Need for Speed ProStreet - hands-on

So can a NFS that seems so different toanything seen previously retain the series' monstrous fan base while alsoattracting new fans? We're willing to be it is. Read on to see how ProStreet is set to redefine videogame racing as we know it.

EA believes that this year car models are almost inseparable from the real thing,and it's a definite possibility.

Rival AI varies from aggressive to laidback to cautious. They're also distinctly human in their approach to driving, and will make mistakes - especially if put under pressure. There's also less obvious catch-up AI this year.

They've had a team working for a year just on smoke, and boy does it show. Remember those incredible volumetric smoky explosions in Call of Duty 2, or the incredible-looking puffs emanating from mech wreckage in Lost Planet? Well, they've got absolutely nothing on ProStreet. We've only seen it so far in the form of a glorified tech demo, but it was jaw-dropping. The developers also reckon smoke will function as a bona fide gameplay element - you'll be blinded by smoke plumes from rivals, especially in drag races.

For the first time, EA thinks they've succeeded in making the car "connect" to the road, enabling them to bring the violence and power of the machines to life.

There's a dedicated team concentrating on nailing the physics, in order to create a "believable driving experience." There's AI on the physics, adaptive AI race strategies, advanced type grip models and a heightened sense of speed and control. Just for reference, Carbon had 40 internal sliders which the developers used to tune physics - this year it's closer to 400. Impressively, the PS2 version will retain all the features of its next-gen brethren, though the smoke is going to be turned down a tad.

ProStreet sports the most comprehensive car list of all time - packing 40 years of cars from 26 manufacturers into the game including numerous iconic models. Surprisingly, there are only eight supercars in ProStreet - EA wants tough cars this time round, not prissy ones.

Tuning up
The Autosculpt feature was revolutionary stuff, but EA admits combining it with their new damage model has been a real pain, since developers had been forced to build a procedural, real-time system. Still, they're suitably pleased with the results - claiming ProStreet is "accessible for the masses, deep for the tuners." You'll be encouraged to tune your car before each race, since each discipline requires radically different tactics.

One of the biggest, most exciting new concepts of ProStreet is the blue-printing feature - which allows you to save cars out and share them online with fellow aficionados of seriously manicured rides. You'll also be able to download new designs from EA directly. A word of warning, though - you have to actually own the car to get the blueprint.