Nov 12, 2007
Ryan Cooper. Don’t worry if you’ve already forgotten the name since you’ll be hearing it a few times in Need for Speed ProStreet. It’s the moniker of your driver in Career mode. He’s not the most charismatic character. In fact, he’s practically mute - and you only ever see him with his helmet on - but that doesn’t stop the commentators banging on about him. “It’s Ryan Cooper about to light this race up,” praises one MC. “If it’s too hot in the kitchen get out of Ryan Cooper’s car,” another remarks, nonsensically. By the time we’d finished our first few races, the name ‘Ryan Cooper’ was the equivalent of scraping nails down a chalkboard to a Mika song. Thankfully, this is one small annoyance in an otherwise solid racing game, which marks a welcome return to form for the faltering series.
OK, so you can’t create a character like almost every other EA game, but rather than chuck in a load of pointless cosmetic features, EA have gone under the hood and tinkered with the engine. What’s new? Most racing is done during the day so there’s no more eye-strain as you try to pick out distant bends. Career mode offers five different disciplines, while online play caters for 1-8 racers. Most noticeably, NFS ProStreet has taken racing off the streets and handbrake-turned onto more legal ground - that is, proper tracks and cornered-off courses. The only traffic you’ll face here is from other racers, not unfortunate Sunday drivers. This is interesting for two reasons because a) the action feels more linear and compact, as opposed to the free-roaming bits of old where you hunt down the competition and b) it could spell the end of the illegal street racing that NFS has become famed for. Sure, a lot of people enjoy cruising around fictitious cities and weaving through motorway traffic, but Need for Speed ProStreet feels far more focused and immediate - you can hop into races and competitions at the drop of a clutch.
Need For Speed has always been a showcase for pedal-to-the-floor racing since its early days on PSone back in ’95 and, after diverting down weird (playing as the cops in Hot Pursuit) and wonderful (embracing the tuner culture with grateful arms in Underground) side roads, it’s come back to the basics of high-speed simulation racing.