The Need for Speed fan site owners, me included, got a chance to play one of the future demos of Need for Speed ProStreet for a whole day at EA Blackbox studios in downtown Vancouver, Canada. I'm not going to explain all of the games features as I've already done that in the first look article so I'll rather explain the new stuff, like how the game actually plays.
And it really plays great! They've done a huge job since last time, greatly improved the sense of speed, tweaked the handling so it feels more fun to play, improved the tracks and more. We got to play 3 different game modes on two different locations (out of a total of 14 available): the speed challenge in Nevada desert and grip and drag on the Autobahn. The opinions over the best race mode were divided - some guys favoured the Drag while the others (including me) thought the Speed challenge to be the most fun.
The Speed challenge is a rather long race through a mostly straight track where you have to achieve the highest possible speed at the checkpoints set at about every 2 miles of the track. The trick is that you have to keep your car on the road which can be very challenging especially when going more than 250km/h (150mph). It's a very hard game mode as one little mistake and you can total your car - some of the guys actually haven't managed to finish it (including our community manager Marcus, who mostly totaled his car in the first half of the track), the others did so after many attempts. But still, with the awesome feel of speed it simply makes you want to restart and try again and again. Not to mention how satisfying it is to finally finish by winning the race.
The Drag race mode was the star mode of the event! We got to race a 750hp Hemi Cuda with which the best guys made times of below 10 seconds for a half mile drag race. And it's finally a proper drag race: two cars, each on it's own lane, full steering control (which means you have to watch out for crashing as well), of course no traffic and the classic emphasis on perfect shifting. To make it a bit more fun, there's a tyre warm up minigame before every race, where you have to keep the rpm within a certain range during a burnout to gain the longest rpm range for perfect start. To make a bit more difficult, you have to make the first shift yourself, which means you'll mostly start a little late or even too early, which mean disqualification in that round. A nice little detail is the ability to make a wheelie - in such a powerful car as our Cuda simply using a bit of nitrous in low gears and your nose rises up to the air. A few perfect shifts and you can keep it up until third gear or even beyond! My guess is that drag racing will be one of the most popular modes both offline for record breaking and online.
Grip is the classic circuit racing which has improved significantly since last time (especially the sense of speed which is now quite sufficient). I also think the difficulty was toned down a bit as I managed to complete a race with a decent time using no assists at all (could be because of me racing in Forza a lot). Grip doesn't play nearly as good as drag or speed challenge with one of the reasons being how the car felt a bit light on the corners, not justifying the grip race mode name. The end result was grip being the least played game mode of the event. Additionally the track used in the grip race (Autobahn) felt a bit unimaginative and didn't resemble the german autobahns much.
They're promising a long career this year: it should be much longer than in Carbon with more than 400 races in total, roughly 25 hours to career completion and 40 hours to all race completion (no need to finish all races to win career). Career will now actually require of you to have more cars in your garage: at least one for each race mode. You'll be able to bring 5 cars to every race day event - one for each game mode and one as a backup when you total a car. 14 locations should be enough to make the game non-repetitive. And for the first time in a while you will not start the career with the slowest car on the bottom of the food chain. All performance upgrades will be unlocked from the beginning (they still cost money of course). Vinyls will be limited to those in game (no importing of custom images) and about 30 layers. Every body part will be autosculptable - autosculpt will also have a big impact in the wind tunnel as car statistics will change in real time as you adjust the sliders. You'll be able to try it out in early October as that's when the demo is scheduled. After the game is released, a patch was promised that will add PC LAN play.
But unfortunately it's not all that good! For some unknown reasons the replays have been cut completely. You'll see your car flying through the air and flipping when you crash, but that's it. Damage still feels a bit limited to just parts flying off - during the whole day I only saw the body of the car damaged once. If you hit a telephone pole at 300km/h you'd at least expect a large hole in the front of the car, not just light damage which is what happened to me a few times in speed challenge. Also the duct tape fixes that the first screenshots featured - they're gone. Car repairs will now either be full or none. I'm also worried about the lack of a proper restart race button - you can restart a race, but your car will remain damaged which means that if you total your car, you can't really restart a race (unless you have special markers that will allow you to do so). This means that finishing speed challenge races is going to be a real challenge as in the demo I only finished in about 10% of the races. Another thing that been troubling the Need for Speed series for a long time is how the AI cars drive like on rails. It's more or less impossible to move them or even make them spin out. With damage what could be more fun than pushing your opponent into a telephone pole? I can answer that: watching a quick replay of the crash!
Even though the game is not 100% complete yet and a few bugs still infest it, not to even mention the missing features, I still think that Need for Speed ProStreet is going to be a worthy successor in the Need for Speed series, a great refresh after the average Carbon. A little more than 2 months remaining, can't wait to see the full product!
ProStreet Community Day Hands On
One day of gameplay time at the ProStreet Community Day in Vancouver, Canada
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