Need for Speed: ProStreet - PS3 Demo Impressions - 13/11/2007

With the developers touting realism this time around, Need For Speed: ProStreet hits all local games stores as of the 23rd of November and its demo has just landed in the PlayStation store.

The developers have said that the game is aimed at being more realistic this outing, even going to a Porsche outlet to take the specs of how the cars there perform on a track so as to implement these in the game. Although all of this realism is new to the NFS series as ProStreet follows on from the purely street racing likes of Carbon, Most Wanted and the Underground series, the developers are keen to point out that they are not trying to rival the likes of Grand Turismo. To be put into the same boat as GT is something the developers don't want as that makes their game seem more of a driving simulator whereas, truth be told, it isn't. NFS is first and foremost a game and although there is truly realistic handling this outing, it has retained its arcadey feel of yester year as well for any fan who seeks the handling of old. To further the realism this year the game has also introduced a damage system, something that isn't even seen in GT5 Prologue.

After downloading the demo and installing it, and a short burst of intro movies, you get to the main menu where you find your first disappointment. There are only two races to be had and this might make you feel cheated, I know I did, as the demo size is well over 800 MBs. Once you get over this initial shock it is time to try out the two races. The races are of two different types, one being a race through checkpoints against other AI controlled opponents. Your speed is clocked at each point you pass and then your total speed added up at the end to see who wins [this race type was seen before in Carbon and MW]. In this race you are sat behind the wheel of a powerful BMW that is capable of reaching a top speed of 199 mph. The first thing you notice when the camera zooms in onto the starting lot is that, although the graphics are pretty smooth and fine details have been meticulously crafted into each motor, what's on show is not as good as the graphics of the GT demos so far. Chalk that up to another disappointment [a slight one though as, as mentioned, the graphics are fairly accomplished, just not what they could have been].

The first thing you notice as the race starts is the handling. At some points it can be responsive but at others it can be the complete opposite, making only the slightest of movements even when you are pushing the stick full on. This is especially noticeable at high speeds, although I wouldn't know, I doubt this is how a real car would act at 199 mph. But I suppose this can be overlooked as maybe if you fiddle with the driving aid settings a bit it betters the situation. The second thing you will notice, and this will make you jump for joy, is the sheer speed of the game. If you have a Need For Speed [rubbish pun intended] then fear not as this will quench it, flying along the dusty desert road [the stage for the checkpoint race] at even 135 mph is a blast as the scenery passes quickly on either side and you get a real sense of speed [something that the latest GT demo failed to convey]. Then you hit the nitrous button and it almost makes your eyes water, as if you were actually driving the car, the sheer speed is immense.

Now we come to the damage system. When driving at such speeds even the slightest clip on a road sign will send you spiralling and out of the race, so you have to be extremely careful. But unfortunately, the damage effects on display in the demo aren't that great. Sure your bumpers fall off, your bonnet goes flying and your car gets scratched but the damage factor is nowhere near as accomplished as the likes of Burnout or FlatOut and it leaves you wanting more. Hopefully this feature will be a bit more fleshed out for the final version of the game although I must admit I have my doubts.

The second race sees a typical two lap race [just blessed with a new, "flashier" name: Grip Race] where you get behind the wheel of the powerful Nissan GT-R. The handling seems better this time around with the car responding more to your prods of the analogue. Again the speed is great as breaking into, and then flooring out of turns, gives plentiful satisfaction. I suppose it's worth pointing out that NFS: PS has taken the controls of Motorstorm, using the R2 trigger for accelerate [rather than the X of the PS2 games] and L2 to brake, mapping nitrous [O], handbrake [X], and the like to the face buttons. Although I'm sure there will be an option to revert to the old buttons for the die hard fans of the series.

Unfortunately, there was no display of the new crew scheme, and although the races are hosted by two different ones there would be no way to tell unless you were informed, so that leaves a somewhat sceptical feeling. Furthermore, there were no modding possibilities on display either. Overall it was a pretty underwhelming demo for its size although the sheer speed of it will leave you wanting more, and if a bit more detail goes into the damage system and if there is a full fledged, interesting career mode on offer, then this game could take the crown as best Need For Speed, and maybe, best racing game on PS3.

- Alex Goodenough



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