Do you have the Need for Speed? No Detroit, not that kind of speed, you can put your hands down. We are talking about burning rubber on asphalt, backfiring engines and the feint whiff of nitrous oxide in the air; we are talking professional street racing. Fresh from the illegal night racing and cop chases of the last few games, the Need for Speed series turns legal with the release of Need for Speed: ProStreet on the PlayStation 3.
If you were listing the most important factor in a racing game that sells itself on the notion of speed, then surely a high fps, consistent frame-rate would be right up there. Unfortunately, Need for Speed: Pro Street falters at the first hurdle, rarely able to even maintain 30fps through most of the events on offer and sometimes stalling to a complete halt for a split-second during play. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the ‘Speed Challenge’ stages, where the frame-rate makes judging turns and avoiding opposition cars almost impossible. The only things a player is likely to take from these stages are a pounding headache and a wrecked car.
At least the wrecks are worth watching though, sending the exceedingly expensive cars into spectacular barrel rolls, which are usually brought to an abrupt halt by a large pine tree or some other solid object. Whilst they do not look as impressive as the render footage for the upcoming Burnout Paradise, they are nevertheless quite satisfying and could really use a replay mode to show them off in their full glory.
The trade-off for the poor frame-rate was obviously the graphical quality of the tracks and surrounding features, which are mighty impressive at times and certainly give any other racing game released a good run for its money. Racing fans line the sides of the track, alongside shrubbery and oddities such as hot air balloons with giant deformed faces strode across them. The cars themselves are slightly caricatured, appearing overly shiny and slightly out of sync with the palette used for the track and neighbouring area, but overall the graphical look is pretty striking.
Striking could also be used to describe the actions of the player’s fist when they first come head-to-head with the handling model used in Pro Street; nearby desks and walls watch out. It sits somewhat uncomfortably between arcade and simulation, never really sure which it wants to be. The end result is a horribly vague and stiff model, which seems to delight in not allowing corners to be taken at anything more than ten miles an hour.