November 25, 2007

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. What a terrific mess Electronic Arts have made of the latest Need For Speed installment, ProStreet. I was looking forward to next title in the series, hoping for the annoying features of Carbon to have been addressed and the good features to have been developed. How foolish a hope that was.

NFS has, it seems, gone the way of reality. Or at least, as close to reality as you can get in a world where you’re led to believe people can afford to buy, customise, race and crash supercars every day. No, EA has ditched pretty much everything that made the last two titles so enjoyable and gone for a major rethink, and in doing so has produced a staggering turd.

If you’re a regular reader of Pink Domino it’s highly likely you’re a gamer and know the premise of Need For Speed; if not here’s how it works. In the previous two installments (Most Wanted and Carbon) the action takes place in enormous cities that you can drive around at your leisure. You take part in races, win cash to upgrade your car or buy new ones, get involved in Police pursuits to increase your reputation, and once ranked high enough you take on one of the big street racing names. You work your way up the list, with your goal being to take the top spot. Carbon had less emphasis on the Police aspect and essentially replaced it with the game’s trademark canyon duels, but it was pretty much the same formula.

ProStreet is vastly different from the off. For starters, the action no longer takes place in a huge location that you can drive around in. Instead all of the races take place in the form of organised events, at areas such as racetracks, and you access them through the game’s menu system. One or two of the tracks are set in cities, but largely not. So that’s a great deal of the “street racing” element gone already. You can practice on the courses first, but that’s it. Now where’s the fun in that? One of the things I loved about the previous games was the ability to just blast around the gigantic map, hooning around enjoying the car and the terrain until I was ready for a race, at which point I could jump straight in. Now I can’t do that, and it’s terrible.

Probably the greatest appeal about the previous games were the sheer unrealistic nature of them. In Most Wanted or Carbon you could take a corner at 150+mph in a Lamborghini Gallardo, lose control and hit a wall with an enormous crunch, then reverse out and continue on your merry way with nary but a cracked windscreen and a few scratches on the paintwork to show for it. And by God, but that was fun! ProStreet has done away with this, and the cars now get damaged and have been set up to handle as realistically as possible. In other words, you’re going to crash. A lot. Hit something too hard and you total the car completely, and you’re out of the race and have to pay to get it repaired. I found this out almost immediately when playing the game for the first time: setting up your profile, you’re given the option of choosing one of three different assist modes – the game can help you brake and take corners, or you can switch it off. Being something of a veteran I switched it off, my thinking being that I didn’t have the last two games telling me when to brake so I wasn’t about to start now. What a shock it was then when in the first proper race, at the very first corner I come to, I apply the brakes when it feels right and begin to turn. Only the car doesn’t seem to slow down, or turn at all. My Golf GTI goes off the corner, rolls, and is completely totaled. I’m left sitting there holding the controller in a state of disbelief.

Nevertheless, I persevere. I love cars, I’ve bought the game, and I’m determined to enjoy it. I play on, adjusting to the awful controls. I qualify through the first set of races. Great, I think, surely I’ll be able to get a better car now and onto the more exciting races. My reward? A Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Excuse me while I jump for joy. Fuck it then. I go back to the main screen and choose a quick race. These are always good – access to the best cars in the game, on a track you choose, the kind of race you choose. So here I go – Ford GT (fuck yeah), in a straight-out blast across the Nevada Desert. “This should be epic,” I think, as I rev the engine. And it was epic. Epic fail. Thanks to the new realistic controls, I get the car up to 210mph and subsequently cannot keep it on the road. The tiniest nudge on the analogue sticks sends it veering left or right wildly, and I go flying across the sand and into a telegraph pole at full force. You’ve guessed it – my new friend ‘TOTALED’ appears on the screen to taunt me.

So damn you, EA. You’ve ruined one of my favourite forms of escapism. I don’t want to race realistically-handling cars on proper racetracks – I have Gran Turismo 4 for that – I want to hurl jaw-droppingly beautiful supercars and achingly awesome muscle cars around big city streets at ridiculous speeds, safe in the knowledge that should I crash it’s not game over. I want the freedom to just ride. And you’ve taken that away from me.


One comment

  1. Lawl, But Grand Turismo isn’t such a bad game ):. Although I Must admit they ruined Need for Speed, I Wouldn’t mind still buying it, I loved the GT Series~

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