Review: Need for Speed: ProStreet (Playstation 2)

In this review, we attempt to be the street king in the Playstation 2 game Need for Speed: ProStreet. We find out if this game is worth a play.

This game was released in 2007. We are becoming very familiar with this particularly long series.

We first started following this game from the very beginning when it started appearing on the original Playstation. This began with Road & Track Presents – The Need for Speed. That game wound up being OK, but nothing big. From there, we tried Need for Speed II. That game wound up being barely passable. After that, we tried Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit. That instalment improved things, but still wound up being pretty mediocre. Next up is Need for Speed: High Stakes. That game improved things still, but was merely OK again. Finally, we tried Need for Speed – Porsche Unleashed. That game wound up bombing for us pretty badly.

After that, the series made the jump to the Playstation 2. We followed this series straight onto this next console generation. First up was Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. That game really turned things around and wound up getting a great score here. Interested in the series finally, we tried Need for Speed: Underground. That game got a very solid score. After that, we tried Need for Speed: Underground 2. That game also got a pretty reasonable score, but did signal a disappointing downward trend.

After that, we played Need for Speed: Most Wanted. That game continued this downward trend and wound up being alright, but nothing big. Hoping for a turnaround, we played Need for Speed: Carbon. That game did, in fact, turn things around and wound up earning a pretty reasonable score. So, we thought we’d see if this turnaround continues with this next game in the series.

If you are like me and followed the series from the beginning, you’ll notice a very big difference between the last few instalments of the game and this one. The game starts a whole new plot and follows a driver by the name Ryan Cooper. This is the character you play throughout the game. Cooper apparently has been racing in underground illegal street races. However, he decided to go legit and race in perfectly legal races. He enters the Battle Machine qualifiers to test his skills and prove he belongs in the racing competitions. His ultimate goal is to take on Ryo Watanabe, the showdown king. After winning the qualifier race, Ryo is unimpressed with Coopers win and storms out of the event while Cooper celebrates his victory. From there, you begin your quest to take on Watanabe by taking down the competition one race at a time.

You’ll notice right away the first big change. The open world exploration and world map has been completely removed. Instead, you follow along this somewhat confusing progress tree. This tree features a host of optional events. However, you need to win or dominate enough races to take on the main showdown event. Each showdown event unlocks the next set of races.

Each event has a set number of races. While winning every race is a very good way to rack up cash, this game isn’t so simple. Each event allows you to earn both points and cash. The cash winnings for each race are set, however, the added points in the event is what is needed to both win and dominate the day. The more points you earn per race, the faster you work your way to a race weekend win. This is depicted by the progress bar while in the event. Get half way to the end and complete the event with a simple win.

Of course, you can always go further. The next objective is to dominate the event. This means you must push that point meter all the way to the crown and light that crown up green. After that, the final objective is to set a new event record by dominating the events as much as possible. Ideally, this involves doing particularly well in each race event.

So, what goes in to determining how many points exactly? At the beginning of each race, you’ll be shown a time that is your goal. The more you beat that time, the more points you earn. Other events that involves points like wheelie events, or points of some kind, means that you get event points based on your score instead.

One thing to note that isn’t exactly clear in the game is the fact that goal times are calculated based on your ride. For instance, if you have a super high power car, you can get a very good time on a particular race. However, you may not earn that many points. Instead, you might want to try a slightly lower powered car. The goal window should be much more generous. As long as you win the race, you may rack up far more points and make your event day easier. An example of this is comparing the goal times in a grip race with a Pagani Zonda vs a Dodge Viper. The Dodge Viper may be weaker, but it’ll likely be easier to rack up points with it in those Grip races even though your finish times will likely be worse. Something to keep in mind as you play.

As is seemingly the tradition with this entire series, this game largely recycles races found in previous instalment while incorporating something new and novel to the series. Some race styles are even modified. In this game, the races are split over four different style races: Grip, Drag Race, Speed Challenge, and Drift.

Grip races are your basic circuit races. The vanilla Grip races simply offers you 2-4 laps on a given track. First one to cross the finish line wins. A second race found in this race type is the time attack. In these races, players are given staggered starts. The racer with the fastest lap after three laps wins. This race is actually very similar to the style of racing found in Top Gear Rally 2 for the N64, really.

