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Pro Street

NFS Pro Street - Hands On

Electronic Arts invited us to the second Community Day at the EA Black Box Studios in Vancouver, Canada, where we got the chance to play the upcoming Need for Speed ProStreet. Following up our last First Look you will find in this article new information about the game and impressions of playing three different game modes: Speedchallenge, Grip and Drag.

Career and Gameplay
Tuning
Blueprints
Graphics
Physics
Speedchallenge
Grip
Drag
Worries
Conclusion




Career and Gameplay:

Since Need for Speed ProStreet takes place on closed racing tracks there will be no fancy story like in Carbon or Most Wanted. The game is more about defeating enemies in dangerous races in order to get the title “Street King”. In detail, there are four different racemodes: Drift, Drag, Grip and Speed. If you want to win, you have to be good at all these street-racing styles and prove your skills at the race-events.
The events take place on 14 different locations, which are spread all over the world and based on real streets and locations. So you will find the Nevada Speedway in the USA, the Shuto Expressway in Japan or the Autobahn AVUS in Germany. Depending on mode and organizer the locations have quite a different appearance. The events are organized by different Org Bodies, which show their logos on the tracks, play their own music, have big balloons and give the event an individual image.

As the gamer you start first at Battle Machine in North America. During the game you advance to React Team Sessions in Europe and Asia and if you are good enough, you come to the Super Promotion. In the end you have to defeat the showdown-king, which is some kind of “end-boss” and claim the throne/crown for yourself.

You have to choose which cars from your garage you want to take to these events. You can also take backup-cars with you, which are useful when your race found an end in a lamppost. So losing a race is not mandatorily the end; at these events the overall score counts, not only one race. If you want to be better though and advance in the game, you should win as much as you can. ;)

EA is aware that the career mode in Need for Speed Carbon was quite short and because of that you will have more gaming time in NFS ProStreet. It should take you about 20-25 hours to defeat all kings. To finish the game completely, which means completing all events, will take around 40 to 50 hours, depending on how a good driver you are.

It remains to be seen how the carreer mode will be balanced and how this affects the long time motiviation of the gameplay experience, but the onlinemode – which EA didn’t want to comment yet – and the LAN-mode for PC, which will be available in form of a patch after the release, seem to be promising.


Tuning:

As you may know, the tuning Need for Speed ProStreet will play an important part, both the visual and the performance tuning.

One noteworthy feature for instance is the Autosculpt (known from Carbon), which allows you to edit every part of the car – there won’t be any stock parts this year. Additionally the shape of the car has influence on the performance, which you can test in the wind channel.
Additionally it is possible to add vinyls and decals, presumably there will be 25 to 35 layers. You will have predefined vinyls and numbers, but no characters, which limits your creativity a little bit. But you’ll get to know more about vinyls within the next weeks, when the release is coming closer.

The performance tuning in Need for Speed ProStreet is very detailed and goes very deep. For the less technical experienced people EA kept the usual upgrade-packages, which allow you to tune your car without any technical know-how. On the other hand, if you understand the aspects of tuning and dig deep, you are possible to get some more mph from your car, which you can test on a dyno or on a test round on the street.

Unfortunaltey we could only test the game on the racing track and didn’t get any insight into the tuning possibilities. We will see, how good and realistic Electronic Arts can transcribe the tuning.



Blueprints:

Who knows the details of performance tuning, can save his tuning configuration as a blueprint and build it into his car whenever he wants to. Every blueprint is limited to a specific car and mode.

A remarkable feature is the possibility to share your blueprints with friends. If you send someone your blueprint, he can apply it to his car and drive with this tuning configuration. But he doesn’t know which parts are used and how you tuned them – he doesn’t know anything about what’s under the hood, only that the car goes faster. As a bonus, the creator of the blueprint will be listed next to the driver in the rankings, so that he gets honored too.

There will be even special rankings, where the creators of the best blueprints are listed – based on the lap times of the drivers, who use your blueprint.
Unfortunately you can only share blueprints in the game, so you can’t publish it somewhere over the internet. You have to be in contact with your friends, if you want to give them your blueprint.


Graphics:

The graphics in Need for Speed ProStreet is very convincing shows – at least on the Xbox 360, on which we played – many details. Although the term “photo-realistic“ was used too often unreasonably, I’d have to say that the graphics in ProStreet are pretty close. The reflections are displayed very realistic and the starting area filled with people looks livelier than ever. The smoke in the game is a very special feature, which contributes very much to the atmosphere. I think there is nothing more to say about this feature...it just rocks. ;)

The races itself take place during daylight, but this doesn’t shorten the gaming experience. Quite the contrary, EA brought some variety in the game: There will be 15 different types of daylight, from dusk till dawn.

The streets look very diversified and the plenty smudges and road repairs contribute very much to the sense of speed.

We can assume that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are able to display these graphics without any problems, but if every PC is one the same level as these high-end consoles, is questionable. Nevertheless, the developers handle the PC as a HD-platform, which means that PC gamers don’t have to fear a lack of graphical features, as long as you have a powerful PC. We will see, how the game runs on older PCs, but in my honest opinion, I like the fact that EA is trying not to devalue the PC systems.


Physics:

At the Grip-race we could test the different driving physics for the first time. Electronic Arts wants to create a difference between a more realistic simulation and the old arcade-style from older NFS games with the help of assists. Who can drive better, turns the assists off and who needs more help, just turns them on. This comes very useful when two uneven players want to race against each other. One idea from EA is, that for example children can play with their parents and the better driver just uses less assists. In theory it’s a good concept, but we will see how it will establish.

