It's been 13 years since EA's Need for Speed series debuted on the 3DO in a pixelated flurry of burnt rubber. The ensuing years have seen the racing series evolve in name, platform, gameplay, and, of course, visuals to stand as one of the most long-running racing franchise's around. While the last few entries in the series have been adding street-racing culture to the mix, the recently announced Need for Speed ProStreet looks to expand on those elements in some interesting ways. We were recently treated to a presentation and live demo of a very early version of the game at EA Canada, which was a promising tease of the ambitious game.
As with every entry in the series, the team had a look at the street-racing scene for inspiration. This time out, they found that the culture is evolving into a new driving experience that's more focused on performance. As a result, they set out to have the upcoming game offer a new racing experience that they're hoping will feel more realistic and believable. The action in the game will be focused around fictional weekend events and festivals set in iconic locations that will span the globe. Race weekends will offer different events that include old and new challenges such as drift, drag, grip, and speed challenge. Your goal, as always, is to be the best racer in the world--this year's moniker is "street king." The game's story mode will be different than the last few games, which have mixed in live-action cinematics to tell their narratives. While details weren't given out, the team noted that you'll get context and motivation for your actions in the game.
Hard details weren't given out on the game's multiplayer or online modes, but the team did drop a few tidbits on what to expect. The big-picture view of the modes revolves around the team wanting players to interact and build a community around the game, and the wicked amount of customization will be key to making that happen. You'll find a robust car customization editor in the game again, using the autosculpting feature fans have come to dig. This time out, the customization has been buffed out in a big way. Besides offering feedback on what your modifications are doing to your vehicle's performance, the editor will let you score or create blueprints for cars that you can then share with friends.
The visuals in the work-in-progress version of the Xbox 360 game, though early, were looking very cool. The 21,000-polygon car models sported a razor-sharp level of detail that busted up in a promising, showy fashion. Realistic crash damage is the order of the day, and along with the crazy deformation we saw happen in real time, the team is quite proud of the game's material-type-based damage, which makes for cool crash effects. The smoke effects were impressive, featuring a flashy level of physics. The most nascent aspect of the graphics were the track environment, modeled after Infineon Raceway in northern California, which looked good, though it was thin on ambient objects such as crowds and the like. Despite that, the brief demo showed off a considerable amount of promise that may wind up offering the same level of kick to the visuals that the first Underground game did. The smoke effects appear to be the big, snazzy element, akin to Underground's crazy lighting and water-soaked streets. We definitely wanted to see more of the game proper as well as how it's going to look on the PlayStation 3.
Though the audio in the demo didn't offer as robust a sampling of what to expect as the visuals did, it sounds like engine effects will be front and center. As for the mix of tunes you'll be racing to, the team noted that the music in the game will take a more worldly approach. You can expect to hear a mix of the expected music and genres for a Need for Speed game, as well as more adventurous tracks that tap world music to give the game an international vibe.
Based on what we saw, Need for Speed ProStreet looks like it's taking the series in a smart direction. The gameplay's more realistic skew should be a good fit for those hungering for a deeper racing experience. The visuals are looking very swank, with the crazy smoke effects and deformation that we saw really adding some kick to the experience. However, the big hook for us right now is the promise of the blueprint system, which is looking very cool. It has potential to help create a community of racers and builders of varying skill levels, which seems like a very cool extension of the game. Need for Speed ProStreet is set to ship this fall for the PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360. Look for more on the game this July at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, as well as in the coming months.