E3 '07: Need for Speed ProStreet Hands-On

EA's long-running racing series edges into professional territory in its next installment.

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Need for Speed: ProStreet
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Considering that the last few games in the series have focused pretty squarely on underground street racing, Need for Speed ProStreet is a fairly large departure for the series. Rather than giving you an open city to race around, ProStreet is much more focused on the races themselves. EA is showing the Xbox 360 version of the game at E3 this year, and we were able to get our hands on a controller and give it a go.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

When you select a race event, you'll be taken to a sort of hub area, where you'll see a bunch of cars and people hanging out. In the case of the demo shown at E3, the area was a Nevada desert. You'll be able to bring a limited number of cars to an event, and if you manage to beat your car up too badly, it'll be totaled and you'll have to retry the race. If you crash all the cars you bring to the race, you may have to begin the entire event again. These consequences should definitely make the racing much more serious. Car damage also appears to be a big part of the game, and the cars take damage procedurally, so if you smash up the sides of your car, they'll have visible scrapes. Hoods, bumpers, and other parts can fly all the way off, and your car handling will be impacted if you take a bunch of damage.

There are multiple race types in ProStreet, and there's a boss for each race type. So you'll face, for example, the Drift King, the Drag King, or the Speed King as you play. The racing itself, on the surface, is similar to what you'd expect from the Need for Speed series, but the car handling feels much different. While it doesn't quite qualify as a full-on simulation, the game feels much less arcadey than the previous games. Yes, that means you might actually have to hit the brakes in this game. Also, like most driving simulations, ProStreet will have driving assists that you can disable as you get better at the game.

Visually, the big story about ProStreet is the smoke. When you burn rubber in ProStreet, the smoke looks absolutely amazing. It circles around the tires realistically and, most importantly, it lingers. If you burn out long enough, the smoke will start to impede even the cockpit view, and the smoke diffuses everything you're trying to see. It's a very neat effect that makes spinning doughnuts pretty exciting. Of course, how often you'll actually be able to get loose while trying to win races remains to be seen.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

On top of all this is an improved artificial intelligence system that reacts to your actions and gives each racer its own personality. Racers will make mistakes and display different levels of aggression. We're looking forward to seeing how all this comes together when the game ships to stores later this year.

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