Need for Speed: ProStreet Review
There's no question that the best Need for Speed title on the PS2 remains Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. NFS: Most Wanted came close to bringing the series back to its roots, but last year's Need for Speed: Carbon took the series out of the sunlight and back underneath the bed covers. The underground night setting returned in full force for Carbon, much to the disappointment of those who found Most Wanted such a delight to play, as it featured a large emphasis on cops, and maintained the tuner aspect of the game. Well, around the time work on Carbon began, EA assembled a whole other team to begin working on a Need for Speed entry that would be radically different than what's been offered in the past years. And after two years of development would come Need for Speed: ProStreet. But the PS2 port in particular was put together in a much shorter timespan, as it utilizes a modified Carbon engine.
ProStreet is a direction in which the NFS series has never been taken to, legalized racing events. Yes, instead of illegal street racing and running from the cops through urban and suburban neighborhoods, ProStreet takes a more professional approach. You'll partake in a large number of events, all of which feature a variety of race types, be it Drift, Speed Challenge, 1/4 Mile Drag, 1/2 Mile Drag, Sector Shootout, Time Attack, or Grip. Grip races are just regular races, and the first to the finish wins.
Sector Shootout is a mode unlike NFS has ever had. You race on a course that's broken up into four checkpoints, and your goal is to make it from point-to-point as fast as possible. If you drive fast enough, you'll control the sector; but watch out, because if your opposition does it quicker than you, you lose control. Controlling a sector earns you points, a system which is a little complicated to explain, but easy to understand when you see it. Dominate the sectors, and you'll place first.
The other modes are fairly self-explanatory. Speed Challenge takes you onto a long stretch of road lasting many miles, and your goal is to cross through each checkpoint as fast possible. The room for error here is very slim, as one mistake can potentially total your car. The damage model for the PlayStation 2 version is nothing like the next-generation titles, it's just as basic as it was in the past games, and you'd have to be a very poor driver to really hurt the car. Fixing damage is relatively cheap, but if you happen to be short on cash, the game tends to provide you with enough 'repair markers' to fix the car without cost. In addition to repair markers, there's also a marker that'll restore a totaled car.
But you won't be limited to just one car here. In fact, you'll need to own four cars in order to partake in all of the game's events, as each car will serve its own purpose (Grip, Drift, Speed, Drag). So you won't be able to just use one car for the entire career, but fear not, you'll win cars often, and affording them isn't hard. You can change the purpose of each car between either of the four available types, and from there on you will begin building its "blueprint." So if you have a 350Z and decide to change its "mode" to Grip, the blueprint you build for it will be for Grip purposes only. In ProStreet, blueprint is just another term for customization - not one I'm particularly fond of, but whatever. You can change the mode of a car at any time you wish, but you will have to reinstall and reconfigure all of its parts.
So how does ProStreet play? Completely different than any Need for Speed game in the past. You can't just slide around turns anymore; this game actually gives the brakes a purpose. After you adjust yourself to a new game engine and really give ProStreet a chance, you should find yourself enamored with the feel of the game. Now, don't misunderstand, ProStreet is still very much an exaggeration of car behavior, but its handling and driving experience feels very solid. But, I noticed that the PS2 version doesn't control nearly as tight as the PS3 version. The game features a Forza-esque racing line that helps the drive a good bit. The racing line in ProStreet indicates the proper lines for you to follow, as well as indicating proper braking. If you're taking a turn too fast, you'll see the line ahead of you will turn red - on the other hand, green indicates good, and yellow indicates being ballsy. But you can take matters into your own hands, and take a turn hard as long as you know what you're doing.
Furthermore, ProStreet gives you the flexibility of three assist choices, so you can play with a whole bunch of assists enabled in "Casual", "Racer" only brakes coming into hard corners, and "King" leaves the control up to you. I sincerely hope nobody here goes anywhere near the Casual and Racer options, as they're far too forgiving and practically pointless to have. What I do like is the fact that I'm able to toggle traction control, stability management, and anti-lock brakes on or off - which helps me configure the style of driving I most prefer - smart move. Moreover, you're able to toggle in which modes you'd like those three safety features enabled and disabled.
So while the handling is pretty solid, especially for a Need for Speed game, the cars still accelerate unrealistically, as climbing to 60 feels unusually slow, but then the run to 100 is too rapid. Clearly, it's an intentional choice in designing the game so as to prevent it from feeling boring and have it moving fast. But at the same time, sometimes I feel as if this game is struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. This also translates to a gripe I have with the game: inaccurate car stats and numbers. I couldn't help but notice but the performance numbers for a large chunk of cars in the game are completely wrong.
You've got a 400HP Pontiac GTO going to 60 in 5.5 seconds? Less than five seconds is more like it. The all new E92 BMW M3 taking 5.3 seconds to 60? That one's off by a full second, not to mention it's also listed as being slower than the previous E46 BMW M3 - which it isn't. Somehow the Chevy Cobalt SS is supposed to be faster than most of the cars in the game...And then there are the mangled 0-100 times. It's absurdly comical to see a G35 or 350Z reach 100MPH in 11 seconds - it's simply impossible in stock form. And both cars also have the incorrect 0-60 times.
