A Good Variety
Before the final, the odds for Christopher Biggin's to win the latest instalment of 'Im a Celebrity' would closely match the odds given by the bookies that a game produced by giants EA will have the Christmas number 1 slot. Year after year, one of their major franchises tops the chart.
Could it once again be the turn of the football colossus, Fifa? Or perhaps it's time for the street racing series Need for Speed to step up to the plate? The latest version to hit the shelves is Pro Street, but how does it compare to previous editions?
The first noticeable change for this year's Need for Speed is that the action has been taken away from the city streets. Instead, EA have returned the action to enclosed circuits and airfields.
What this means is that fans of the series who enjoyed being able to cruise around cities in their pimped out rides are no longer able to do so. While this is initially a bit of a disappointment, having the option to cruise some city streets would be totally out of place in Pro Street. Moving the action from the streets to the circuit removes the illegal underground theme, and instead highlights that racing with performance cars in the real world can be undertaken in organised events.
Like all NFS games the career mode is story driven, offering you the chance to start in amateur events, before moving on to bigger and better things as your skills (and garage) grow in stature.
In career mode, the player has to take part in organised race days. Race days are made up of individual events focussing on 4 key race modes; these being 'grip', 'drift', 'drag' and 'speed'. The four race modes are split into further categories with slight variations, and overall there are 10 disciplines to keep you occupied. Each mode tests the player in a number of ways ranging from technique, to reactions and control.
Being successful in race days offers many rewards. To win a race day you have to win races and obtain points. Winning individual events pays a small amount of cash to your account, but if you gain enough victories in a single race day, you will win the overall race day prize. This can be a larger sum of money, or a new car depending on the competition.
The only thing better than winning the race day is dominating it! So if you score enough points via winning all of the events, you will have 'Dominated' the event. This rewards you with the chance to gain more cash, unique upgrades, or free repairs for when you total your vehicles.
Oops, I forgot to mention, yes you can total your car! This means that unlike previous NFS titles, if you crash your car, you will be forced to pay for repairs. Slight knocks and bumps can be fixed for a small price. But completely wrecking your car will mean it's no longer available to use until it's fixed.
Pro Street features a vast assortment of cars for you to get behind the wheel of. Many popular tuner cars are available to buy such as the RX-8 and Scooby Impreza. There are numerous classics including the Dodge Challenger and the Dodge Charger, and exotics such as Lamborghini's.
Sadly if there's one area of the game which brings it down, it's that the handling is something to be desired. If you were to compare the handling of the 350Z in both Forza and Pro Street; you will find in Forza the car is light and nimble, yet in Pro Street it feels heavy and sluggish. Unfortunately the same can be said for all of the cars in the game.
The only difference to the above is in drift mode, where all of a sudden the cars become harder to control than a Robin Reliant in the snow.
The most important part of the series since the emergence of NFS: Underground is the ability to customise your cars and turn them into eye catching dream machines. Keeping with tradition, Pro Street is packed with more upgrades than your local Halfords.
Offering a different approach to previous titles, it is no longer possible to use the same car for every event. Instead you need to create blueprints for your favourite rides, and you can only have one type of blueprint per vehicle. This means that later on in the game, you will need to have one car for each of the four disciplines.
Blueprints contain all data from what mod's you have purchased for the vehicle, setups such as suspension and gearing, to the hundreds of combinations of visualisation options.
A handy addition is the ability to share and download blueprints with fellow petrol heads via Xbox Live. This means that if you aren't so good at judging gear ratio's, there is a good chance there is someone else out there that does and is willing to share their knowledge!
A noticeable improvement when racing is the fact that the AI opponents no longer seem to be attached to the back of your car by an invisible chord. This means that those of you good enough at Pro Street can finally create a winning margin instead of a mere half a second lead.
The overall feel for Pro Street is that it is a well presented arcade racer. The lack of free roaming is not a major issue, and although some people may be annoyed it's gone, you must remember it wasn't the key factor in the previous titles anyway.
The game offers a good variety racing modes on some challenging circuits, and the career mode is not simply blink and you miss it.
Will Pro Street be the Christmas number 1? I'm willing to put money on it.