It has been a little over three months since Need for Speed ProStreet hit consoles, and now it has finally made its way to the PlayStation Portable. Sort of. The only thing the two versions have in common is their name. The PSP incarnation, unfortunately, is an uninteresting mishmash of stale events, dodgy controls, and bland presentation.
For starters, ProStreet is light on game modes. You can play a quick race, start a career, or play wirelessly via ad hoc or online. We were never able to find more than three people online at a time, and none of them ever wanted to play. Career mode contains the bulk of what little value the game has.
In career mode your goal is to go from a relatively small fish in street racing to the best driver in the scene. Career mode's structure is about as unoriginal as you can get. From one of the blandest menu screens possible, you select one of the 13 or so tracks you've unlocked and then choose from a handful of race types, all of which are Need for Speed staples: knockout, speed trap, circuit, and time attack. There's very little variety, no drag racing, and nothing new to hold your attention. As is always the case in Need for Speed games, you can use your winnings to buy new cars or upgrade existing cars' equipment. There aren't many ways to upgrade your ride, but there are 32 cars available, which is a solid number.
Where the PSP differs from the console versions is that you can choose a persona, which is just fancy marketing speak for choosing a difficulty level. The lower difficulties have a number of driving assists enabled, while the highest difficulty has no assists but earns you more money per event you complete. You're free to adjust the difficulty setting before each race, and you can redo races on harder difficulties to earn more cash. Another PSP-specific feature is driver intuition--yet another fancy term for something that has been around in racing games for years. It's an onscreen display that tells you when you're going too fast for a turn and the best line to take through it.
You may be confused as to why an arcade racing game would have so many driving aids. The reason is simple: The controls stink. The first group of vehicles handle more like boats than cars. You can try to feather the analog stick to gently navigate turns, but it's of little use when your car steers like an out-of-control aircraft carrier. Your vehicle can sustain damage that you'll have to pay cash to repair after each race. This is a real treat, given how easy it is to run into a wall. The rides you can purchase later in the game control a bit better--as do many of the cars once they've been fully upgraded. But you're not likely to want to spend the time necessary to unlock them, especially because in most of the events you earn money only for finishing first. To top things off, races are generally rather boring since you're racing against only three other cars, each of which is driven by the brain-dead CPU.
ProStreet's presentation is just as uninteresting as the rest of the game. The tracks and cars look OK, but they're not especially detailed and there's a lot of aliasing on both. Given there are only four cars on the track at a time, it's reasonable to expect them to look better than they do. It seems the developer's plan was to skimp on visual details and focus on delivering a great sense of speed. One problem: They forgot the whole "great sense of speed" part. Even a lousy blurring effect can't make these cars look like they're driving fast enough to get a ticket in a school zone. The music and sound effects are as dull as everything else and aren't worth mentioning further.
Need for Speed ProStreet for the PSP is chock-full of mediocrity. There's not one particular thing it does well, and it feels like nothing more than an egregious attempt to cash in on the Need for Speed name. There are so many other, better racing games available for the system that there's no reason at all to pick it up.