The Need for Speed series has been around for quite some time now. Fans of the series have come to love it for the action, cop chases, and the generally illegal feel that has accompanied the games. This is what makes EA's latest entry to the series so bizarre. They've completely gone away from what has made the series great for so long, namely the cop chases, "illegalness" and such. They've gone to a legal, more realistic, simulator feel. It seems as if they were trying to make a game that is more like Forza or Gran Tourismo-which is not what Need for Speed fans want. It's still a pretty good game in its own right, but it's just very unfortunate that the mood of the previous games that made the series great is nowhere to be seen.
So instead of the risky, mischievous racing, you'll be taking part in all kinds of organized, legal street races. You'll be placed into the shoes of Ryan Cooper, who you'll take through the ranks of street racing prowess until you get to face off with the big boss of the game: Ryo. The story is virtually non-existent, however, as the main point is to just work your way up the ladder. The cut-scenes and storyline are just add-ons, not to mention that the voice acting and characters of the cinematics are not all that great-nowhere close to the quality of the past entries of the series. Don't expect the same presentation and great mood of the previous games.
The kinds of races present in the game are very similar to what you've played before. You'll have your circuit races, drag races, time trials, top speed events, and drift events. The races are relatively fun, and there are plenty of tracks and venues to race at. The only problem here is that for a game that is trying to become more like a simulator, the gameplay and control are just not quite up to snuff when considering the competition. The series could always get away with less than perfect control, because the overall experience was so immersive and entertaining. With most of what made Need for Speed so great gone, the relatively bland controls and actual driving tend to show themselves a bit more.
The setup of all these races is actually very well organized. In the career mode you will progress up the chain by completing "race days." Each race day consists of numerous events, usually including at least one of each race type. The emphasis here is on dominating the day, by accumulating points from each race. To dominate the day, you need to win the majority of the races. So while winning an individual event is important, stringing together overall wins is what will get you moving in your career. Some race days will force every participant to use the same car (which will be provided), while some will let you bring your own car to the table. If using the provided car, fixing the damage will be free, but if using your won car, you'll have to spend cash to keep your car in shape. If it gets totaled at any time during the race day, you'll lose all your progress.
This game does look very good. The car models are excellent, and the environment effects are very realistic and believable. The damage modeling in this game is what really looks great. Damage to your car not only affects how it looks, but it also drastically affects how it drives. If you take a lot of hits to one side, for example, your turning ability to a certain direction is going to be severely hindered. It also looks fantastic as well, as you'll see parts fly off your car, smoke billowing from the engine, and paint designs become unrecognizable. You'll really enjoy looking at the models as they get beat up. The one problem with the visuals is the framerate, which tends to drop a bit during busy parts of races.
The presentation is what you've come to expect for the most part, with flashy menus and hyper music. The sound is, overall, very good, except for the fact that you'll want to shoot the commentator in the face most of the game as he won't stop talking for huge chunks of time. There are plenty of in-game ads, but we've sort of grown accustomed to these.
There is plenty to keep you occupied here, with quick races and challenges to accompany the lengthy career mode. You'll find some good racing action in the online mode as well. Online, you'll be able to create your own race days, which is a great feature. You can form real rivals, and race with your friends through the whole race day in different formats. There was a bit of lag present in most of the races, but they were still playable, and a good multiplayer addition.
Need for Speed: ProStreet is a good game-to get that out of the way. However, the decision to move away from what has made the series so great and toward the simulation style is a questionable one. Fans of the series will be upset with the omission of the cop chases, illegal racing, and overall shady mood. For a racing fan, this is still a good game to pick up for some solid racing action. However, since it has moved toward the simulation style, it is hard not to advise you to pick up a copy of Forza 2 instead.