Need for Speed ProStreet Preview
It's currently the longest-running racing franchise out there, and EA's Need for Speed franchise continues to motor along at a solid pace. We had more than a few entries in the last generation, ranging from Hot Pursuit 2 to the Underground titles, and now, the first next-gen installment has been unveiled. You can check out the announcement video here, and when you're done, you can finish reading up on the details. Need for Speed ProStreet appears to have a little something for everyone, and that includes both long-time fans of the franchise and new-age gamers alike. Why? Well, the same stylish, glossy presentation should be apparent, but at the same time, there will also be several fresh new elements never before seen in the NFS series. Check out the latest:
As indicated by the title, the game takes a big hint from the street racing culture, which follows along the same lines of the Underground entries. But while that is to be expected, one of the first major changes - and some will consider it an upgrade - to the franchise centers on the racing physics. It seems EA will actually attempt to instill more in the way of realism and accuracy, which may sound like sacrilege to those who love the arcade-y aspect of the series, but it's happening nonetheless. So perhaps we can expect more in the way of difficulty when traveling at downright absurd speeds, and maybe the vehicles will sport more significant differences. Now, if they get too obsessed with adopting a more simulated feel, they'll lose their target audience, so we assume this isn't too drastic. EA may some day attempt to produce a competitor for Gran Turismo, but they won't do it with Need for Speed.
EA also plans to change the typical linear progression of their flagship racer, as they intend to include what's known as "Race Weekends." These individual races and events take place on the weekends - duh - and take place in locations all over the world. Furthermore, it's not just about racing and finishing first; you'll be tackling a variety of challenges ranging from drift and drag to speed "missions," and that's how you will advance in rank. The ultimate goal is to achieve the enviable label of "Street King," which can only happen after you've beaten the best of the best during each event. There's even a Story Mode to accompany this new title, and it will clearly be the crux of the gameplay, complete with cut-scenes and even brief narratives. Obviously, this is another departure from the same ‘ol same ‘ol in the NFS series, and again, depending on your own opinions, this is either an upgrade or a drawback.
But getting back to that added realism for a moment, this new entry is going to feature something very cool- a customization editor that provides feedback on your vehicle alterations. Basically, the game will tell you how your modifications will impact the car's performance on the track, and it should be pretty detailed. Factor this into EA's new blueprint theory of "building a community" of racers, and you've got a very engaging format for ProStreet. We're just wondering how many upgrades will be available; are we talking both mechanical and cosmetic or are we just talking about a few simple turbo tweaks here and there? At this point, it's hard to say exactly how deep they're going, but rumor has it that there will be a ton of options. Don't worry, though, we're certain the franchise will remain as accessible as ever; NFS has never been limited to the hardcore racing fan.
As for the rest of the game's presentation, we might be able to expect some Burnout-esque crashes! Cars will smash up big time, and they're preparing a huge set of flashy visuals that will accompany your colossal mistake (‘cuz that's what most crashes are, right?). We have heard there will be "realistic crash damage," but we assume that only means from a graphical viewpoint; the smoke will be plentiful, and the glass and pieces of metal will fly. We seriously doubt we're talking about car damage impacting a vehicle's performance, because that would definitely be a step too far in the simulator direction. This does lead us to wonder how much of a role crashes actually play, though. We probably won't see a full-on Crash Mode, but maybe the racer will get rewarded for sending an opponent to a spectacular demise...
Lastly, when we said you'd be racing in locations all over the world, that element is part of the larger picture: in general, you're looking at the most global NFS ever. Not only will you participate in various events from just about every corner of the earth, but EA will back up the environment with a goodly array of international music. The soundtrack is always a big deal in Need for Speed - as well it should be - and while no songs have been released yet, it's reasonable to assume we'll see a mix of alternative, rock/pop, and techno beats, enough to satisfy many a gamer's tastes. Without a great soundtrack, racing games tend to suffer, but that certainly won't be an issue in ProStreet. NFS has always rocked, plain and simple.
We really want to hear more about the customizing editor, and that blueprint feature (it will help you build a network of racers that match your current skill level) is something new that sounds immensely intriguing. How come other street racing games haven't thought of this? There is an underground network of street racers, you know. But anyway, you're looking at one of the most promising NFS installments in recent memory, primarily due to several big changes that we're calling enhancements. It goes well beyond next-gen graphics; we're dealing with a deeper racing experience with more freedom and options than ever before. Need for Speed ProStreet is slated to release some time this fall for all major platforms.
6/7/2007 Ben Dutka