Need For Speed: ProStreet

Need_For_Speed_Pro_Street_G_by_MiriV.jpgOkay, so everyone’s been bitching about this game, yet (for some reason) a lot of game websites and magazines have been raving about how awesome it is.  I go to game stores and people do nothing but moan about it, and the user reviews on nearly every site is saturated with people who call it ‘weak’ and ‘disappointing.’ 

Well, I was consumed with curiosity as to how this game could get such a conflicting rap, so I bought it.  And played it.  And to those nay-sayers out there, to those people that hate on this game, I call Shenanigans.

This game is unreal.

Reviewers have had plenty to say about this game, no doubt.  The free-roam segment has been removed.  The tuning and the parts have been simplified.  There’s not enough tracks.  Now you can crash, and if your car is damaged your performance is hindered.  I mean, the list of complaints is damned-near endless.

I think EA finally realized that glamorizing street racing to a bunch of idiot kids is having a very real impact on motor vehicle mortality rates.  Every jackass that plays the game wants to hop in daddy’s car and start drifting around corners.  Every poseur thinks he drives a highly-tuned 450hp monster than can do 210mph on the highway without losing control.  And the worst: every one of these kids (‘cuz they’re just kids) thinks that they can careen off medians and walls without their car disintegrating. 

Anyway, thankfully EA has tried to take out a lot of these aspects of the game (which are mostly uninteresting anyway.)  Free-roam was neat for a little bit, but getting chased by cops at every corner and having to spend 20 minutes driving through the streets to get to an event just gets old.  I found myself skipping to the events instead of free-roaming at all.  Lameness.  The NFS series has had progressively simplified car-modding, which makes sense since the average person out there has no idea about how to make a car faster, yet keep it under control.

As far as tracks go, NFS:ProStreet has limited numbers of locales, it’s true, but there’s a huge variety of tracks within those locales.  And remember: it’s a track racing game, not a street racing game.  It’s about the driving, not so much where you’re driving.  I also love the fact that cars crash now.  There’s actual consequence to just standing on the pedal and careening off everything, which is great, considering that disintegration is exactly what happens when you hit something at 100+ miles per hour.  It just seems like the majority of people’s complaints are based on ‘why can’t things just be completely unrealistic?’

Listen, I’m totally okay with video games being unrealistic.  Heck, that’s why they’re video games.  That’s the big dividing line between games and simulations.  The thing about it is that with all the advances in video game technology and graphics, well, that line is severely blurred.  The U.S. Army is using video games (or is it simulations?) as a recruiting tool.  Games are looking so realistic that when you’re able to take 50 rounds of high-calibre ammunition in the chest in a video game, you might start believing that your buddy can too (only in real life).  Yeah, the analogy is extreme, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.

But back to the game.  Driveability is unparalleled.  I haven’t had this much fun driving since the early days of Gran Turismo.  It’s an amazing mix of simulation and game (there’s that blur again) that really keeps things fun and adds a very believable sense of speed.  Me, I just get bored of games like Gran Turismo and Forza – pure simulations bore me because there’s very little ‘dramatic effect’.  But NFS:ProStreet does an amazing job of blending the two.

The graphics are very nice.  Not stupendously nice, mind you, but extremely good.  On an HDTV, they’re pretty stunning, but there’s occasional frame drops and stutters once in a blue moon.  I’m surprised at that – I would’ve expected a production console game to have ironed out any performance issues.  Still, it’s rare when it does happen, so it doesn’t really affect my overall opinion of the game.

The audio makes me want to die.  I wish they would simply cut out the announcers.  They’re freakin’ douchebags reminiscent of that guy from the Triple Crown, the guy that keeps saying “Triple Croooown!” over and over.  These guys just keep saying the same crap over and over again, and over again, and over again, ad nauseaum.  And they love your character’s full name.  They must say “Ryan Cooper” about 9.6 billion times.  Trust me, you’ll want to carve your own ears out after an hour.  The rest of the audio is fine – surround sound helps a lot – and it’s immersive.

My only complaint is the in-game advertising.  I’m amazed at how pervasive it is.  Heck, even the ‘repair markers’ are sponsored by Progressive Insurance.  The first update you download is an Energizer Battery update that puts Energizer ads all over the game.  It’s a little ridiculous, by any standards.  It doesn’t affect gameplay, but it sure does irritate (I don’t get enough spam in my inbox – I need it in every aspect of my existence.)

Whatever.  This is (in my opinion) the best racer you can get on the PS3.  On the Xbox360, keep PG4 in mind, but it’s a close thing.  GT5 is coming soon, and that will just end up being another simulator (like Forza): gorgeous to look at, but pretty freakin’ boring to play.  NFS:ProStreet will appeal to the majority of real street enthusiasts, drivers who know the difference between a game and the real thing.

That being said, I’m gonna tack on the ad for NFS:ProStreet.  It’s just too awesome not to watch…