Review by Off_da_border
This is probably the first time I can't find a proper introduction to a review, so I'll start by slapping you right on the face with my opinion: The game's a disappointment.
ProStreet is basically some ridiculous attempt by EA to break off the Underground series spree they had throughout the last few games (excluding Most Wanted). Did it go back to Hot Pursuit standards? No, they didn't. Did they go back to the I'm-flooring-it-through-a-highway-with-$300k-worth-of-car standards? No, they didn't either. They made the decision to simply step into new grounds. What EA didn't know is there's a monster inhabiting these grounds, and it's got a name: Gran Turismo.
If there's one thing the game does near perfectly, it's rendering cars and environments properly. Every single car in the game looks excellent, and damage looks more realistic than my wildest imaginations in a video game. Reflections and gloss bend as the body gets damaged, interiors are properly rendered (at least that's how I saw it in the showcase through the glass), most tracks are good eye candy and even people, this is probably the only game where rendered humans don't look like they've been into a dishwasher. They actually look human.
I have a rather good, sub-top-of-the-line laptop, but the game still runs at one option shy of maximum settings. And at these settings, this game really deserves a 10/10 when it comes to graphics, but nothing comes without flaws... and I shall elaborate.
First off, the smoke. EA bragged about the smoke so much (here's a good example of how they focus on the wrong details) I was really expecting some ultra realistic rubber burning action. And what I got was acid rain. By what standards they're calling THIS sorry excuse for a cloud of carbonic acid smoke? It's way too thick to be realistic.
And there's the tracks. I did say a paragraph ago they looked brilliant, but there's a problem: there's very little to look at in the first place. Very few details make up for very bland tracks. Remember Outback, NFS HP2? It had enough off track scenery not only to give you the feel each sector of the track is unique, but also to keep it interesting enough for you to drive on over and over again. That's what NFS needs, more of Outback and less of these rat loops they call tracks in ProStreet.
Bad. Pretty bad. Well, it's got its reasons.
I don't know about you, but EA doesn't exactly suck when it comes to announcers. There's that chap from Burnout 3 (don't remember the name) up in the lead, for example. But there's really no justifying what happened here in ProStreet. The announcer is too bad, too repetitive, too boring, and too much of a headache after a mere three races into the game. I heard you can shut him off in the options, but I never really tried.
The soundtrack doesn't help either. As always, EA opted for the unknown bands singing on the streets instead of the "expensive" music we all know and love. That isn't the problem though, because as it was proven in HP2 and Most Wanted, it sometimes works. Sadly, it doesn't in ProStreet. I admit I liked the soundtrack at first to some extent, but once the "WOW NEW GAME" factor went away I realised it was just as annoying as the announcer. It varies from one person to the other, so maybe you'd turn up with a smiley face.
So what's left? There's the sound effects, which are pretty fine for the most part. Realistic? Not sure, but they're fine, fine as in you can live with them. The Porsche GT2 has as much of a whine as a 747 airliner, the driving off road sound clip is too short you can actually HEAR it repeating itself, and the crushing sound that's supposed to happen when the car lands upside down is replaced by the simple "boosh" sound you get if you ram your opponent.
Features and Gameplay 5/10
This is a mixed bag. You start up the game, head straight for Career mode and drive through the first race in a horribly painted 240SX. You obviously win because you're Ryan Cooper (who for some reason has a helmet stuck on his head since he was three) and when you get your little "Oh I'm popular" moment some guy named Ryo, who happens to be the Street King (whatever that means) decides he should be crushing your bud of fame instead of watching yoghurt commercials. Obviously, since Ryan Cooper has some great self esteem, he can't stand this humiliation. This is where you ask yourself: Why are they recycling the god damn same story over and over again? There's always the mysterious you, and there's always some "boss" you want to get revenge from.
So the story's bad, you get the point. That's complicated by the fact Career mode is rather long, so you'd have more time to experience the "wrongness" of the story.
For some astonishing reason, EA decided the My Cars mode was useless. So whenever you want to create a car just for fun, you have to pay some 100,000 up to 1 million in game credits for it. This was perhaps one of Most Wanted and Carbon's greatest merits.
The carlist turned out better than I initially thought back in the pre-release days. There's a good array of Exotics for old school-ers (though it's worth pointing out Ferraris are STILL absent), whether it's a Pagani Zonda you're looking for, a Koenigsegg CCX or a Porsche 911 Turbo, it's all there. Yes, that means the eight Exotics only crap EA used to send chills down our spines with was mere fantasies. According to the game folders, the Mclaren F1 (!) and the Bugatti Veyron (!!) are in there as well. There is a good selection of Tuners too (though Mitsu 3000GT fans will be disappointed), including the new Nissan GT-R going as far back as the AE86 Sprinter Trueno to keep Underground fans happy. Finally, the set is sealed by American Muscle cars, classic and concept such as the Charger R/T all the way to the Camaro Concept and the Z06 Corvette.
