Need for Speed Pro Street is the new title of the series and so Electronic Arts invited some of the fansite owners to EA Black Box, who are developing the game, to Vancouver, Canada. There we could get a first look at the game and even could play a pre-alpha version.
As far as I have seen, Need for Speed Pro Street is somewhat different than any other Need for Speed you know. If you think this is an add-on of any previous title of the series – it isn’t. NFS Pro Street is different; it has a totally new driving experience, new game modes and new features. With this title EA wants to shift up street racing to the next level.
The most important change is that the whole game takes place in closed tracks. EA did a lot of research on this and this is where the culture in real life is going, an aggressive street racing with almost no rules, taking place on closed roads without any cops or traffic.
The game is already in development for almost 2 years and there are going to be some significant changes. Basically, the main new features are damage, physics and smoke. All three things are highly evolved, but I’ll get to that later.
What cops and traffic did in earlier NFS games to make it harder for you to finish the race, is now done by damage. The game is all about damage, you have to watch out, that you don’t wreck your car, because repairing is expensive and you might not be able to use it for a while.
This time the damage is not just scratches and bumps…this time you could wreck your car completely, so that you aren’t even able to finish the race. I watched it in action, and the damage model looks really amazing…far more realistic than what I’ve ever seen before! Bumpers and tires can fall off, windows break, hoods fly away and based on the material (metal, glass, plastic or carbon) it gets scratches or breaks. All the damage is calculated on-the-fly, so it doesn’t look always the same. It even depends on how fast you hit a wall, the car will be damaged based on many parameters. And the best thing is: the damage will affect your performance. The more you crash your car, the slower you will get. If you crash your car too much, the race is over.
Since repairing does cost some money, you might want to spend most of it to build in new parts to the engine and what is under the hood, than repairing the outside. It’s still street racing, so it actually would look cooler, if you don’t have a shiny new car without scratches, but a car where everyone knows that you already raced with it. We’ll see how this works out once the game steps further in development.
The tracks in Need for Speed Pro Street are based on locations, which exist in the real world. EA did a lot of research and took many photos to make the tracks look as realistic as possible. As the player you travel all around the world to participate at the race events, which take place all over the world. Each event is hosted by different organizations, so it will always have a different style. It’ll play even a different music style, depending on which event you participate, but I’ll talk about that in the music section.
There are 4 game modes in Need for Speed Pro Street: GRIP, Drift, Drag and Speed Challenge. For every game mode, you will have your personal car, which is perfectly balanced for this type of race. EA didn’t talk much about the game modes in the game, but so far GRIP will be like the circuit mode, where you race a certain number of laps. The drift mode will be different than in NFS Carbon, because of the new car physics. To extend accessibility, Electronic Arts built in “assists”, which will help you steering the car and staying on the track. If you turn off all the assists, it’s more for the hardcore gamers and the game will be more like simulation – it is more real.
The drag mode returns, but there is no information yet, what will be different.
The new game mode is called Speed Challenge, which is mainly a really long track, where you can push your car to the limits. At highest speeds you race down a straight road, with almost no curves. But once you try to steer, you have to watch out not to get off the road, because that high speed can be dangerous…
I could try the Nissan 350Z on the Infineon Raceway and I have to say (although I really sucked driving this track) it was really fun. You have the possibility to drive with assists on or off. I like the feeling of simulation games, so when you switch all assists off, the car is not easy to handle and it’s more realistic, due to the new physics. It doesn’t feel anymore like you’re driving a tank, as it was on the last Need for Speed games. This time you can drive the way you like. If you are more the “arcade-style” guy, you can just turn the assists on, and it is easier to drive, just as you’re used to it from older NFS titles. Need for Speed Pro Street still stays between an simulation— and arcade-game and this is how it should be.
A big affect on the driving experience will have the customization, but I will get to that later.
It is typical for Need for Speed, that the game consists of licensed cars and so it is also this time. There will be more cars than in any other Need for Speed games. Unfortunately I can’t talk about the car list yet, but there will be cars from around 26 manufacturers. From all these cars, there will be 8 “super-cars”, which you will be able to tune to the high-end.
If you don’t like all the these eight super-cars, you are free to take a lower-end car and tune it up, so that you can compete with the better cars. In the end, it’s all about your driving and the tuning combinations, you build in your car. More about that under “customization”.
The customization is a big part in Need for Speed Pro Street. For once, you have the visual styling with Autosculpt, we already know from NFS Carbon. But this time it’s much more detailed and you can autosculpt almost any part of the car. And the best thing is: The visual tuning of your car will affect the performance! So you should think about the practical sense of how you design your car, because of the new physics engine, every modification will affect the performance. It’s not only about the look anymore. For this reason EA built in for example a wind tunnel, where you can test your new car design, if it fits your needs. It’s a pretty cool feature, which I’m definitely going to use.
Apart from the visual tuning you have the performance tuning. As with Autosculpt also performance tuning is far more detailed than before. To extend accessibility, EA introduced different layers of modifications. On the first layer, the “arcade-style” people can upgrade their cars by just using predefined upgrade packages. If you want to go deeper though, there is a whole world of possibilities. You can change almost everything, parts of the engine, brakes, tires…there are 90+ individual part slots and 30+ tuning variables. You can modify your car in a way, that it fits exactly your needs. You can build in plenty of aftermarket parts, and each will affect the performance of your car in a different way. You have the possibility to test your car on a dyno though, and you’ll get a graphical feedback, so that you can find the best combinations of parts.
Since there is so much concentration on the customization, EA introduced a new feature called “blue prints”. You don’t have to build in every part you want immediately; you can save your tuning combinations as a blue print. So you can create your ideal combination of parts, and only if you apply the blue print to your car, they’re going to be built in.
I played only a pre-alpha version, so I can’t say very much about the graphics, but I can let you know, that it’ll be very detailed. The cars are designed to look more photo-real, not as in NFS Carbon. Each car has about 15.000 to 20.000 polygons, and they really look good. The lights reflects as it should, even based on the material, and as you already saw on the trailer, the damage model is very detailed too. The car models are real titbits for racing fans.
A big new graphical feature in this game is the smoke! In almost every racing game, the smoke the tires make looked very primitive or are even 2D textures. From what I saw at EA of NFS Pro Street, the smoke looks damn good. Especially when doing a burnout or drifting around it’s very important that it feels as real as possible. And it really does with the smoke, which was made with Shader Model 3.0.
We will see how it will look like with older graphic cars on the PC – the next-gen consoles can handle the graphical features very well so far. The system requirements for PC will definitely be higher than for Carbon or any other racing game lately, but we’ll know more about that as the development evolves.
As in every Need for Speed game the music is very important. This time EA got Junkie XL to create some tracks, which are playing during the game. Depending on which event you’re participating, you’ll listen to different music styles, like for example Hard Rock, Techno, Electronic or Punk. These styles are connected with the organizations, who set up these events.
Apart from Junkie XL there will be also other music from licensed artists.
Honestly, I was quite surprised, when I heard that there won’t be any open world, that there won’t be even public roads and everything will take place on closed race tracks. But EA affirmed that NFS Pro Street has nothing to do with NASCAR or F1, it’s no simulation and it’s still the street racing you do with normal cars you can drive yourself on the streets. It’s still the aggressive racing style and once I saw the damage and the really high level of customization, my doubts have been blown away. You could modify almost anything and this weighs out together with the damage model the lack of police and traffic. Let’s say, I think EA did the right step and I’m already looking forward to take a look at the game, once it is more developed.
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