This year's been a bit of a downer for British motor racing fans. First we had the untimely passing of a rallying great, then Jason Plato narrowly missed out on the BTCC crown, and was followed by plucky Lewis Hamilton, who having taken the F1 tour by storm, stumbled at the final hurdle. (Okay, the final two hurdles, but who's counting?)
Enter EA with its follow-up to the highly rated Need for Speed Carbon to help brighten up our racing season. Or at least make our daily commute that little bit more exciting. And the good news is that it's produced another fine addition to the mobile racing genre.
The Need for Speed series has always focused on the more instant and glamorous elements of racing and glossed over the chin-scratching, oily-hands-and-head-under-the-bonnet anal side of things. This latest iteration is no different: the emphasis here is on implausibly protracted drifting rather than nailing the perfect racing line; on slipstreaming your opponents rather than out-braking them.
Your machine of choice – be it the rickety old Toyota Corolla or the cutting edge Nissan GT-R Proto, to name but two – will automatically accelerate, modulating its speed around corners. This leaves you to concentrate on steering and making full use of your nitrous oxide on the straights. As you would imagine, said nitro supply is finite and needs to be topped up constantly.
This is where the drifting comes into play. As you enter any one of the game's long, sweeping corners, a swift depression of the thumbstick (or '5', depending on which control method floats your, er, car) will send your ride into a semi-automatic slide. Keep your drift meter in the green and you'll gain nitro, as well as a healthy speed boost upon exiting the corner. Let the drift meter slide into the red, however, and it's 100-0mph in 0.5 seconds for you.
The real meat of the game comes in the form of the Career mode, which sees you speeding through three events containing three races each. The aim, quite simply, is to come first in each race – complete an event and you unlock a code for use in the ProStreet console games, as well as access to the next series of events. Adding a little extra depth to Career is a suitably straightforward car acquisition and modification system.
Successful drifting also earns you hard cash, which can either be spent on upgrading your ride or on buying a more powerful vehicle. And if you're worried with regards to the modification side of things, fear not – you won't need to consult a Haynes manual before progressing to the next race.
In fact, all you need do is decide which of the four areas relating to your car's performance to upgrade. Will you choose to boost your top speed to help on those lengthy straights? Or perhaps you'd prefer to upgrade your handling to help negotiate those twisting bends. Each area can be souped up several times before you max out the car's potential.
Ultimately, the Career mode won't last you too long, but it will have you gripped for its entirety. The core racing action is thoroughly satisfying and manages to give the sensation of real competitive racing despite the necessarily automated nature of the system.
It's all wrapped up in a predictably polished EA shell, too. The front-end is stylishly realised and easy to navigate, and the car models are chunky and well detailed. Indeed, you'll be able to distinguish the Nissan 350, for example, by its aggressive lines without ever having to read its description. The only negative here is with the audio, which seems to splutter and loop in a most disconcerting way. He soon switched it off.
Pro Street will never win any awards for originality or longevity, but it belts along at a fair old rate – especially when using the faster models such as the Nissan GT-R – and succeeds through a beautifully implemented drift system that somehow imparts the rush of real racing through a tiny mobile thumbstick. In an otherwise disappointing motor racing climate, that's something worth celebrating.