Need For Speed: ProStreet Review
Posted by Damien McFerran
EA go back to basics with the latest entry in the stunningly successful NFS series - has the company done enough to bring back old fans?
Need for Speed has been with us for over a decade now. Since making its debut on the ill-fated 3DO console, EA’s premier racing franchise has gone from being a fairly inoffensive car fan’s dream to a loud and brash boy racer’s paradise. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your stance. Here at NintendoLife we’re not particularly keen on the ludicrous modifications, garish colours, mind-numbing ‘urban’ soundtrack and scantily-clad females that seem to be commonplace with every NFS game these days (although we could probably get used to the females).
Needless to say, NFS: Carbon – last year’s entry in the franchise – left us feeling a little cold and we also approached this latest release with a fair degree of trepidation. Prostreet differs from the last few NFS games because it’s far more focused on actual racing. While Most Wanted and Carbon granted a large game world with quite a bit of freedom, Prostreet never lets you stray from the racetrack. To some this may be a positive change, as it prevents you from getting distracted by peripheral events like cop chases and the like, but to be brutally honest it makes everything a lot less interesting. Although the world presented to the player in Carbon was hardly perfect, it at least bestowed a modicum of variety.
The control scheme of Carbon makes a return here, although it’s not necessarily a welcome one. You hold the Wiimote sideways to simulate a steering wheel, and lifting either edge up replicates the act of turning. It all works as well as can be expected but you never feel as confident as you would with a traditional joy pad setup and fails to achieve the same sense of control as that witnessed in Nintendo’s Excite Truck.
The core game unsurprisingly revolves around winning races, unlocking events and upgrading your car. There’s a flimsy plot concerning rivalry underpinning the entire game, but it’s throwaway stuff and quickly becomes irrelevant as you cut through the game. The sense of progression is executed pretty well and it’s an satisfiying experience to see your car slowly evolving into a fearsome, road-chewing beast capable of truly insane speeds. Sadly, there’s no online play to speak of – something that would have reinforced the sense of competition the game tries so hard to maintain. With so many EA Wii titles boasting some kind of online connectivity it’s disappointing that the same hasn’t been done here.
It should come as no great surprise that Wii Prostreet looks uncannily similar to the Playstation 2 version. Although we’re now used to the practice of simply porting code to the Wii and adding motion-sensing controls, it doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see last-gen visuals on a next-gen console. That said, Prostreet is hardly what you could call an ugly game. The cars are generally well realized and the tracks are passable – although arguably the most eye-catching aspect about the latter is the sheer volume of ‘real world’ advertising that is present. Marketing in videogames isn’t anything new, but here it is done with such vim and vigour that you end up half expecting a commercial break in-between races.
EA should be commended for at least trying to make some sweeping changes with Prostreet. For those of you that took offence to the often sloppy and unfocused worlds of Most Wanted and Carbon, this could represent a return to more likeable pastures – it certainly harks back to the carefree days of the first few games in the series, where the only thing that mattered was winning. However, it’s clear that many 'modern' NFS fans have been brought up on the more recent entries and will miss the features that have been introduced over the past few years; one can safely assume that petrol-heads weined on the original NFS have most likely progressed to Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport and Porject Gotham Racing. The Wii lacks a pure racing game in the same vein as these genre classics, and while Prostreet can’t hope to compete, it’s an acceptable substitute until a true racing saviour appears on Nintendo’s machine.