Need for Speed: Pro Street PS3 Review

They may not have been to everyone’s taste, but I for one loved where the Need for Speed series was going in its last two efforts. The races were exciting, escaping the police was fun, and the overarching story was perfectly acceptable for a racer. To make things even better finding out who both Josie Maran and Emmanuelle Vaugier were, and then promptly Google searching them were also top notch experiences in their own right. All in all it would be quite easy to summarise that there really was nothing wrong with the series, it had found a niche for itself, and a quality niche at that. Furthermore, the games were also being received well by many different audiences, and the cherry on top was that the inherent disappointment of those ‘Underground’ days was finally starting to wear off.

So what went so wrong with this one then? Well, that’s a harder question to answer than it first appears to be. In truth, it is hard to label Pro Street a bad game, as it is not one. However, with the change in gameplay from arcade to a somewhat sim-like approach it has now placed itself into a crowd where there are many other competitors of similar ilk, with top notch games that justifiably deserve high praise for their efforts. Unfortunately, even though the latest NFS does nothing inherently wrong, it is these other high quality releases that make Pro Street feel like a cheap imitation of what others excel at.

The car handling, as well as partaking in some of the events – which are the core of any racing title – thankfully have some quality them. Yes, it is a bit floaty but all the cars are easy enough to get to grips with, and then learn to throw around a track with ease the more you play. Perhaps it could be argued that it’s all a bit too easy, as at times it almost feels effortless to shoot off from your last place starting position like some kind of hyper hare and quickly rocket into first place against a group of some slow moving pedantic mechanical plodding tortoises. In fact, this metaphor can be continued even further as if you crash out, hit the grass, or scrape a barrier the other cars will “slow and steadily” catch up and pass you by, as now even the smallest mistake effects you much more than previous iterations of the series. However, you can always catch up again so there really is no moral to this story.

There are some truly bad decisions on show though, the biggest being your in-game avatar coming across as a rather unlikeable chap. This is not his fault, as he is of the silent protagonist type, but hearing the in-game commentators go on about “my man Ryan Cooper” and constantly “biggin’ their homie up” by saying how great he apparently is, makes him someone you will grow to love to hate rather than someone you want to play as. In fact, all of the characters in the game are quite easy to abhor. Rival racers in particular are a huge cause of annoyance, with all their taunts sounding like one of those nauseating vociferous teenagers on Xbox Live rather than something someone was paid to write. Speaking of online gaming, EA does not do much to impress with the online side of Pro Street either as online play consists of just a few basic races – which is more or less expected in every racing game these days – along with the option to make your own selection of races, group them together into a ‘Race Day’ and play through it with others online. Other than that online leaderboards and the option to share and download car blueprints is also available.

Unfortunately, some of the driving sections in the game are less impressive than the ones mentioned above, with some getting progressively more annoying the more you play them. Drag Races are the perfect example of this, as it sounds like a great idea to warm up your tires and get grip before a race. However, when you have to repeat this multiple time throughout an event, and in turn multiple times throughout the game the novelty starts to wear thin very quickly. Getting from race to race and event to event now feels very laboured as well, with menu after menu to traverse through every time you want to get on the track. Furthermore, the new ‘Race Day’ approach to selecting events is not a welcome one, as all it does is distance you from the action. Even worse, when the game is trying to tell its minuscule story at the same time the jump from cutscene to race to boring race day splash screen is even more jarring. If that’s not bad enough, even the in-game girls – Krystal Forscutt, an apparently well known Big Brother contestant from Australia, and Sayoko Ohashi, who according to Wikipedia does not seem to do much – are comprised of polygonal buffoonery this time round, which is just not right!

When all is said and done I find it very hard to like Pro Street, and in turn the NFS series in the current state it’s in, and I am sure I am not alone in that assumption. If you grouped together all of the fans of franchise – which over the years has sold millions – and asked them if they wanted the franchise to lose its arcade roots I am sure the vast majority of them would have said no. If they did want that type of game I am sure they would have bought Forza when it was released earlier this year. I guess the best thing I can say about the game is that the much loved customisation options are still there, and the graphics have been noticeably improved but that’s about it. All in all, now that Need for Speed has adopted a somewhat sim-like approach there is no other recommendation I can give other than just go and pick up Turn 10’s Forza instead, as that is the absolute pinnacle of where this part of the racing genre finds itself in right now. In truth, if the series continues down this line it is just a car crash waiting to happen, although some could argue the pileup has already begun.

The beginning of a bad track record?

6.0 out of 10
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