A final race found in this style of race is the sector shootout. Each race features four checkpoints or sectors. It’s like a heavily modified Toll Booth race found in Most Wanted. The faster you make your way through each sector, the more likely you are to break the sector record. Beat the sector record and you’ll rack up points. Get all four sectors dominated on the first lap and you’ll score a massive 500 point bonus. If, however, you are slower than the posted record, then you’ll earn no points. If you beat your own record from the previous lap, you’ll actually rack up even more points on top of what you already won. The racer with the most points at the end of the race wins.

The next race style you’ll encounter are drag races. This is definitely making a return to the series in this game. This style remains largely unchanged. Go for the perfect shifts on the track to improve your finish times. Fire some nitro at a strategic point in the race to lower those finish times that much further. The only thing new to this is the fact that you have a mini-game right before the race. You basically heat up your tires for increased grip for the race. Keep the accelerator within the green sector of that tachometer and you’ll increase your grip. The longer you keep it within the green sector, the more grip you can get. The best you can score is 100% Max Grip and that is quite difficult to achieve regularly.

There is only three different variations of the drag race: quarter mile, half mile, and the wheelie competition. Quarter and half mile races are straight forward as it only affects the total distance on the track. Wheelie competitions, however, come in late in the game because it requires significant horsepower. The wheelie competition is just like a drag race, however, your goal is to pull off the longest wheelie down the track possible. The player with the longest wheelie wins. Obviously, this requires steady, yet quick acceleration. The second those front tires touch ground, that is your score.

Each drag race features three rounds. The player with the best high score out of all three rounds wins. The duel matchups for each round is largely just for show. An exception is if an opponent accidentally steers into your lane and takes you out in the process. Of course, if you are flooring it and winning all the time anyway, that shouldn’t be much of a problem anyway.

Next up is the speed competition. As you can imagine, this involves some extreme high speed. These events are unlocked a bit later on in the game. This is just like the Sprint races found in a bunch of the previous games in the series. The slight change here is that they are all featured on separate tracks that are long and with few sharp turns. The biggest threat to your chances of completing the race here is accidentally steering into objects on the side of the road. While this sounds very straight forward, know that the roads wind around a fair bit and you are often racing on thin two lane highways. As such, these races resemble the races found in Cruis’n USA only without traffic.

A variation of the speed races is the high speed competition. This race is just like the speed trap competitions found in Carbon and Most Wanted. There are a series of checkpoints on the track. At each checkpoint, you’ll get a score based on how fast you are going. At the end of the race, the speed is totalled up. The player with the highest score wins. Note that event points are based on a total time instead of your speed score.

The final race type in this game is drift. Unlike other competitions, there are no variations. In fact, the biggest different race is the track is actually a complete circuit. The goal here is to pull off drifting as much and as good as possible. You earn points based on both angle and speed of your drift. One thing that has been removed, however, is any penalty for hitting the wall. So, if you are like me and a bit cheap, you can grind the front of your car on a guard rail as you drift to rack up massive scores in some areas. The only penalty is a bit of speed and the risk of damaging your car. Like drift races, you have three attempts. The driver with the highest top score wins.

In addition to all of this, there is one rule that is brand new to the series. You cannot take one car into every event. While it may not be an ideal strategy in previous games, in this game, it is mandatory you take a different car. As such, in order to compete in every event, you need up to four cars (note: early competitions only feature two styles, so two is sufficient at the beginning). One car for every race type (grip, drag, speed, and drift) is required. You are free to bring a fifth backup car with you, but you eventually need four cars in your garage.

Tuning cars is definitely expansive in this game. You can easily fine tune your car or simply let the game give you basic packages for upgrades. There are generally two basic upgrades for each car. One is for your power while the other is for your handling. In addition, both upgrades have three different tiers. Tier 1 is a basic upgrade while 3 is your biggest (and most expensive) upgrade you can buy. There is an additional tier 4, however, these are individual upgrades you get by winning markers when you win or dominate a race day.

While you can go for the quick and dirty upgrades, there is also individual upgrades available. You can buy engines, tires, nitro, and other upgrades separately instead of going for the complete set. These individual part upgrades are critical because it is the only menu that allows you to upgrade Aero. You can upgrade Aero through spoilers, body kits, and hoods. Those upgrades are not part of the quick upgrades. Note that roll cage upgrades can increase the durability of your car somewhat, but you certainly will never be invulnerable on the track.

As you race through the events, you’ll be given a chance to win markers. In order to get these markers, you have to win an event. When you win the event, you’ll be given a random chance between 5 different markers. What you can earn include individual part upgrades, additional cash, repair markers, total repair markers, or if you are extremely lucky, a free car of your choosing (very VERY useful if you want to score the most expensive car in the game!).

