The miniboss idea is a fairly standard cliche in the game world, and acceptable for the most part, the annoyances aren't with the plot so much as the details.

First of all there is no free roam, the idea here is that you take your cars on a trailer to the events my guess is, since you tune your various cars specifically for different types of events. There are 4 event types in this game. Drift, Drag, Grip, and Speed Attack. At the time of this writing I have not yet approached a Speed Attack race, but I understand the rest. So now we're back to menu filled screens to pick which races to do.

Going back to menus does detract from the immersion, maybe if they instead had a free roam walk mode, where you could walk to each opponents tent in the event and look at their cars, and go to race sign up NPC's to register your ride for the event. That would be 100x more awesome than climing a menu tree.

Cars and Tuning are back, and you can save "blueprints" which are basically up to 4 configurations of the same car for that given setup. 1 Caveat however. If you want to turn your Cobalt SS from Drag into a Grip car, you lose ALL of your blueprints. Why? why not save those configs as well for that car on my immensely huge Xbox 360 HDD? there's no reason why it should delete blueprints when I switch types, it should just keep those stored in a file and if I change my car back to Drag, viola! my blueprints are back. Nope, now I just get to waste time if I'm an indecisive prick or want to test something out. At least they have the small sense to warn you that they'll be gone.

The fact that it deletes your blueprints when you change a car mode makes it almost 100% likely that nobody will swap a car to a new racetype, simply because the complexity of the custom tuning. Of course there may be some that just hit auto-tune and go, and those people might, but they're not the biggest obsessed fans of the genre, and so they shouldn't be the aim of the way things work.

The settings inside the game are all the same, you have dusty cliffside roads, or clean pristine roads surrounded in concrete embankments with dusty cliffs in the distance. My friend who has actually wasted his time beating this game has confirmed that this does not change throughout the gameplay. Almost every single NFS game in history of the genre at least mixed up the surrounding scenery? why is ProStreet so limited? we're talking next-gen technology here.

3 words, Lazy Art Department. there are a total of like 4 NPC models for people walking around the tents at the events, and 1 race atmosphere, desert. Apparently all EA cared about here was modelling the cars and the vinyl options.

Also when upgrading your car you have the option of purchasing the upgrades with "cash"(indicating race winnings) or Microsoft Points. For those of you blind to the marketplace blade of your 360's, Microsoft Points is the Euro of gaming. It's an invented currency that is only good for 360 purchases, and roughly translates into 6.25 per every 500 points you buy. Amazing that EA has found yet another way to siphon money from their customer base. By allowing people who can't stand grinding the same race series over and over and over again to buy their way out of it. for 110 MSP (About 1.38 cents per purchase) you can just buy with real money your virtual mods for your virtual racer. Not only is this a cheap way to make a buck a purchase, but provides a way for players who have the money to outcompete players who don't waste money on virtual mods. So basically the people on the top of the leaderboards online is likely to be the player who spent the most real money on virtual commodities. I loathe that because I'm not one to give into consumerism and just hand people my hard earned money for a virtual trinket that carries no outside value.

Paying for virtual property is pretty commonplace for gaming communities anymore, it doesn't mean we have to like it, but in this bend the audience this damages are the competitive types so I'm not too worried about it, at least not as much as buying WoW Gold hurts the playerbase by increasing gold farming.

Obviously the lack of free roam also means no cop pursuits, so what we are left with is pure racing environment with a million advertisements swimming all over it, vehicle damage and a cliche story. NFS used to be about dodging oncoming traffic as well as your fellow racers, outrunning the law, and driving overpriced race cars around suburbia. Basically every teenager/middle-agers dream. Instead we've got boiled down racing, which if we want to do that why not buy something more renowned for being a race sim? like Forza? or Gran Turismo? Sorry EA, NFS fans aren't simulator fans and making a simulator game takes the NFS out of Need for Speed.

This is a major point here, NFS has never been in the simulator market, people who want pro racing typically jump on GT or Forza, NFS is for the class of people who like some realism, but not so much as to make the game unfun. This game just comes out dry because of the path the games were taking before this installment.

Basically ProStreet feels really boiled down, like a copy-paste job where all the good bits got lost in the clipboard. No free roam, a lame backstory, inability to name your character, the announcer sounds like the same announcer from skate, and you have a game that feels out of place with the likes of Carbon, Most Wanted, Hot Pursuit, and Underground. Need For Speed has always been about dodging traffic, cops, and driving on real streets. ProStreet is all about the Pro and nothing about the Street. 4 out of 10 for this game, it sickens me that EA would do this to a game I've followed from my youth.

I agree with most points of Geek's review, however I give this game a 6/10 for doing what it does rather well, and it captures the ProStreet gaming fairly well, buying virtual property is reprehensible to me, the game doesn't follow logical path from the previous NFS titles so it's most likely to be overlooked by the kinds of people who like this type of product. So I think it misses the mark in a few areas, but technically, well built.