Another year, another Need for Speed, the eleventh. Is this reheated left-overs like NFS: Carbon or a fresh direction for the venerable franchise?
I’m pleased to report that developer EA Canada didn’t just serve up their Need for Speed: Underground tech in HD as they did in the lazy Need for Speed: Carbon. Of course this makes previews rather less interesting as, before, we could just moan about our favourite subject with a quick nod towards a “yeah, it’s like last year’s game” shoe-horned in here and there. Ooh, mixed metaphors. Nice.
The first thing that strikes you about the demo is that it is nice and bright and clear and happy. The second thing is that it runs nice and smoothly – something that neither NFS: Most Wanted nor NFS: Carbon could achieve on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. On top of that, the sound is excellent and, overall, the demo is without technical shortcomings.
The demo serves up two events both against seven opponents.
One is a Speed Challenge where you have to pass through multiple checkpoints at as high a speed as possible. The racer with the highest cumulative speed wins, that is, all the checkpoint speeds are added together and that determines the winner. This is a mode last seen by me in Eden Games’ excellent Test Drive Unlimited (they use the average speed through each speed trap but it’s the same difference) and it’s nice to see it here.
The other is a normal race, here termed a Grip Race. ProStreet has, erm, ‘borrowed’ Forza Motorsport‘s helpful dynamic racing line driving aid but, remarkably, hasn’t changed it one little bit. I’m sure the arrows are the exact same arrows as seen in Turn 10’s racing feast.
Both events feature a good sense of speed and predictable and convincing, if heavy, handling.
If I may whinge for a moment
probably designed for people without hands. Or eyes.
The demo is stupendously easy and is probably designed for people without hands. Or eyes. I’m being serious (-ish), if you are a disabled or one-handed gamer, this is the racing game for you.
However, I can spot what may turn out to be a frustrating area of continuum in the Need for Speed series. The opponent cars are simply giant blobs with no physical properties whatsoever. Despite the showy crashes in the game’s trailer and preview videos, the opponent cars do not react to stimuli from your actions. Smashing into an opponent car at full speed has almost no effect on their momentum or attitude. Opponent cars behave exactly as they have done in previous Need for Speed games. They shalt not move. With easier opponents (such as in the demo) this is no problem as they will be so far behind as to be irrelevant but when it comes to a difficulty level more commensurate with your own, these opponents will provide a racing experience burdened with frequent frustration. Almost all the racing competition this year, does not have this issue and, while it is hidden in the demo thanks to it’s ludicrous easiness, it is the principle area where NFS: ProStreet remains very much last-gen. Given that this is the series’ third outing on seventh-generation hardware, it is a real shame.
Fortunately, NFS: ProStreet is up against Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights. Juiced 2 is fairly ugly, has funny handling and doesn’t run anything like smoothly enough. NFS: ProStreet looks nice, handles well and predictably and runs smoothly. It was always going to be more popular thanks to the strength of the franchise but we really need the competition to push EA to excel. NFS: ProStreet does see EA trying to push themselves into a new direction but they are still very much in a comfort zone.