While winning is great, dominating is even better. If you dominate the race day, you’ll be given the chance to pick a second marker our of the five present. The domination marker choice yields generally better prizes.

As the repair markers suggest, it is possible to sustain damage during the races. There are four different kinds of damage you can get during a race: cosmetic, minor, severe, and “totalled”. Cosmetic damage doesn’t impact your ride in any way and is largely the result of trading paint with an opponent or a wall. Minor damage happens when you hit something rather hard. This will cause a slight degradation of performance of your ride. Severe damage is typically the result of a particularly severe hit like running into a wall at moderate speed. Finally, “totalled” is typically the result of rolling your car or hitting a fixed object at very fast speeds.

Cosmetic damage doesn’t need any attention. However, damage worse than cosmetic damage requires attention either before you enter a race or after you finish a race. The light and severe damage can be taken care of by a repair marker. If you run out of repair markers, you’ll need to fork over cash to repair your ride. The more expensive the ride, the more cash you need to fork over to fix it.

Finally, if you total your car, you’ll basically lose the race. While you can restart the race, you’ll need to either fork over cash or use a total repair marker to fix your ride. If you are unable to repair your ride, your only hope is that you have a backup vehicle on hand. I don’t know what happens if you don’t have this as I never got to that point during my run through this game.

Repair markers seem to be earned as you win races. They are shown next to your cash on hand. The number of markers are not how many repairs you can afford, but are separate. You can purchase additional repair markers if you wish through the menu. Additionally, repair markers can be won through picking the right marker after you win or dominate a an event.

Like previous games, if you are low on cash, it is possible to grind for additional cash. Simply replay events that you already dominated and you’ll get the chance to earn some extra cash. Generally speaking, grinding is, at worst, a minor thing you need to do. If you are decent at this game, you may not ever have to do any grinding at all. Note that you can also sell old cars you no longer need for some extra cash as well.

Nitros make a return in this game. However, these nitros are much more simple. Like racing games from previous generation consoles like Super Off Road or Top Gear 3000, you have a limited number of nitros. The amount you have in the race ranges between non and three. However, those nitros must last you the entire race. Additionally, unlike previous games in this series, you can’t just use as much or as little as you please. Activate the nitro and you must use the entire bottle all at once. From there, you also have to wait a bit before you can use another nitro on top of it all (watch the recovery meter). If you run out, the bar will turn red.

On a final note, this game slows things down a bit in terms of overall speed. Unlike previous games, this game represents a move towards the simulation style of racing. The game can help you out in two different ways: overall difficulty and race markers. The race difficult allows you to turn on full brake assist, partial assist, or no brake assist whatsoever.

The other way this game can help guide you through each race is through the race lines. Assuming this feature is turned on, each race will show race lines. These lines denote the ideal and quickest race lines throughout the track. These lines are typically green, however, they can turn red if the game thinks you are approaching a turn too quickly. If you brake when the race line is red, then the race line will turn green as you fall back to a more ideal speed.

One of the complaints I’ve heard about this game is the difficulty. In this case, the game winds up being far too easy. For the most part, I do agree with this criticism. In grip races, I found myself winding up nearly a whole lap ahead by the end of the race. I did gradually upgrade my vehicles throughout the game, but until the very end of the game, I found myself easily trouncing my opponents like this. As such, the only real challenge involves constantly dominating race events. Thankfully, this game features variety, so I wasn’t completely bored of the game because of this.

As I mentioned, there is an exception to this that I should point out: drag races at the beginning of the game. With the default car setup with your brand new cars, drag racing is a regular challenge and requires near perfect performance for a lot of races. All of my cash wound up being dumped into upgrading my drag racing car just to keep up with opponents for the most part. It wasn’t until I was able to pick up and fully upgrade a Corvette (extremely good in wheelie competitions!) and the Pagani that these races ended up being easier. With those two cars, these races wound up being trivial by the end of the game. The only risk at that point is crashing the car against a post in the middle of the track.

A second complaint is something I hinted at earlier on: the progress tree. Some of the lines are a bit difficult to see. However, the biggest complaint towards the end of the tree. If you look at the showdown events, look at the third showdown event. Note that there is plenty of stuff after it including an icon for the Showdown king. Now, where do you need to go to take on the Showdown King? Logically, you’d likely say the icon at the end of the map. You are wrong. It is the third star two thirds down the tree.