Without assits it is quite challenging tos teer the car – I myself couldn’t keep the car on track for a long time. ;)

If you turn on several assists, it is possible to drive good lap times. Beside ABS and ESP there is also an assist, which brakes for you automatically, when you come near a curve, so that you don’t fly off the track with full speed. This is something which needs getting used to, when the brake lights flash, although you didn’t brake yourself. After some time you get the desire of driving with less assists. Without them you need more practice, but therefore you have much more control over your car. You can hit the gas and brake sentimentally and you get a good feeling for the steering of your car, which helps in curves, when you feel when you’re beginning to break out. EA sets a high value on the connection between the gamer and the car, so that you get a feeling when you are over- or understeering. To make this experience I may have to play this game more intensive, as I could on this day. Anyhow, I hope that EA doesn’t make the driving without assists too challenging, but realistic at the same time. After all the developers have about 400 different parameters for each car, which describe how the physics will influence the car – in NFS Carbon they only had 40.


Speedchallenge:

Speedchallenge is a very fast mode, where the aim is driving on the highest speed possible. There are several checkpoints on the track, which measure your speed and the one with the highest speed wins. So if you want to win, you have to drive fast.

It is pretty challenging driving this mode, because even small mistakes can have fatal consequences. Due to the damage model rocks and telephone poles can be very robust obstacles, which can result in totalling your car. If you drift off the road, you have to expect consequences, which is absolutely only realistic.

We needed several tries, until we could finish the race without an accident - it remains to be seen, how difficult EA will design this track. Maybe it will be shortened a little bit, because less enthusiastic gamers can become frustrated quite fast.

Apart from that I am curious, how EA will counterbalance the missing of a reset-function. It can happen pretty fast that you total your car and if this happens during a race-event, it can be quite annoying if you have only one (!) try.

The steering in this mode was quite balanced and - in contradiction to the previous Need for Speed titles - pretty reslistic. If you drive off the road with one side of our car, you have to expect that your car will pull a little bit to the side, because two tires drive on gravel.

The graphics in this mode look much more developed than only a few months before. There are also more objects besides the road and it's quite funny, if you lose control and drive into a cactus field and mow down all the cactuses. ;)

The street looks very detailed with several smudges and roughnesses. It moves very fast under your car, which gives you a pretty good sense of speed.


Grip:

The grip-race in our demoversion took place on the Autobahn AVUS in Germany. There are only few similarities with the real track, but EA already announced the first time that they will only orientate on the real locations and it won't be a 1:1 copy. At least they removed the yellow signs on the street, which you could see in earlier videos -> they are all white now, as it should be. ;)

The race track has a very colorful look, there are signs and advertisements all along the road, depending on which organisation arranges this event. Sometimes it was quite difficult to see the course of the road. If I haven't had the curves in form of arrows on the top half of the screen, I would've had some problems seeing them in time.
The sense of speed feels a little bit less than in Speedchallenge - maybe EA should put some more finetuning in there. But on the other hand you drive quite slower in the Grip-mode than in Speedchallenge. The risk to end the race with a total of your car is quite marginal.



Drag:

The third mode we could play was the Drag-mode, which orientates more an real-life drag races. There is no oncomming traffic or other obstacles, only two cars on the track. We drove with a Plymouth Hemi Cuda.

Before the start you have to warm up your tires, which means you make a burnout and try to keep your RPM in a predefined (green) area. The better you are, the easier is the start. As in previous Need for Speed games the RPM shows you a green area, when it is the best time to shift. Depending on how good you did the burnout you have more or less green area for your first shift. A girl in the middle of both cars gives the starting signal - you should watch out not to start too early, because you can get disqualified.

During the race itself, it's all about the perfect shifting and a little bit steering. In fact there are are no obstacles, but it can happen, that your car pulls a little bit to the side, if you don't pay attention.

A nice feature in the dragmode is the possibility to make a wheelie. With a powerful car in combination with a little bit Nitro you can manage to pull up the nose of your car. With perfect shifting it is even possible to hold that wheelie even longer than only at the start of the race.

In my opinion the dragmode is quite fascinating and it will gain much popularity in Need for Speed ProStreet, despite its short length of time (the best times were about 10 seconds). The wish to outperform the old record prevalences pretty soon. ;)


Worries:

NFS ProStreet is indeed a very promising game, but there were some aching topics at the Community Day. As it seems EA is being pressed for time, because there won't be a replay functionality. The only replays you're going to see are crashes. This can be nice too, no doubt in that, but the time will come, when you've seen enough of it...
Additionally there will be no possibility to repair your car only partly. Duct-taping your bumper or making stitches, like we saw in the first trailer, won't be possible to use for yourself, because the developers faced too many problems with the damage model. If you want to repair your car, you have to do it on the whole - you can't repair only parts of your car.

Another point are the enemies, but this can change until the release: in our version it was quite difficult to push the other cars away or force them to slide, by pushing their tail. Here EA should do a little bit more finetuning with the weight of the cars.


Conclusion:

Altogether Need for Speed ProStreet is a very promising racing game, which can convince both in graphics and gamemodes. Although we don't know very much about tuning and multiplayer yet, I am sure that ProStreet will be a worthy representative of the Need for Speed series.

- Bernhard aka Shocker


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