Electronic Arts, better known as EA Games, began developing a fresh new gaming concept in 1992. Teaming with the staff of automotive magazine Road & Track, EA developed a marginally realistic driving simulation for that era that cowered away from the typical arcade-type vehicles and their cartoon-like movements. In 1995 the game was finally released, to the delight of automotive gaming fans across the world who spent long hours behind the boob tube, evading the police who were in hot pursuit of their favorite cars while unlocking special contents within the game with every achieved goal. Twelve years have come and gone since the first Need For Speed landed on store shelves, and all the while EA has managed to continually raise the bar in automotive gaming with the release of 13 unique NFS games (15 counting PSP versions), with this year marking their latest and most highly anticipated release of Need For Speed Pro Street.
Dominate, kill the competition and take your driving skills to the next level. These are just a few descriptive words that submerge you deep into the realms of Pro Street's career mode stages as your skills are put to the test in grip of driving, drift, drag and speed challenges, as you advance through a series of stages making your way past international competitors around the world, and finally coming face to face with the King of Streets himself.
"Pro Street is the next generation for Need For Speed. The one thing we wanted to redefine this year was the physics of the cars. Improvements on the visual aspects as well as the vehicles handing physics give Pro Street that raw feel and adrenaline rush that you get with every race you compete in," says Michael Mann, senior producer of NFS. With new AI (artificial intelligence) that will block you, punt you off the road or even capitalize on your mistakes, EA creates a n adaptive game that's sure to create competition for even the savviest gamers in the racing world.
Perhaps you're a casual gamer and lack the knowledge to set up your own vehicle; EA has the perfect solution for you. Need For Speed implemented a quick upgrade option to automatically tune and adjust your vehicle to optimal settings. With a simple click of a button, NFS quickly jumpstarts your career and points you in the right direction as you begin mastering the game in no time. The avid car enthusiasts or experienced gamers who demand more vehicle tune ability can quickly move into the customization mode and tailor their vehicle's tires, body work, suspension adjustments and engine modifications, which all impact how the vehicle will perform. With over 140-plus aftermarket companies currently on board with EA's Need For Speed game, EA is confident to secure twice the number of current manufactures such as GReddy and HKS, to name a few, along with many of the grassroots performance tuners you've come to respect such as Full Race Engineering. "Each company carries different brands of products ranging from GT3076 turbos to GT3582 turbos with different characteristics on how the car feels or drives similar to real life scenarios," says Scott Murray, associate producer overlooking the visual concept of cars. "At the end of the day, one thing we didn't want when designing this game was to have that one golden package for vehicle settings that everyone online uses. We want people to try different parts and create different ways of winning so your setup is totally different from the guy next to you. That is what car customization is all about; using the personal knowledge that you've gained while playing Pro Street and trying new things. We built this game with no personal boundaries."
Just how many combinations are possible when looking to build a custom vehicle? EA states as of production there are currently over 1.2 trillion performance combinations for the current 54 cars with six downloadable vehicles available though the EA website. The paint selection is also listed as 96,000 different shades of color, with hues ranging from iridescent to pearl, while vinyl graphics can be custom designed and applied with sponsors of your choice. Ricers can throw their hands up in glee knowing each specific body panel can be painted in a different color while leaving your body kit white. Using the integrated options that simulate real world kits offered by many of the aftermarket manufactures you've come to know and love are available through Pro Street. Another notable feature found in the game is the ability to change the tire size, wheel diameter and even offsets when looking to shoehorn a set of newly acquired kicks for those monstrous over fenders you've slapped on your virtual Nissan 240SX. Imagine, no more cruising around in a video game sporting some weak-ass offsets.
With so many features and functionality tied within the game, EA designed each vehicle to allow the usage of the factory body while adding an advanced auto sculpt feature that allows any gamer to transform their vehicles appearance from mild to wild. For those who prefer a more subtle look, they can simply pull the toggle bar from left to right and customize the vehicles factory design with larger front fascia vents or extend the front lip to hang a bit lower while obtaining the factory OE appearance. But be forewarned, using a nonsensical approach and simply throwing on any random body kit or monstrous GT wing will either improve or deteriorate the vehicle's downforce, top speed and drag resistance as with any reality based vehicle. Steven Ferreira, assistant producer of cars says, "It's one of those things where we wanted it to work the way it should work in the real world, but at the same time we don't want to make people need a physics degree to understand how this works. This isn't some Sims game and its main purpose wasn't designed to be 100 percent accurate." Carl Jarrett, senior modeler of cars quickly points out, "At the end of the day, the point of implementing this rather unique physics engine we created was to give very clear feedback on how the vehicle reacts with each part installed and for everyone who plays Pro Street to enjoy the game."
If your mindset is drawn to the conclusion that function truly takes precedent over form, Pro Street offers a wind tunnel to test and monitor the physics on every part that you plastered on your newly designed vehicle. Using the wind tunnel enables the end user to monitor wind resistance, turbulence and downforce functionality before heading out to the track to embroil in some one-on-one battle with the AI or your friends online. Front-end splitters, canards and diffusers are just a handful of the hundreds of parts available to transform your ride into one badass machine.
