Like most EA franchises, the Need for Speed series has been quite prolific over the years. Through the franchise history, the franchise has donned a number of styles, never quite a quality that makes it distinctly unique. ProStreet focuses much more on the "Pro" side of things, losing the very urban street-based attitude it has featured over the last few iterations. Players will collect and tune cars, and will partake in a number of professional circuits from throughout the world.
The offering is pretty standard-fare, but should more than satiate the basic needs of the car enthusiast. The career mode has players completing various challenges in each course. Many trials involve crossing the finish line first. However, there are a couple of modes that keep things interesting. There's Speed Trap, which has players attempting to reach the highest speeds possible at each checkpoint. There's no need to be in first: rather, players must smartly approach each gate in a way that'll allow them to get the highest speed. Sometimes, that means cutting corners, or taking turns in rather unconventional ways. It's an interesting mode that takes advantage of a different kind of strategy.
Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only mode that strays from the norm. Other modes, such as Gate KO, simply eliminates racers that trail behind at each checkpoint. The strategy you take to each race won't vary much than in the traditional Circuit: get to first, and stay there. Time Attack, Lap KO and Sprint modes don't really change up the formula much either.
One of the big focuses for this year's Need for Speed is the "Persona" that can assist your driving. The entry-level persona is the "Weekend Warrior," and it will not only offer the best lines to take throughout the course, but will even adjust your speed during turns. The middle option, "Adrenaline Junkie," will offer lines, but will not adjust the handling of your car. Finally, the most difficult option turns off all assistance. This is a really unique way of approaching difficulty, and really helps players learn the course and the controls. After a few races playing with "Weekend Warrior," players will really get the feel of things, and will definitely start playing at "Adrenaline Junkie." The tools are well executed, and the scaling rewards for those using the various persona encourages players to replay each level with less assistance.
At the end of each race, players are awarded with experience points and cash, depending on the amount of assistance used. As always, experience points are always addictive to collect. Leveling up rewards the player with added acceleration, and is rather easy to do at first. Cash can be spent on what every car junkie fantasizes about: new cars for the garage, and new parts for their cars. One of the more satisfying aspects of the game is to buy one of the later cars, tweak and tune it, and then go back to an earlier stage and simple tear apart opponents.
There is a very noticeable difference between the way each car handles, and that's very important for a racing game. The tuner cars will feel very different from the sports and muscle cars, and even within those classes, there are a number of very real differences. On the PSP, the developers have done a good job of making the game very playable. However, don't expect the same kind of realism you'd find in a game like Gran Turismo. The physics might not be accurate at all times, but this is still a much more simulation-oriented game than some of the previous Need for Speed games.
On a basic level, we're satisfied with what the game has to offer, but it doesn't do much to really "wow" us. Visually, the game is rather dull. The car models look very good, but a motion blur effect is used ... rather poorly. The game simply looks blurry, akin to many N64 games (which featured much-too-aggressive anti-aliasing). The backgrounds are bland, static and lifeless. If only there was something that was animated in the backgrounds – crowds, perhaps? Another disappointment is the lack of cars on the track: there's only four at once. While the aggressive AI will offer a good challenge, the limited number of AI opponents really does make the game feel that much more barren.
We also had a problem with the default camera. The "Near" view is still much too far away from the car, which seriously reduces the sensation of speed whilst racing. Considering the title, it's a bit ironic that the game never feels fast, even with some of the later, faster cars. There is a first-person view (by pressing Up on the D-Pad), but for those that like playing from third-person, the camera position will be a bit underwhelming.
There are a number of features EA should be commended for. For example, there's Infrastructure multiplayer. (Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to test this mode out before this review was written.) Not only that, there's a fair bit of content in the game, with 16 courses to go through. Each course has a number of variations, so there's plenty to race on. With the multiple modes, collectible cars, and customizable parts, players will get a lot of racing out of this title.
There's also custom soundtracks, but unfortunately, the feature is rather moot. The game will read every MP3 in your PSP's Music folder (no need to create a special folder for the game, like Wipeout Pulse). The ease of using the feature is much appreciated, but the game will only select tracks from your Memory Stick when in the main menu. Music whilst in a race is strictly limited to whatever's on the UMD. Boo. The soundtrack isn't bad, but it is disappointing to see EA almost get custom soundtracks right. Perhaps next year.
A few game-ending glitches affected us throughout our time with the game. Sometimes, track textures would simply disappear, so we'd end up driving in white space. Other times, the game would simple freeze at the Loading screen. Considering this was a retail copy, we're pretty sure these glitches will be discovered by the public at large. Fortunately, there is auto-saving, so players won't have to worry about losing progress. However, it is annoying to have to quit to the XMB and restart the game once in a while.
Ultimately, Need for Speed: ProStreet does what it needs to do. It doesn't innovate or excite in the way that other racing games have, but for many racing fans, that's not really a major concern. ProStreet offers a solid racing experience with a good amount of content to keep racing enthusiasts satisfied. But, with its fair share of flaws and glitches, this is far from what the PSP can truly offer.
PSP Fanboy score: 7.0