...except my car is not my car. What kind of Zonda F on earth cuts the 60 mph line in 4.3 seconds at full throttle and perfect shifting? That goes for all other Exotics, the GT2, the Turbo, they're all underpowered according to the ingame stats. In comparison, cars from other categories seem to have their correct respective stats. The GT-R does the 0-60 time in 3.5 seconds, true to life. I'm sorry, but I don't want to play a game made by people who don't do their homework. Or people biased towards the Japanese.
The rather solid carlist is backed up with a jaw-dropping array of customization parts and options. Autosculpt is back and revamped: now you can Autosculpt ANYTHING, including stock parts. This shouldn't blind you though from the fact the Autosculpt options themselves (such as adjusting rim depth) haven't changed since Carbon. The horrible bodykits are also back for those people who love vacuum cleaning the street with their front bumpers. The paint and vinyls (to some extent) options are pretty much copy/pasted from Carbon. No, neon lights aren't there, but there are new options like adding racing seats and a roll cage! Yay...?
But the really interesting part is, these changes are supposed to affect your car stats, according to EA. From what I saw though, nothing really happens. You can add a heavy eight point cage to a Pagani Zonda and you'll be losing sleep trying to find any real changes in the car's stats. So long for the so called realism.
Performance customization is pretty in depth to some extent, not too in depth it loses the other half of the world who knows nothing about cars (though some people will still trip). Aside from choosing and equipping which car parts "stage" and make (speaking of that, variation in makes still doesn't affect performance... if you choose an NX over a NOS nitrous canister you'll still get the same boost), you can fine tune the settings. You can adjust the suspension softness and rebound, change the size of the turbo for quicker but weaker boosts, adjust camber and so on. Keep this paragraph in mind while reading on.
Once you've perfected your car, I've got good news for you. The Dyno is back. Well, at least its younger, underdeveloped brother is. Instead of being as in depth as Underground 2, you get a nice loading screen and a little box telling you half the information you used to get. Better than nothing.
So far so good? Here's where the avalanche hits the town.
You've chosen the Pagani Zonda, and off you go for a drive. You create a cloud of acid rain smoke at the starting line. You wait for the go signal. The moment the light turns green you notice several things, one is the horrible driving engine.
The driving engine is EXTREMELY BAD. REALLY BAD. Okay, it isn't as bad as the demo, but it is still terrible. The Pagani Zonda and all other Exotics --no, in fact, most other high powered cars for that matter are UNCONTROLLABLE on all settings, some more uncontrollable than others (the exceptions are the Nissan GT-R and the Lancer Evo... see something here?). You go flying all over the race track, close your eyes for two seconds and you're totaled. Breathing over the throttle will give you enough power to send you to Mars and back again. Here's a random fact EA: High Powered Exotics are DESIGNED to be stable at 600+ horses.
So you decide you'll choose a weaker car, let's take the 240SX or the Golf. With the assists on, you'll almost always slow down to 5 mph round any corner (assuming it does go round it in the first place thanks to the overwhelming understeer). Turning off the assists will help a bit, but you'll still slow down abruptly whenever you decide to go through a corner.
Speaking of abrupt stops, if you do get this game I'd tell you brake really late, because no matter what you're driving you'll almost always stop in five metres worth of road, regardless of what the in game stats tell you. Because thanks to EA's great programming, the cars now have extremely powerful brakes they could stop the Earth from spinning.
You see, the problem is, EA decided to take NFS's driving engine towards the simulator territory. But instead of doing a reasonable mix between the arcade and simulator engines (like the PC version of Porsche Unleashed for example) they decide they'll get an eight year old who read some how cars work article on the Internet to design the thing. Even Carbon's hovercraft engine feels better.
Well then, you finally grasp control of the Zonda, but that's before you crash into the tyres, barrel roll across the track, ricochet into your opponent and get totaled. It all looks REALLY well done and accurate. Body panels get bent individually (and eventually fall off), glass breaks and lights stop working. Spectacular it is, and I congratulate EA on a job well done here. Until the getting totaled part. The car looks like a toy being thrown around the room by a four year old, and the roof seems to be crumble-resistant, even without a roll cage. If a car lands on its roof at 100 mph, I expect it to be flatter than a pancake. Ignoring this, I still do think the damage engine is perfectly fine.
If you manage to adapt yourself to the rather, err, unique driving engine (and maybe convince yourself it feels great) it comes with its rewards. Over 100-150 mph or so the sense of speed is amazing, probably the best in its competitors. Drag races are spectacular because of that. You start with some little minigame of you warming your tyres, trying to keep the revs in the "grip" zone. Depending on how successful you were in the minigame your performance in the actual race will be affected. The drag race itself is pretty much the same as always, with the false starting thing added in if you start moving too soon.
Moving on from the driving/damage engine, there are two more blows you've got to endure: No cops and No free roam. The whole infrastructure of any old NFS game was to be chased by a dozen cruisers lead by a Diablo cop car and a heli overhead. Take that away and you have just another racing game. Free roam kept the game fresh and interesting, just roaming around with your Lamborghini felt good.
