I'm reviewing Need for Speed Pro Street, so let's get the positive things said and out of the way first. It looks nice, graphically it's got the bells and whistles that you might expect from an Xbox360 game and a redefined, refined, revamped damage system that models car damage and can lead to some pretty destructive moments that totally trash your vehicle and leave you with a smoking wreck on the highway.
You can go online and race against some really mature players on Xbox Live to listen to their hoots and hollers, experience the true nature of street racing against some pre-pubescent moron who thinks that when they lose against your finely tuned Drag Racing machine they have the right to scream: You suck, so does your mom, at the top of their voice before they quit and rate you down for some imagined slight against their yet to be developed manhood.
Of course none of that is EA's fault; it's the nature of online games. Still, you can have some fun with this game offline however and this is the big however, it's not as much fun as it could have been. It's time that EA packed in the tuner scene, packed in the bloody street racing scene and went back to the way that Need for Speed used to be in the days of the 3DO and early games, you know, the fun ones like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 1 and 2.
I'm getting sick of custom tuner parts, wheels from some obscurely named company that I haven't got a clue what the hell they do. I just want wheels that work, thanks. Ok, I'm not really sick of the custom tuning stuff, just the whole boy racer, street racer scene that's being pushed as some bastard love child of the Fast and the Furious where they've replaced Vin Diesel with a generic faceless entity that has as much personality as a balloon that's been drawn on by a twelve year old with coloured marker pens.
Some people might argue of course that Vin shares the shame attributes as the balloon, but I digress.
The game presents you as said faceless youth, who I shall name: Gen Eric for now. Mr. Eric is some whee-whiz bang Pro Street racing up and coming stylish guy that has a name given to him by the designers however I think it's better if I call him by his true personality, since you don't actually feel any relationship to this disembodied car jockey other than his nickname as the Comeback Kid.
He's beloved by all the announcers, not everyone loves our hero of course, there's the evil nemesis as in all of the NFS story based games, someone with more of a chip on his shoulder than the Grandfather of the Playstation and again with as much personality as Liv Tyler in Lord of the Rings. So the stage is set for the game where EA threw aside the idea of open world street racing and placed you back in the good old days of level after level.
You compete in challenge after challenge, all for the honour of getting your mitts on another piece of car, another car or some phat wad of cash. We've seen it all before and it's starting to get a little old, but wait, there's more. You can actually buy car parts with Microsoft points too - yay - something else I don't want to spend money on since I can unlock them in game.
EA - please - I hate micro-transactions, they need to die in a fire along with this series if this keeps on up.
Ok, that's enough of my jaded gamer bitching for now. Seriously though, this kind of thing really is only for the ELITE gamer and not all of us can be bothered with that kind of rubbish. It's time to think of more gameplay ideas and revitalise the genre before it's buried under a pile of trash so large you'll be able to see if from space whilst standing on the Moon.
You have four new game modes; stop me if this reminds you of something. Drag, Drift, Grip and the new Speed Challenge.
Drag has been redesigned so you must heat your tires, boost a lot, change gear and this time you can actually steer the car.
Drift has been redesigned so it's a bit more dynamic.
Grip is pretty much your standard kind of race, with some extra bits thrown in.
Speed Challenge sees you trying to go as fast as you can through checkpoints and praying you don't lose control of the car, because if you trash the car you have to pay for it.
All damage has to be paid for, and in some events you can take along a backup car to the various race days. My problem with all this is there's no casual side to the game, again, it's very much in the name Pro Street - where's the toggle to turn off the damage system, isn't gaming supposed to be about choice?
The online races fare a little better, there's a nice competitive spirit when you can find a match hosted by someone who's not a retard. There's some good fun to be had there and having the custom race day's setup by decent gamers can actually lead to an enjoyable game. There I said it, it's enjoyable, and it's just not the amazing game we were led to believe it would be.
It keeps a fairly steady frame-rate for most of the time, until it dips occasionally, it's not a bad stutter but it's enough to put you off when it happens on a particularly tricky part. The voice acting isn't bad, the dialogue is typical of the kind of game it is and overall the race AI doesn't seem to use the infamous rubber-band trick most racing AI does to keep them in the game.
It's possible to psyche-out your opponents and cause them to wipe-out in the Speed Challenges and this results in a dramatic crash. It's a pity there's no way to record this as once again EA have left out any kind of useful replay feature and way to save your most dramatic moments and wins for eternity. This is an Xbox360; it has a hard-drive for a reason.
So in conclusion: It's a pretty game; it's also fairly repetitive and tends to be aimed more at Pro gamers than the casual gamer. A lack of open world gameplay brings the series back towards its roots, but in the end hampers it more than helps - Perhaps next time?