In fact, you need to move your selector past it to take on the sub-bosses. I wound up inadvertently taking down the King before taking on the sub bosses in the game. Even though I was taking on Ryo, I thought this was going to be like Tetris Attack or Lufia II – Rise of the Sinistrals where you get a taste of the final boss part way through the game. After defeating the final boss, the final boss retreats and you’ll need to challenge that boss again to beat the game. Not the case here. Nope, you just go straight into the final boss here. I’ve never encountered this in any game where you can take on the games final boss before taking on sub bosses by accident. In this game, this is an easy mistake to make. I did it, but it is absolutely bizarre.

Another problem with this game is the track designs are much more simple. Gone are official shortcuts that made a number of previous games so much more interesting. Instead, you are, at best, racing over a patch of grass to save a few seconds at most. With the axing of the open world, this game winds up being a much more simplified version of the series which is a bit sad.

One thing is for sure, if you take a game series in a completely different direction, you risk alienating your fans. Sometimes, as was the case with Mega Man Legends, this really refreshes the series and breathes new life into an otherwise repetitive and predictable game. In other cases, the idea falls flat. In this case, I’d say fans are easily alienated because it goes into the style of “hey, we’re street legal now – and it’s simulation style as well!” This didn’t bother me that much, but I can see more hardcore fans of the series will find this move way too jarring for their tastes.

A counter argument to the point that this game series is being taken into a radically different direction is the fact that this is not uncharted territory for this series. You actually have to go clear back to the very first game in this series and you’ll find that this game focused on street legal and closed circuit races before. Arguably, this game goes back to this style found in the very beginning as if to try and cover very old ground. With so many games in this series focusing on illegal street races over the years, it is easy to forget something like that, so not drawing the connection is very understandable.

It’s worth pointing out that there are certainly positives to this game as well.

First of all, the elastic effect of opponents have finally been scrapped. This makes it so computer opponents don’t cheat when you happen to be doing particularly good. One thing is for sure, I was very glad to see this cheap feature go finally.

Another positive is the fact that this game is very approachable. You can pick up and play this game without too much hassle for the most part. While understanding every element in the game is great, it’s not actually necessary right away. Additionally, players are given an explanation when they encounter a new event for the first time. This keeps the learning curve down to something very reasonable.

In addition to this, a lot of racing simulation games are very difficult from the get go. This game is nice because it actually makes simulation racing approachable which is not something I see a lot of outside of possibly Ridge Racer V.

Finally, the amount you can customize is impressive. I never got to the point of tweaking individual parts, however, it is interesting to know that such options exist to further fine tune your cars performance if you have a real gearhead side.

Generally speaking, this game has a number of pitfalls. This includes a jarring change that may be upsetting to some fans of this series. The trivial difficulty may be offputting to some players. Also, the progress tree leaves a lot to be desired. On a positive note, this game is very approachable for a simulation style racing game. So, if you don’t do this kind of racing, but are curious, pick up this game and you might be less intimidated by other games of this style. Finally, the large amount you can customize in this game is impressive.

Graphically, this game is pretty reasonable. The different environments such as desert, parklands and harbour are nice. Even the speed challenges are nicely done because there is so much detail put into scenery that you only really see once. While this game is certainly the most shiny game in the series up to this point, the thing to keep in mind is the fact that Playstation 3 games are going into year two of release, so this game needs to really stand out in order to remain competitive. I’m not really sure if this game really gets there. So, the graphics are reasonable, but nothing amazing.

The audio is OK. The sound effects and voice acting is alright. One thing I was starting to get annoyed by are the MC’s constantly talking. Mercifully, there are different MC’s throughout the game, so they don’t get overly annoying, but they do get close to getting on my nerves. The only upside here is whenever you defeat certain opponents, you hear Ryo fuming over his team mates failures. Meanwhile, the music is alright. The only highlights I heard were Avenged Sevenfold – Almost Easy and Digitalism – Pogo. Other then that, the music is alright, but nothing huge.

Overall, this game has a lot of strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include the very reasonable learning curve, and the fact that it’s a very approachable racing simulator compared to some others found on the market at the time. Meanwhile, the pitfalls include excessively easy difficulty at times, the confusing progress tree, and the fact that it is so different from some of the previous games as it goes into being more street legal. The graphics are decent enough, though it is competing against next generation console games. Also, the audio is decent enough. So, a decent one, but nothing overly amazing.

Furthest point in game: Completed the game and earned a 100% completion rating in the game as well.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: