A few things in this uncertain world can be predicted without a problem: the terrible traffic in Bucharest when it’s raining, the rising ratings of certain TV channels, the lack of voters showing up or the fact that EA will keep on releasing new Sims and Need of Speed titles on a yearly basis. This is not a bad thing per se, since there has to be some sort of stability even in the games industry. It’s good that one can predict sales for a certain period of time, and it’s great to have a strong market. What we did not expect however was the shift in direction that the NFS series took with ProStreet.
From street racing we end up driving on circuits and so all police chases have vanished, along with any swearing towards intense traffic or dangerous runs through wooden or metal landscape that tumble behind you to confuse pursuers. Now we’re dealing with (semi) proffesional circuits, but the large amounts of people idling tends to be the same from previous NFS games – scarcely clothed ladies and teens trying to look as “trendy” as possible… the bright future of humankind.
The story is…er, I’m sorry, I can’t write “story” or “script” in the same sentence as ProStreet for the simple reason that it’s so mundane and completely lacking that it doesn’t make any sense. If you do need a motivation though, you’re Ryan Cooper, known in the illegal racing world and you now want to make a name for yourself without being followed by the cops. A certain Ryo, the more or less official king of this type of competition, appears in his Mitsubishi Evo X and says you’re not worthy of being taken seriously. Now we have the motivation to step into battle.
The single-player campaign is a bit different than that of the previous games in the series, because now it’s made up of the so called Race Days – events encompassing different types of races that give you a certain number of points. To win such an event you don’t have to win all the races, a few 1st place finishes are enough, but to relish in the truly valuable rewards you have to reach total dominance, aka to have a large number of points. This is not particularly easy considering you will drive in varied race types and as such you have to be skilled with all driving styles.
Until you challenge Ryo you have to go through a lot of Race Days and to advance further there’s always the necessity of dominating a part of them, not just to win them, hence the desire to squeeze a few more points from each race, even if you totally trashed the opposition. There are also four other “princes”, specialized in each type of racing style, that you have to beat before you get to Ryo, so the single-player portion of the game is very long, as opposed to other titles in this genre.
There are four main types of races: Grip, Drag, Drift and Speed. Grip is a series of classic races on a circuit, along other AI controlled competitors, but there have been some new things added for variety: for example, the Sector Shootout splits the course into 4 parts and you get points if you beat the time record. It’s interesting that you can win the race without passing anyone and you can drive really bad for 2 laps, while beating all records in the third and still have a shot at winning.
Drag is a classic speed race, and the only one where you have to manually shift gears, with the distance that has to be crossed being that of a quarter or half a mile. The producers added a gimmick here as well: heating up the tires through burn-out, which will offer you the chance to see the excellent smoke particles, with effects that underline volume and density. Another new feature is the Wheelie option – lifting the front tires due to the massive torque created by the engine (as an example you can watch the Fast and the Furious movie).
The Speed part refers to maintaining high speeds on the circuit, as there are radars that record your speed (similar to the Speed Camera challenges in Test Drive Unlimited). Modifying gear shifting balance is important here to lengthen the upper ones and reaching higher top speeds.
Drift is one of the most fun parts in the game, because now you’re no longer penalized when the car hits the sidewalls; there are types of bonuses awarded for speed and car control, so you can have remarkable and very spectacular results driving your car sideways.