Hands on with PSP Need for Speed ProStreet

EA revs up exclusive new content for the game on Sony's handheld

Hands on with PSP Need for Speed ProStreet

PSP missed out on all the rubber-burning action with the release of last year's Need for Speed ProStreet on every other format. Fortunately that was intentional as the team at EA Black Box has been hard at work on a fully tailored edition of the game, packed with exclusive content for Sony's portable. How do we know? Well, a near-complete build we received let us run the game through its paces before its worldwide release later this month.

Circuit races top the list of events in ProStreet: Speed Trap, Lap KO, Gate KO, Time Attack, and Sprint. Similar to Circuit races, Sprint events have you racing to the finish line; the key difference is that Sprints don't have laps, rather you're given a stretch of road that you travel along once. Time Attack tasks you with zipping through time gates to reach an end goal and each gate you pass through affords you a few extra seconds of time. Lastly, Lap and Gate KO are straightforward races where the player in last place is dropped at the end of each lap or following a gate.

All of the above have been used in previous iterations of the series, with the exception of Speed Trap which we're pretty sure is new. Instead of trying to beat opponents to the finish line, your goal here is to accumulate the top overall speed. Gates laid throughout the track record your speed at that exact moment; as such, you want to maximize your velocity at those precise points. It's a cool event, one that requires shifting your driving strategy in a way that's fundamentally different from a basic circuit-based race.

Also new to ProStreet is damage modelling that affects vehicle handling, although it's nuanced. Sloppy driving has more of an impact on earnings than performance. At the end of every event any damages incurred are automatically repaired using cash won. Cutting into your winnings obviously isn't desirable, so sticking to the asphalt and avoiding collisions with other racers ensures top dollar/pound/yen when you cross the finish line. Pedal to the metal still wins you races, just make sure that metal isn't scraping the tarmac along the way.

Money is meant to be spent and there are plenty of ways to do that. A total of 32 cars can be unlocked through the course of the game, the majority of which must be bought from the garage. Performance tuning is also a great way of spending cash, enabling you to upgrade a vehicle's engine, general handling, and even add nitrous among other things. Naturally, the larger the increase in performance, the more money you shell out. It's a straightforward system and one that's likely familiar if you've played any racing game within the last few years. Smartly, ProStreet doesn't try to re-invent the wheel in this department.

Better cars make driving easier, as does increasing your experience. Every event rewards you with driving skill points that contribute to raising your overall ability. Gain a level and you get a permanent boost to acceleration. Not every event has to be completed to finish the game, so this simply provides you with an incentive for tackling any extra races for the bonus experience they provide.

What else can we tell you? Well, multiplayer is on offer in ProStreet, in both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes. You can host or join race meetings with up to three other players in any of the events and venues featured in the single-player Career mode. A comprehensive skill level system provides detailed ranking information based on your performance record. Points towards increasing your skill level come from winning races – beat a competitor with a dramatically higher skill level and you'll receive more points than a win against someone lower than you.

Although the version of the game we played was nearly finished, we couldn't get a good sense of the skill system in action because of a lack of players online. But otherwise things are looking and feeling promising. We'll give you the full scoop in our forthcoming review.

Need for Speed ProStreet races into shops on February 18th in North America and the 22th in Europe.

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.