|System: PSP, X360, PS3, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Black Box||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
"Does the world really need another racing game?" I haven't used that quote in a while. I don't get assigned a lot of racing games to review as of late. I wonder why. Could be my attitude towards them. Well, let me make one thing clear; I can appreciate a good game regardless of the genre, and I have certainly played my fair share of racing games. I find that so many of them are so similar, not only in gameplay structure, but with the modes, options, customizing, and other elements, that I can't help developing that Déjà vu syndrome.
There have been so few innovations in the genre, and I don't count an improvement in graphic quality an innovation. Having said all of that, Need For Speed ProStreet is a fun and addicting title, and there's absolutely nothing innovative about it at all. It's a formulaic racer in every sense of the definition, but it gets mostly everything right - and that's a treat.
Need for Speed ProStreet is a solid racer for the PSP. Right out of the gate, the game literally burns rubber. It's difficult not to be impressed by the opening cinema, which shows incredibly tasty and colorful graphics with a custom rod tearing up the town. With the sound effects and the intro music cranked, it gave me goosebumps. This game grabbed this jaded game journalist by the ball bearings and dragged me right into the career mode. I must admit, I went along willingly.
Need of Speed ProStreet gets so many things right that you can overlook the few flaws. Don't worry; I'll point them out to you. That's my job. Let me start with the steering. This is hands down the single most important aspect of a game of this nature, and nowhere is that more important than on a handheld system such as the PSP which has little to offer other than a D-pad or the nub. There's not a lot for the developers to work with, but they managed to do a good job. You have your choice between the nub or the D-pad. Both will take some time to get used to. At first I favored the nub, as it just seem to have a better feel. After a number of hours I found the D-pad to be more responsive, especially for tight corners where more precision is required. Later in the game I discovered that certain cars worked best with one specific control scheme. So get used to both early in the game so you'll have more tools and skills at your disposal.
At the outset of the game, you will have your choice of four different vehicle classes: Muscle car, sports car, tuner car, and super car. All of the vehicles are upgradeable with money that you earn from races, but you can customize the cosmetics from the get-go for squat. Each car has its own distinct positive attributes and faults. As such, you can only enter into races designed for each specific class of vehicle. Muscle cars are powerful, but they control like boats. Sports cars handle well and are considerably more agile. The fastest of the bunch is the super car, but it's not as maneuverable or versatile as the tuner car. Upgrades include engine, chassis, handling, and induction. There are three levels of upgrades in each category, but you'll be hard pressed to notice much difference in the first two levels. After swapping an engine for considerable more horsepower, you'll be lucky to get a few extra miles-per-hour on the top end. You can bypass the first couple of upgrade levels and get right to the third level if you have the money. In the meantime, I compensated for the lack of upgrades by toggling the steering control system.
Another way in which you can get the most out of control system is with the vehicle damage. There is a great damage modeling program that goes much deeper than pure cosmetics. Sure, it still looks cool to have your front end fold like an accordion, but the damage will also begin to affect your vehicle's performance. Take on too much damage on one side of your vehicle, and it will begin to pull in that direction. Learning to compensate for such damage, while still trying to stay in the race, adds more depth to the gameplay than you are likely to find on any handheld racer.
Tracks are unlocked as you progress. You'll have to accomplish a certain goal to move on. In a few instances, you'll have to drive backwards on a track. The money you earn can go towards upgrades as well as unlocking new tracks and vehicles. The turns get tighter as the overall challenge increases from one track to the next, but if you want to try all of the tracks, you're going to need to qualify by owning the proper vehicle. Some of these tracks can be tough, which will require you to memorize the layout. There's an onscreen HUD map that comes in handy for warning you of those upcoming tight turns.