A 2006 350Z, for example, will run a 1/4 mile in about 13.5-13.9 seconds and trap a speed of 100-103MPH - ProStreet says it'll reach 100 in 11 seconds. You do the math. And the wrong stats aren't limited to just a few cars, it includes the 2006 Mustang GT, Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Si, and a huge portion of other cars. Someone did not do their homework, because the stats presented here are just dumb. You may think this is small nitpicking, but seconds, or even milliseconds are enormous gaps in performance measurement when it comes down to cars. A two second difference, for instance, is the distance between a 300HP Nissan 350Z, and a 640HP Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.
My next gripe is if you're going to have a dyno feature, at least attempt to make it real. A dyno is a rolling-road sort of device that measures the true output of a car's power, by reading how much horsepower it's actually generating to the wheels. Typically, after drivetrain loss (having to spin pulleys, rotating wheels/tires, disk brakes, etc.) a car is robbed of about 15% of its power (20% for AWD vehicles). The dyno in ProStreet attempts to make no such calculations of power, and instead just shows you your car's standard engine horsepower and more inaccurate statistical data. Hey, would you believe it would take 340HP, 3000lb car 7.5 seconds to reach 60MPH? Thank God none of that stupid data translates to the roads of ProStreet, as acceleration remains brisk.
So with the ranting out of the way, the statistical blunders of ProStreet don't damage the game, overall. But I can't say that the PlayStation 2 version is as good as its next-gen brother. Where as the tracks feel rather repitive in the PS3 game, it's more so obvious in the PS2 game. Due to technical limitations of the PS2, a lot of the tracks aren't as expansive, or as long as the next-gen versions. So the more you play through the career, the more you'll find yourself noticing how similar the tracks in a specific locale feel. At least, unlike Carbon, which could be beaten in a few sittings, ProStreet is a much longer game.
The tuning aspect returns, and the AutoSculpt feature now takes into account drag and aerodynamics, another nice touch. AutoSculpt also allows you to modify the stock appearance of your car's body and its wheels - again, very cool. And performance tuning gives you some room to play around with your toys, such as controlling the spool point of your boost, the intensity of your shot, the camber angles, toe angles, ride-height, rebound settings, swaybar stiffness, tire pressure, and so forth. Now, the critical shot to the PlayStation 2 ProStreet is that there is no online mode, which also means no downloadable content. So replay value takes a hit here.
Visually, this is the NFS Carbon engine slightly changed and updated. The actual game doesn't look nearly as smooth as the screenshots imply; there's a lot of aliasing issues and flickering. And after countless iterations following Underground, the framerate still isn't smooth. Honestly, if there were less in-game advertisements, billboards, and other unnecessary background structures, this game could've looked much nicer and ran much faster. Also, the presentation of the game differs from the next-gen versions; when you're in the career, instead of real-time event, with rendered spectators, models, cars, etc., the PS2 version just has still pictures. Also, as mentioned, the tracks are also different between the two versions.
Furthermore, car damage isn't a prevalent feature on the PS2 version, which means no fancy bodywork crumpling -- it's all very generic. You also don't get the same smoke detail of the next-generation versions, as burnouts amount to nothing but a faint puff of practically nothing. Lighting is acceptable, but could've been toned down to increase the performance of the game - besides, sometimes the sun is just too glaring. Car detail is probably the only redeeming aspect of the game's visuals, as most of them seem to be brought over from Carbon. I also gave the game a run via my PlayStation 3 with the enhanced settings enabled, but it didn't really do much. Keep this one running on a standard definition TV, because anything high-def will only make it look much worse.
Need for Speed continues its tradition of featuring a beautiful soundtrack composed of the finest symphonies the car world has to offer, ranging from 4 cylinders to 10, with everything up to quad exhaust set ups. The audio here is blissful stuff. The actual soundtrack, you know that EA Trax stuff, isn't so bad this time around, with a good dose of good trance tracks and a few decent rock tracks. Still, it's the rumble of the engine notes and the exhausts that I love to hear vibrate through my subwoofer. And thank God you can turn down/off the game's commentary - it's just corny and annoying.
If you're a diehard fanatic of Need for Speed and you're short on cash for a PS3, I suppose ProStreet for the PlayStation 2 is an okay substitute. But in the grand scheme of things, the series is really showing its age on the older, outdated hardware. With no online, below average visuals, limited damage model, among other cuts, the PS2 port is better off left alone. I suggest saving that money and putting it towards a PlayStation 3 - or if money is an issue, a used 20GB PS3 on eBay can be had for a superb price. The differences between a game like ProStreet on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 are astronomical - certainly worth the price of admission.
12/29/2007 Arnold Katayev