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Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
 
11/26/2007 12:16:00 PM

Review: Need for Speed ProStreet (Xbox 360, PS3)

 
Need for Speed: ProStreet

Image Credit: EA Games
Things We Like
Back And Better Than Ever ... Or Not: This isn't your big brother's Need For Speed title. The franchise many of us grew to love for it's open-ended, Grand Theft Auto-style reckless street driving is more subdued and, some would say, much improved. Instead of roaming the highways looking for cops to antagonize, you have to compete in "Race Days" that feature several distinctive styles of racing and force you to master a large array of skills. The makeover has proven to be divisive between reviewers who loved the old-school game and those who couldn't wait for something new. As much fun as Need For Speed: Carbon was, I found ProStreet to be an interesting take on the world of "legal" street racing. The action itself ranges from tedious to exhilirating, with some truly hair-raising moments thrown in.
Much To Choose From: There are four basic styles of racing (with a few subgenres in each of those) that comprise a typical "Race Day." The first is "Grip Racing," which is just regular old, point-to-point racing with garden-variety Mazdas and Nissans where the first car to cross the finish line wins. This is pretty easy stuff. Nine out of 10 times you'll cruise to victory. The possible exception may be the "Sector Shootouts," where the track is divided into four sections and you get points for posting the fastest times on each section. Then there is "Drag Racing," where it all comes down to how well you switch gears and time the green light. The "Speed Race" puts you in the high speed machines (i.e. the Supra) on mostly straight tracks. At 180 mph any misstep can send you careening. Finally, there is the "Drift" racing, where you get to skid all over short tracks. These can be fun if not mercurial.
Drive Safe: ProStreet treats racing as a non-contact sport. You get penalized heavily for driving aggressively in the form of repair bills. What feels like a little ding during a race will hit you hard in the pocketbook, and cash can be sparse at times depending on how much you have just spent on upgrade parts for your vehicles. It's maddening at first but you come to appreciate that you'll be rewarded for precision.
Real Men Drive Stick: If driving stick is your thing, ProStreet does the best job I've seen so far of allowing you to drive manual transmission. All you have to do to change the gears is hit up on the right joystick (or down to downshift). You can even activate the "clutch" -- the left bumper.
Online Bonus: The online play itself isn't all that different from other racing titles, but the setup is quite original. Instead of having to be online at the same time as all your buddies, you can set up your own Race Day and have people come in and post their times at their own leisure. You can still race live if you want, but this way you aren't at the mercy of the online lobby. You can also upload your special customizations on your cars -- or "blueprints" -- for all the world to see and enjoy.
 
Video
Check out ProSteet's drift action:
 
Things We'd Change
Few Options Early: It takes a long time to unlock new cars or build up the funds to buy the really nice rides, so if you aren't a huge fan of the Nissan 240SX or the 350Z, the two cars you start with, you're out of luck until you reach the Supra and the GTO. Plus you have to spend tons of money and time tuning these cars to get them up to snuff, which is great if you are a gearhead but aggravating if you aren't. Also annoying to myself, but probably a good thing for others, is the fact that you can "tune" a Grip car into a Drift car or Drag car, or vice versa, assuming you know your way around a garage.
Get The Drift? It's hard to figure out any rhyme or reason to success in the drift mode. Just when you feel like you have it down, you have a bad run that makes you feel like you are back at square one. As far as I can tell the key is to have as much speed going as possible and hit your nitrous at the right moment and hope the scoring gods are on your side. The first time I tried a drift race my car looked the one the Gaijin kid totaled in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Prior to every Drag race, you have to play a mini-game in which you heat up your tires and can gain traction bonus points. There are three races in each Drag event, and you have to do this before each race, so it gets old rather quickly.
Brought To You By ...: A certain auto insurance company sponsors this game and you can't help but notice it. ProStreet reminds you of it at every turn in all kinds of creative ways. (Even the achievements are brought to you by this non-lizard-named insurance company.)
More Babes: Most races have a sexy go-go girl giving you the countdown, but sometimes you have to go with a red-yellow-green light sequence, which is much harder to time correctly. They should have just stuck with the babes and, while they're at it, come up with some new outfits for them too. As far as I can tell they only have five changes of clothes.
 
Bottom Line
Longtime fans of this franchise may be disappointed to see the wholesale changes, but give this game a chance and you won't be disappointed. With the exception of some of the vanilla "Grip" racing modes, the majority of the events are fun to play in a semi-simulation kind of way -- don't look for too much realism here in the physics. Gearheads in particular will be thrilled with this new edition to the NFS family.
Gameplay Graphics Audio Online OVERALL
8 7.5 8.5 8 8
 
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