Games for Lunch: Need for Speed ProStreet
Developer: EA Black Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Nov. 14, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS, PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site
0:00 I've never actually played one of these games, despite a general love for driving games. I guess I've never felt the need for speed.
0:01 I'm not including the four hours required to download a 772 MB update, but I will dock the game one minute so I can write about it! So there!
0:02 The game begins with a disclaimer urging people to take "racing off the streets." Someone's got a nervous legal department.
0:03 A beat-up looking sports car sits at a starting line. Two cars take off and pop wheelies simultaneously. Power slides, dust clouds, overpasses, shipping yards, bust-ups, end-over-end flips, etc. fly by, and then, the title screen. It got my adrenaline pumping.
0:04 The game asks me to choose from "Casual," "Racer," or "King" levels of braking assistance. I think "Racer" encompasses a healthy but not overbearing sense of self-confidence, don't you? Me too!
0:05 Apparently, the pack I downloaded was the "FREE ENERGIZER LITHIUM EXTENDER PACK" which provides an "extended career tree" and new cars. Product placement, thy name is EA.
0:08 Speaking of product placement, the EA Trax Jukebox has 37 different songs, only one of which I've ever heard before. I still have a grand time sampling them in the options menu for a few minutes. Lots of guitar-heavy funk and metal with some techno and rap beats dropped in.
0:10 So let's start a career already! First, a cutscene. A couple of cars drive over a grafitti'ed road. "Come on Chi-town, make some nooooooiose," cries a random DJ. Top street racers have come to Chicago to race in this "pro" event. Whoever wins today can step up to the big leagues. Lots of gratuitous shots of a scantily clad girl in a red, shredded tube top. "All right, it's time to go people, come on," says the DJ, but first, more cut scene racing.
0:12 The cut scene is still going. The game introduces Ryo Watanabe, "the showdown king," an Asian guy in a hoodie who does obnoxious donuts with orange smoke. "It's nice to get back to such small races," says the condescending prick! He badmouths Ryan Cooper -- "They must have really lowered the standards this year." I guess this is supposed to be me that he's insulting? The cutscene mercifully ends with another plea for Chi-town to "make some nooooise." This call goes oddly unheeded.
0:14 Race time! Right off, the frame rate seems a little choppy for a game of this type. The camera is maddeningly shaky, too. It's probably supposed to be "edgy," but it comes off as more annoying. The track doesn't really scream "street racing," either, plastered as it is with advertising and standard, race-course style turns?
0:17 I jump out to first place very quickly and finish a good 20 seconds ahead of my nearest competitor in a race without a single tough turn. "Ryan Cooper takes the win, put your hands together," cries the cutscene MC. Ryo is somewhat impressed, but says I "did not look pretty behind the wheel... it physically pained me to watch that guy drive." Then he antagonizes me by revving his engine in my face and driving off. "Well that was super-dramatic," the MC correctly notes. "Don't hate the player, hate the game." Oh, don't worry, I'm well on my way.
0:19 I've unlocked a "Battle Machine Challenge" in Nevada. It's a challenge weekend. The cars are all provided for us, "just don't ask where they got 'em, y'know what I'm saying." So EA will discourage street racing, but implicitly encourage stealing?
0:20 Basically, I have to win without totaling all my cars. Simple enough, but the game takes over a minute to explain this.
0:21 In a nice touch, the MC does some introductory chatter in the background over the race-selection menu. The voice acting is pretty good and adds some personality to the events.
0:22 I'm trying to pick a car for my first event, but the camera keeps panning away from the car and towards a random crowd of people snapping pictures. Pretty odd.
0:24 Drag racing is an interesting mix of precise engine revving and timing gear shifts down a straight track. I totally screw up my first race because I don't know how to shift -- I've been coddled by automatics for too long. Luckily I have two more tries to make up for it.
0:27 Now that I know how to shift (with a quick flick of the right stick), I improve on my time by five whole seconds, which is a lifetime on the drag (we pros say things like "on the drag"). I take first place easily. It's a little simple, but a nice change of pace from regular racing.
0:28 I understand when games have long loading times, but this game seems to have long saving times. The game is frozen on the auto-save screen for about 10 or 15 seconds between every race. Just plain annoying.
0:29 The "Grip Race" is a race to "be the fastest car on the track." So it's a normal race, then? Why not just call it that? The game warns that bumping other cars will affect your speed.
0:32 I'm winning the race handily, but then I get greedy and try to cut through a section of hilly dirt. The car flips over and gets "TOTALED!" as the game tells me in big red letters. Luckily, I can restart with seemingly no penalty.
0:36 Much like the first Grip Race, the second is interesting for about half a lap, which is all it takes to pass the opponents. I lollygag alone and in first place for the remaining one-and-a-half laps. I know it's still early, but it'd be nice if there was a little challenge.
0:37 I do like the physics modeling, though. You can really feel the tires gripping the road, especially on handbrake-assisted powerslides, which everyone knows are the most fun part of any racing game.
0:38 The "Time Attack" race seems a lot like the Grip Race, except this time the fastest lap time wins. Whoo!
0:42 After learning the track on the first lap, I blaze through for a winning time on the second. This is good, because on the third lap I ricochet off a barrier and into a massive embankment. I blame the crash on my new first-person camera view, which makes things more exciting and a little more difficult.
0:44 I've got enough race point to "DOMINATE" the Nevada event. I get 5,000 bucks, plus a randomly chosen bonus of 7,500 bucks. I also earn a depressingly standard Toyota Cobalt SS. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.
0:45 This level selection screen hurts my eyes. It's set up as a graffiti-filled wall, but it's hard to tell which parts are the background and which are selectable levels.
0:46 On to the Chicago Battlefield. This time I have to bring my own cars. The guy keeps stressing how I have to pay to repair any damage and shouldn't total my car. This makes sense, I guess, but seems to go against the devil-may-care attitude of street racing. It's like I should try to win at all costs, except if it means scratching up my car a little.
0:48 More drag racing. Despite performing as perfectly as possible (as far as I can tell) I lose in the third race by just five hundredths of a second. I think it's because the guy I was against had a better car, personally. Still, second place ain't half-bad.
0:51 After somehow losing the music on the post-drag menu, the game seems to freeze up on a loading screen. Weird.
0:53 Luckily, the auto-save means that after a quick restart, I'm right back where I was. The save file says I'm only 1 percent done. Yikes!
0:59 I've finished up another Grip Race. This time I spent about a quarter lap passing people, then two-and-three-quarters laps all alone out in front. I finish 20 seconds ahead of my group. It's not really challenging, but it's still kind of fun power-sliding around all alone.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Probably not.
Why? It's a technically competent but extremely generic racer in a crowded field. Plus I wasn't really feeling the "street" vibe they were going for. Not that that's really a surprise for a suburban snot like me.
This review based on a retail copy of the game rented from GameFly.
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