EA's Need For Speed series has grown up. In the wake of the lukewarm reception for the last instalment, Need For Speed: Carbon, a rethink has been undertaken in a bid to get the series back on the racing line. So, out goes night-time racing, pointless neon and all that bling. In short, it seems that Need For Speed feels the need to be taken seriously.
The biggest shift for Need For Speed: ProStreet is the move from illegal street racing of the sort seen in movies like The Fast And The Furious to circuit racing. Putting our pedantic hats on, that title, ProStreet, is a little misleading. It suggests a game in favour of street racing when you mainly tear up the open road in drag races along deserted strips of highway. No, track-based events form the meat of ProStreet.
Days Of Speed
You'll take part in a series of Race Days, essentially big shindigs in the middle of nowhere, celebrating hardcore modification and racing. There's music, a general sense of lots of young people drinking and having a laugh (but not if they're about to get behind the wheel of a stupidly fast car, obviously) - a real festival air. Trouble is, when you get away from the happy hubbub, loud power-pop fluff and the really irritating commentator ("Whoa! We're on the SECOND LAP!"), there's not a great deal to get excited about.
There are four main elements to each race meeting. Grip is your standard race around a circuit, dragster racing events are enigmatically called Drag, Sector Shootouts pit you against the clock and you can probably guess what Drift events involve. A usual day in the desert will see you completing a combination of these disciplines in an effort to overhaul a points target, in order to unlock the next Race Day and move your career forward.
Unfortunately, the career map is a jumbled mess and there's little tangible sense of progress as you complete events and take on each discipline's Showdown King. Although the racing is generally satisfying, the conveyor belt feel of event after event after event makes it all feel like a hard slog.
It's not helped by the blandness of the visuals. The sandy, dusty look to the game makes everything appear really washed out, while the identikit nature of the tracks (straight, left a bit, sharp right, straight, hairpin, finishing line - swap about to create the next track) means character is lacking. Carbon had that, even if it was over the top. Despite the solid driving ProStreet offers, it is rather, well, boring.
But it has to be said that it does drive a decent game. In much the same way as Excite Truck, you take the Wii Remote and hold it sideways, with 2 being the accelerator and 1 controlling the brakes. Tilting the two ends steers your car left or right, and the awkwardness of not having a 'neutral' position (like an analogue stick would have if it were just left alone) is frustrating. Steering has been fixed at just the right sensitivity - the only concern is not looking like a fool as you jerk your arms all over the shop. It would have been nice to have the option, however, of using the Nunchuk's analogue stick should the Remote method not be to your liking.
The move from bling to genuine racing is welcome. The Blueprint system means you can devote a scary amount of time to modifying your car, but all changes serve a purpose - they make you go faster. But some of the fun has been lost in the move, and despite its best efforts, ProStreet is strangely dull