It can't be easy to be a game developer in charge of releasing a new game in a series every year. People don't want the same game over and over, yet they're unhappy if the game strays too far from the established formula. EA deserves credit for trying something different with Need for Speed ProStreet, but the new direction of the series fails to live up to the level of the previous games. There's still a solid racing experience here, and the online component of the PC version is quite good. But the game's premise is uninteresting, the in-game advertising is over the top, and it doesn't run particularly well. In the end, ProStreet is just another decent but uninspired racing game.
Unlike the last two Need for Speed games, which told the story of an underground street racer through campy yet entertaining cutscenes, ProStreet follows the legal street racing career of Ryan Cooper. The game still uses cutscenes to try to instill some story into the proceedings--something about Ryan getting dissed by a big-time street racer--but it's uninteresting thanks to terrible voice acting and unlikable characters. Ignoring the story, it's your goal to head to different events, dominate them, challenge the best of the best, and then take on Ryo, the man who disrespected you after your first race.
Thanks to the sheer number of race days you'll need to win, it will take a long time to get to Ryo. Each race day consists of a number of different events. Most of these will be familiar to anyone who's played previous Need for Speed games. Grip races are standard races with eight cars on the track, and your goal is to finish first. Other events have you trying to get the fastest time or highest speed through checkpoints, or the best time out of your class of cars. Drift racing is back, but has been revamped and is actually fun this time around since you don't lose all your points for going off the track. You'll also be doing a lot of drag racing. It's fun for a bit, but gets old quickly thanks in no small part to the preceding minigame in which you have to heat up your tires; it's lame, and you have to do it before each of the three rounds. While there's no shortage of events, there isn't a whole lot of variety. Many of them feel the same--you just want to go fast. This makes the game grow old quickly, a problem when there are so many events to slog through before you reach the end.
The game also grows tiresome because the action on the track just isn't that exciting. Some of the later cars you unlock, like the Lamborghini and Zonda, are superfast, but for the first 50 races you'll be racing some rather pedestrian vehicles. Since you're on a track there are no shortcuts, so many of the courses end up feeling the same, especially since a "new" course is just an old one with a few different turns. Most importantly, there are no cops. Getting chased by the five-0 was easily the best part of the last few games, so its omission here is huge. Damage plays a more pronounced role this time around; you'll have to repair damaged cars, but you always have enough damage-repair markers to take care of things. We encountered a fair amount of lag when we used a controller with the game, which made car damage a more significant factor with the PC version.
While you always want to win a race day, that's not your only goal. You'll need to dominate as many race days as possible to unlock new events. After each race you're awarded points based on where you placed, how fast you finished, and how much damage you took. If your combined score for all the events breaks the old record, you've dominated the race day and you're awarded with a prize like cash or parts for your ride. You don't always have to race perfectly, but you'll have to win most of the events to dominate. This is made difficult because you can bring only a few cars into each race day--one for each event--so if your car can't hang with the other rides, you're in trouble. All is not lost, though. Like in other NFS games, you can purchase new cars or upgrade your ride to improve performance. And like in the last game, you can sculpt certain aspects of your cars' bodies to make them more aerodynamic. This time you even get to use a wind tunnel. It looks cool, but it's not that useful. Nor are all the visual customization options, because it seems that you can't use your rides online. The tool for putting on decals and vinyls is similar to what is found in Forza 2, but not quite as deep.