Review by force_edge

"A sorry excuse for a NFS game."

My first serious introduction to the NFS series was Hot Pursuit 2; prior to that, I played NFS2 at a cousin's house, but the game never really caught on. Reviews of the PS2's version of HP2 really piqued my interest, and I went ahead and bought both the PS2 and PC version. Both versions of HP2 have since then remained timeless classics in my opinion.

With my interest in the NFS series piqued, I soon followed the series faithfully. The next NFS installment, Underground 1, saw the series veer away from it's original style (as of HP2 anyways) of racing exotic cars on scene routes with intense police chases, to focus solely on the street racing/tuning culture. While I didn't exactly enjoy the shift in focus, the gameplay remained a key factor of enjoyment, and I went on to buy Underground 2, Most Wanted. I failed to catch onto the Carbon era, but watching my friend play it, I might perhaps have made a wise decision: the physics of the game seemed way off. The roads looked as though they were smeared generously with oil. Indeed, as another reviewer once put it, players might as well have been racing with hovercrafts instead of cars in Carbon. Having avoided Carbon, I looked to ProStreet as my personal NFS salvation, and early pictures looked great.

But once I got the game, and got down to really playing it, my honest opinion of PS could be summed up in one word: Horrendous.

Now, PS is not a bad game. In fact, it's not a bad game at all when compared to some of the other racers out there. So why do I dislike it so much?

Because PS is simply NOT NFS. PS, however good it is as a racing game, simply does not live up to the NFS name. I shall go on to a more in depth review of the game below, and perhaps, other NFS fans might come to the same, sad conclusion as I have.

Story:

You are Ryan Cooper, some hotshot underground racer who decides to come clean and participate in legal racing. After your first race, some hotshot racer comes by and disses you. You spend the rest of career mode racing to earn enough prestige to whoop his ass. End of story.

Seriously, how many times are they going to recyle the 'Zero To Hero' storyline? I'm quite sick of it already. EA, if you can't do better than that, don't try. Don't put in some half-baked plot for the sake of having one.

Section Score: 3/10 (not terrible, but too cliched, especially since the storyline since UG1 up till now has more or less been this way)

Graphics:

If there IS one thing PS manged to do well, it has to be in this section. The graphics of this game look pretty good. Cars are meticulously detailed, down to their last curves and edges. In a pleasantly surprising find, the interiors of the cars have been so well designed, one might wish the doors could be openned just to take a better look inside. While there is a rather monotonous shade of gray covering the level of detail, the well defined interior is still a visual pleasure.

The exterior of the cars are no less well detailed also, and even running the game on low settings, cars look so much better than the chunky blocks that seem to be present in other games. Small little curves and bumps that might have simply been smoothed over by other designers are present on PS's cars, adding to the level of detail that brings the game to life.

Surprisingly though, the level designs completely contradict the car designs: by all extents, they look so much more bland and devoid of life than what has been witnessed in previous installments, be it the village in one of HP2's tracks, or Chinatown in one of UG1's tracks. Each one of PS's tracks feels as though the designer simply made one twentieth of it, and then copied the design multiple times to form the full track. More than often, the tracks feel nothing more than a repetitive, monotonous tunnel, the pleasant distractions in older games glaringly absent. This reviewer is of the opinion that a well designed track brings as much life to a racer as anything else, and PS fails miserably in this aspect.

However, if there is one thing I would like to point out, it's that the graphical requirements of this game are suprisingly less demanding than other games of this period (Crysis comes to mind). PS shouldn't be too troublesome to run on a mid-level machine, and in this reviewer's opinion, the lower you can bring your requirements down without compromising on the experience, the better a game is.

Section Score - 6/10 (a loss of 4 points for very generic and uninspiring tracks)

Audio:

Seriously, I wonder where EA got their sounds effect from. Because I can guarantee you, cars do NOT sound the way PS makes them out to be. The Honda Integra (AKA Acura RSX in western countries) has an extremely high pitched whine that is about the furthest thing from its real life counterpart. Believe me, I've seen plenty of Intergras and they don't even sound similar to this.

On the other hand, the BMW M3 produces a sort of engine roar that is absolutely grating on the ears. I have a BMW in real life, and once again, let me assure you that BMWs do not produce such an awful sound. BMW seriously ought to sue EA for the horrible way their cars are portrayed in PS.

On the other hand, tires screeches and crashes do sound decent, so no complains there.

The soundtrack is another story altogether. Previous entries like HP2 or MW had great soundtracks; granted, there were bound to be a few songs that weren't so memorable, but in general, those soundtracks stuck pretty well in my mind. Especially HP2's, whose artistes I had never even heard of.

Such is not the case for the unfortunate soundtrack of PS; much of it is honestly, easily forgetful and doesn't fit the mood of the game. Racing while listening to someone whining in the background is NOT my idea of a great soundtrack. Unfortunately, EA thought otherwise. It wouldn't be THAT bad if EA allowed the player to choose between which segments of the game a song played, whether in a race, menu, or both, but mysteriously, this option disappeared, leaving me facepalming in frustration everytime one of the whiny songs played when a race started.