Two more blows: STILL no replay mode and STILL no interior view. Both of these were present in almost all pre-2003 NFS games and almost all current racers on the market. The interiors are pre-rendered in the game already, why not just put us in them? And why is it so hard for EA to put some camera coordinates on each track for us to watch our performance after we owned the competition? There's the same photo mode from Carbon but there's a tremendous difference between seeing one frame of my spectacular backflip and watching the entire footage again away from the driver's seat.
Remember the Performance customization part I asked you to keep in mind a few paragraphs ago?
EA has to take some criticism, IMO, for the ridiculous performance matching. In this game, you can basically take any car and make it as good as your wildest dreams are. The point of NFS till Hot Pursuit 2 was to drive a car you probably haven't seen on the streets in the first place, beat the competition and when that car is no longer capable of doing the task because your competition have evolved, you buy a better, even rarer and even more exclusive car. The point of ProStreet though, is to build your own car, give it a larger engine whenever it falls behind the competition. The point of this game is to take an RX-7 and blow Koenigseggs out of the water. Nevermind that not being possible because of the so called laws of physics (do they even exist anymore?), it just ruins the whole idea of the series. I used to buy NFS for the adrenaline rush, the cops, the cars, not to sit with nerd glasses with blueprints on my desk lit by a flashlight thinking what setup is best for the quarter mile.
Online and Multiplayer N/A
I haven't tried playing online yet, so that's for later.
As for the traditional Multiplayer split screen, well, there isn't one. There isn't any LAN gaming either as far as I know. So if you're in with your mates playing ProStreet, the best you can do is compete for lap/race times. At which point the option of playing some more realistic, more interesting game arises. So sadly, this isn't a multiplayer game, and I'm sorry for shattering your dreams of having those multiplayer intense police chases from High Stakes or just plain racing down the highway in two Mclarens.
If you have anything logitech, the game miraculously maps all the functions onto the correct buttons and adjusts vibration settings so you'd be ready to "jump into the game". The rumble feature works properly (thank god) with the Logi Rumblepad 2, if you go offroad or hit a barrier it rumbles as expected with varying degrees depending on how bad you messed up. I can't really figure out if the steering controls are analogue or digital, but I could almost swear they are the latter. No matter what I do, I'll turn with the same degree. Or it may be the driving engine going frenzy again.
Now, the G25. After playing a round of GTR 2, this game feels horrible with the G25. There's no steering resistance at all, which makes up for an "I'm driving a plastic toy" sensation. Combine that with the driving engine (and if you want some more insanity, activate 900 degree steering) and things will go wrong. The clutch and six speed shifter work though, which is good, but doesn't quite make up for the floating wheel. There's no interior view to make the suffering worth it either. I wouldn't recommend the G25 for this, go use it with GTR 2 or Gran Turismo or something else.
Replay Value 0/10
Yes, that's a zero. This game didn't last for more than three hours before I got REALLY bored and thought studying the anastomosis around the hand was more interesting. Career mode has a ridiculous story and the races are TOO repetitive to be good (and some pretty annoyingly difficult (Ryo's drift race and him miraculously using a 4WD car for drifting when you can't), yet you have to play through it if you want to unlock the cars you want. So you get to the point where you're more towards forcing yourself to play the game than enjoying it. Once you unlock the cars, you can't take them for a drive because of the absence of free roam, you can't use it as your getaway car, and you can't just even drive it around the tracks (online or offline) because they're too bland to be engaging.
And there's more stuff you can't do.
You can't replay that great race you just did against your mates because there's no split screen multiplayer in the first place. You can't let them customize their cars on your save game because the "My Cars" section is no more. And if you just give up and decide to keep up with the boredom derived from the standard races, you'll suffer because of the driving engine. And by the time you think what should you do with the game, the soundtrack and announcer will blow your brains out. There really is nothing interesting you could do in the game aside from mess around with your favourite car and take photos of it at awkward angles, which will eventually get boring itself.
Overall (not an average) 6/10
Compared to other releases in the series 3/10
Other recommended recent games Test Drive Unlimited, PGR4, NFS Most Wanted, Midnight Club 3
Well... there you go. I thought again, maybe I'm being cruel. Maybe my hatred towards the recent NFS games and my desperation towards EA bringing back the old school NFS series have blinded me from what this game really shines in, but no. I just feel 7 is too high, there are much better games out there, yet 5 is too low, the game does have a great carlist (surprised us all, albeit most of the good cars IMO are downloadable content) and great, in depth customization. Is it worth the purchase? I would say no. Try it out EXTENSIVELY first at one of your friends, play for five hours or so to wipe off the initial "WOW" effect then make your decision. I've seen people like the game (which was a bit hard to comprehend) so I can only speak for myself.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Need for Speed: ProStreet (US, 11/13/07)
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