Suspension dampening and rebound can be fully tailored to the gamer's specifications to match any track and driving conditions ranging from technical courses like Infineon Speedway to larger, high speed courses like Willow Springs International Motorsport Park. All too often you find yourself asking the same questions millions have come across when playing a race game: "I bought all this stuff for my car and threw them on...now what the hell do I do? Did it even manage to make more horsepower?" Fear not performance-orientated freaks! A physics sim continually recalculates numbers while keeping tabs on all the changes made on the vehicle and displaying numerous parameters ranging from stats on how the new suspension settings improved the vehicle's lateral g's, how fast the vehicles 100-0 foot braking distance has improved or diminished, and even 0-60 mph times when looking to improve your quarter-mile drag race settings. Peak horsepower and peak torque is monitored and listed with every turbo upgrade or intercooler upgrade installed on your engine.
"In developing the physics aspect of Pro Street, we went above and beyond any of our previous games," says Jacques Kerner, software engineer (Physics). "Spending over a year developing the new physics software, we used state-of-the-art machines to recorded tire response and slip angle, among many other characteristics that you find in a real car, and designed them into the game. When you lock up the tires through a turn or do a burnout, it is similar to real world conditions in what you would expect from a car." Not thoroughly convinced, we quickly grabbed hold of the controller and booted up the demo game. We found ourselves murmuring on how controllable the vehicles were through the turns, even under full and partial throttle, a feature that we've never experienced with other race games on the market. Hammering through tight chicanes in a modified STI Impreza, the vehicle showed instability as the undulations resulting from riding on the rumble strips showed the reaction of the suspension and amazing similarities to a real life car. Also known to exist in the WRX, and obvious in the game, was the presence of understeer through the turns. Blasting through the track, we quickly came into a turn too hot and hammered down on the brakes, finding ourselves yanking on the joystick to recover but to no avail as the vehicle straight-lined head-on into the wall, eerily similar to a real world scenario as you lock up the brakes and try to make a turn. We were thoroughly impressed.
Dave Elton, producer of NFS physics says, "The cool thing about Pro Street is, let's say for example you purchase an all-wheel-drive EVO X. We spent countless hours analyzing and recording data on the vehicle and its physics. We used all this information to create a game that changes the vehicles handling characteristics as we tune the front and rear differentials as well as the center differentials. Weight distribution and of course specific types of vehicles play an important part into how each one handles." Track and street driving realism come in the form of numerous vehicle telemetry machines and photos taken by EA game engineers, while numerous cars driven by professional and race car drivers gave the NFS physics team all the data needed to create the unique characteristics and even flaws relevant with vehicles. Small, minute details that even consisted of how the glare of the track reflects off the windshield when cresting a hill are some of the factors put into creating Pro Street.
If the realism of a vehicle's sound is as important to you as it is to us, let's just say we had no problems differentiating between a KA24DE powered 240SX as it struggled to climb up a hill and the distinct sounds of an AE86 driving full tilt through the turns. "The things I found with car games on the market are that all the cars sound the same and they manage to all sound flat. It's a common occurrence for gaming companies to use sound loops of the one specific sound that ends up emitting a vacuum type noise when the car is on the gas or passing at a high rated speed," says Richard Adrian, audio director of sound. "We tried to avoid that pitfall this year and one of our goals was to capture the power and aggression of the vehicles. Anything stock just doesn't cut it." The sound crew searched high and low throughout the northern hemisphere to track down the baddest and best vehicle's sounds.
After attending a local Formula D event, the sound crew implemented some of the more notable vehicles like Casper Canul's monster fabrication SR20DET powered 240SX, numerous Falken sponsored drift vehicles, Rhys Millen's retired Pontiac GTO and Samuel Hubinette's Dodge SRT Charger. The vehicles were taken to private tracks and then bolted to a dyno to record loops and the ramp sound of the engine while being taken through a series of rpm. Based upon perfecting automotive realism and its surrounding environment, the crew spent long hours recording numerous clips such as the sounds of the wind buffeting around the vehicle, the crumpling sounds of aluminum as your car impacts a retaining wall and the crackling of gravel sliding underneath the car as it flies off course. Pro Street has even gone so far as to implement suspension creaking, the dribbling tones of tires driving over cracks on the roads and dreaded chassis flex as the vehicle barrels through the turns. Rotary fans will be tickled pink knowing that the sound clips used in the game were taken from an SCCA-prepped street-ported 13B and SCCA sanctioned RX8.
Modeling the tracks and famous routes, such as the Shutto Expressway in Japan, involved the modelers' taking more than 1,600 photos of each course while taking measurements of the more familiar landmarks surrounding the tracks to replicate its environment to precision," says Eduardo Agostini, art director for Pro Street. By using some urban flavor and abstract deigns, Pro Street used renowned Japanese graphic artist Motomichi to conceptualize fresh new graphic motifs. Using stencil deigns and artwork found around the world, the art team gathered ideas to combine them into the games genera to brighten the gaming environment. Conceptual ideas involve a flood of activities that take place in the background, such as parties, concerts and raves before you line up to race your opponents.
With so much work and detail put into Need For Speed Pro Street it was no wonder EA Black Box, who designed the game and is based in Canada, had pushed back its initial release date to Nov. 17, 2007. As websites and the Internet are at an all time buzz with snippets of video clips and highlight reel footage being shown, we can only image that these teaser clips will further fuel the high expectations of the hardcore gamers and car enthusiasts who patiently wait to get their hands on the newest and hottest race game to date.