After playing the game for just an hour or so, I turned off all except about 5 songs, and even among those, only Avenged Sevenfold's Almost Easy (an excellent song, I might add) stood out. I'm seriously contemplating leaving it as the only song on.

And don't even get me started on the announcer. His VA isn't too bad, but the scriptwriter seems to have some sick obsession with the lead character; half the sentences he/she wrote seem to have a "RYAN COOPER!" somewhere in them. It starts out being enjoyable because of the attention you seem to get, but then it gets really annoying after about 3 races.

Section Score - 4/10 (and one of those points is purely for A7X's song, because it's about the only song that drives my adrenaline high enough for a race)

Playing The Game:

Oh. My. Gawd. Seriously. Honestly. Just what DAMNED crack was the PS development team smoking when they designed the game?

The physics of the game are terrible Plainly. Every car feels like a brick. Gone are the smooth handling and easy drifting of corners you remembered and loved in previous games. Oh no, EA decided to pull a Gran Turismo and made every car feel as realistic as possible. Or so they thought. In reality, all they actually did was about add 100 tons to each car's weight. Because that's exactly how controlling PS's cars feel.

And the horrors of controlling PS's cars are mapped into the driving experience. And nowhere more severe than turning. Previous NFS games allowed for beautiful powersliding when well controlled. But not in PS. It's simply impossible to drift through corners anymore. Instead, you jam down on the brake key, tap on the e-brake a little if you feel daring enough, then watch as your speed spirals down into a very boring 60+ km/h. And then you turn like the good little civilian EA forces you to be. And you wonder where that "need for speed" went. I even had one turn forcing my speed down to gear 1, at around 40+ km/h. Simply amazing.

This applies to all modes of the game except perhaps drag, which is about the only enjoyable mode because it doesn't force you to have to contend with the horrendous turning.

Unfotunately, EA decided that they could leave nothing good untouched, and thought it fit to add a ridiculously lame and boring mini-game to the drag mode. This waste-of-time sees you tapping on your accelerate key in a rhythmic manner to build up tire grip before a drag race. Why they thought it would be fun is beyond me; sadly, this is supposed to affect your drag performance, so you've got no choice but to play to their whims.

Well, after that little bit of damning news, I'd like to say that PS does have quite the car modification system here. More intricate than ever before, PS's tuning involves setting multiple adjustments for each of the engine parts you buy. Some might like this, but I feel that PS's mod system is too detailed for it's own good. You either have to spend a lot of time tweaking and tweaking and tweaking, or you randomly choose and hope that the car drives well. Which as we all know, it doesn't, because of the physics.

On a kinder note, it's nice to see that visual mods such as paint and vinyls are completely free. No longer do you have to contend with a plain car even at the beginning; feel free to pimp that ride!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, which is where the next segment comes in.

New to PS is the DAMAGE system. Yes, you read that right. Now, cars not only take varying levels of damage, but these damages affect performance and cost MONEY to repair.

Well, you can repair damages with "repair markers", but that's too inefficient to rely on.

Damage has to be the most stupid thing about PS. Just WHAT is wrong with the development team? Why include something ABSOLUTELY unncessary and unrewarding to the experience? Almost any kind of bump against the wall beyond what, 50km/h, will see the words "Light Damage" appearing on your screen. Go faster, and "Heavy Damage" takes its place. And mind you, these repairs aren't cheap.

Adding on to the stupidity of the damage system is restarting a race after damaging your car. Sorry folks, even if you choose to restart and lose all progress in the current race (which is the penalty typical of any racer), you STILL have to repair your car. Nope, there's no escaping EA's tight hold on your purse strings. Even if it's in a game designed by them. The only way to avoid paying for damage if you have Autosave on is to Alt-Tab out of the game, then go to the Task Manager and end task. And to require players to have to resort to such an option shows EA's major, major failing in PS. I mean, nobody wants to race with a busted car, so by playing on human psychology, EA ensured that players would be frustrated as much as possible.

Oh, and before I forget, once your car is totalled (as a result of flipping over, usually), you have no choice but to pay and restart the race. Nope, no reset option even if you can live with a busted car. And the fee to repair a totalled car is absolutely not cheap. Way to frustrate your fans, EA.

In short, EA has made playing the game an absolute frustration for fans of the older installments.

Section Score: 2/10 (keep this up, EA, and soon I won't even be bothered to give the NFS series a shot until another company takes over)

Conclusion:

EA's worse attempt yet at the NFS series degrades it to nothing more than a cash-milking cow. If you thought CnC3 was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Fans of simulator racing might want to give PS a shot; I can't tell you how fun it would be because I myself have never been a simulator racing fan. But fans of the older NFS series' arcade-style racing should steer clear of this blasphemy completely. If you want to rent it and give it a shot, go ahead, but it's likely to bring you to the same conclusion as me.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/07

Game Release: Need for Speed: ProStreet (US, 11/13/07)


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