Need for Speed ProStreet Wii review

Need for Speed is a series that has had various nips, tucks and major surgeries, and when Need for Speed Most Wanted was released it forever changed the complexion of the series. In a first for the franchise, the latest addition in the series is all legal, which means there’s no traffic to avoid or cops to escape from.

Need for Speed ProStreet says goodbye to the open street tracks that have been a fixture of the series for around four years now and restrains you and your cars from entering the streets (try as you might, but you just won’t get through those damn barriers) and due to this, some fans of the series may feel that little bit claustrophobic being restricted to these closed in racetracks.

To be honest I found this to be an unwarranted change, I don’t want to be boxed in a raceway like a lot of other racing titles, I want to be out on the streets dodging traffic, being chased by cops and bringing things down on top of them similarly to recent titles in the series. All these things etched a smile across my face, but now they’re gone and that smile has been turned upside down.

But they say there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, and Need for Speed ProStreet does come out of that black tunnel, even if it isn’t exactly the game that I would rather be playing.

There was much talk about ProStreet being more realistic, with the handling of the vehicles being closer to reality, and whilst it’s not Gran Turismo, things do feel noticeably different. EA have included three handling options (two with assists and one with none at all) with driving assists turned on, those who may no longer be able to handle the cars as they would like can still do some racing without repeatedly hitting those barriers. This makes perfect sense as in no way would I expect EA to be attempting to alienate the mass audience that has brought such sales glory to the series.

This increase in realism also continues into bashing up your car and facing the ugly reality of having to pay to repair it, and even going as far as totalling your vehicle if you’re a bad driver or just have a habit of disrespecting your faithful motors. There’s some brilliant crash physics on show here, perhaps Need for Speed has been learning some tricks from Burnout.

The career mode involves you proving yourself at race days. During these days you’ll be presented with a set number of racing challenges, and with the winner that you are you’ll want to dominate everything. Car customisation (complete with the fantastic Autosculpt feature), buying new motors and winning cash are still all present, but the wailing sirens of the police cars are so obvious in their absence that it almost hurts.

There’s variations to the races other than overtaking AI controlled cars and crossing the finishing line. Time attack is everything you’d expect although AI drivers are trying to break the lap record at the same time as you, so this obviously means that you aren’t the only one on the track. Sector Shootout has you driving through four track sectors and the aim is to drive through each one as fast as possible. The drift challenge from Need for Speed Carbon survives, and involves you getting as many points as possible by doing fancy drifts that will captivate the crowds. Drag racing (now with a tyre warm up mini game and a wheelie variant), point-to-point and top speed runs will all be familiar to players who played previous games in the series.

As for other options the Wii version surprisingly doesn’t include the online options of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. You can still create your own custom race days and go head-to-head with another player via split screen, and of course the Wii version also has a very unique set of controls. Holding the remote horizontally, you’ll be steering in the same way as Excite Truck, using face buttons to accelerate and brake and when you have nitrous available the underside B button makes you go faster. In an interesting twist, drag races are controlled by holding the remote vertically instead, using the B button to accelerate, shifting up in gears with a movement gesture, and steering (which isn’t necessary very often on a road that would please the Roman‘s) by twisting the remote. All controls are very responsive and make good use of the remote.

It could be an attempt to distance the Need for Speed series as far as possible from Burnout (EA’s other racing series), although whatever the case the more realistic and legal Need for Speed isn’t quite as attractive or as fun as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good racing game, but this year some of the previous elements will be badly missed.