File Size: 207.73 MB
File Type: CSO
The Need for Speed series and I go way back, to the PS1 days. In that time, I've raced hover cars through a future Las Vegas, passed untold hours with tons of unaffordable cars on wildly varied tracks, and I've battled with the highway patrol. I'm a fan of the spin-off Underground series, although I don't think it's perfect. Other games have done certain things better, whether it's the visceral punch of Burnout, or the more satisfying driving model in PGR2. But the NFSU games have a nice customization factor, and Underground expands on that while throwing in some guilty pleasure pop culture. So it's with excitement that I dig into EA's first NFS foray on the PSP.
However, there are some issues at the outset. Don't get me wrong--I'm realistic about the technological limitations of the platform and the media size of the UMD. It's a next-gen handheld, but it's not a PS2. Still, I had a big problem with how the analog stick behaved. It has the largest dead zone of any racer I can remember. What this means is that the car really doesn't start turning until you've pushed the stick a good deal out, and then it turns hard. I dug through the game options extensively, and couldn't find a way to adjust this. You also can't remap keys, but you have four presets to choose from, two each for manual and automatic. Thankfully, though, the D-pad is there as an alternative, and tap-turn steering feels a lot better.
Dig through the options and you will find that you can edit the EA Trax playlist of 33 songs. In this menu, there are also a couple music videos you can check out, from Soulwax and The Donots, and the quality is surprisingly good, considering that it's a full clip wedged onto a 1.8GB game disk. It's great that you can edit the playlist, because it's ridiculously varied, as has become typical with EA Trax. It appeals to everyone, even if not not really clicking with anyone in particular.
As a matter of fact, the game as a whole is absolutely packed with content. The game is broken down between circuit mode and "quick play battle," which is further divided into four different race types: Street Cross (short, tight tracks), drift attack (slide around as much as you can on markers placed on the ground), nitrous run (a standard circuit track where you have to boost from checkpoint to checkpoint, with each CP giving you a few more seconds of time) and drag racing. Furthermore, each of these four race types has ten stages, which are broken down even further into three different difficulty levels. When you win "bronze," that automatically sets you up with the bronze level of the next race, or you can go back and race the first track at silver. Unfortunately, you can only win a certain difficulty level once, so there's a limited amount of points you can earn to buy cars and upgrades.
Circuit mode is almost as huge. You have four different difficulty levels to choose from at the beginning. From there, you have three different race types: circuit, knockout, and rally relay, the last of which requires you to have purchased a second car. From here, each race type has four tracks at three difficulty levels. All told, it will take you a long while to wade through all these tracks. Keep in mind, however, that there isn't a unique track for each race. A lot of them are mirrored and/or reversed.
The actual racing is solid, but the rubber banding appears to be tighter than on the console versions. I had a car with all Level 1 upgrades (36 in total, not including bonus upgrades), which clocks in at 72,000 points spent--several times the cost of the stock car. (All visual upgrades are free but have to be unlocked). And yet, I went back to some old races I hadn't completed on the "silver" difficulty, and the opponents were on my butt the whole way. Some rubber banding is good, because it allows you to recover from a bad crash and still win the race. However, it's a blessing and a curse when you eat it on the last turn of the last lap and see inferior vehicles rush by you a fraction of a second later. There's no reward for skill, only increasing apprehension as you approach the end of the race. Typically, and in other NFS games in particular, a superior vehicle will wipe the floor with the competition, rubber banding or no, leaving a wide, comfortable swath of empty road behind them by the time they cross the finish line. That's not the case here.
The game does look surprisingly good, though. Sound effects took a hit in the transition to a portable platform, but it doesn't look too bad at all. The cars reflect, you get the motion blur at high speed (although not as pronounced as its older brothers), sparks fly, and the cars have weight on the road. View distance was solid, with very little object or texture popping. At least, I was never distracted by it. On the other hand, all of those polygons and whatnot create some occasional performance chokes, particularly when the physics get involved with multiple interacting vehicles. The game came to a crawl when an object we smashed through got stuck to the hood, as if the system couldn't figure out what to do with it and kept computing away rolling physics until the object fell off. There's no damage modeling, as with the rest of the NFS franchise, which is either good or bad, depending on your tastes.
Speaking of upgrades, though, I'm impressed with the number of items you have at your disposal, which are more varied than what I found in NFSU2. However, unlike that game, there aren't the three gauges at the bottom of the screen telling you that X upgrade will improve either handling, top speed, or acceleration. It takes some familiarity with performance tuning to know what upgrade affects what aspect, and this game's wide-spread appeal (the past two console games have been the register killers with all the sales they have racked up), so it shouldn't focus just on that crowd. Thankfully, though, you can transfer your upgrades to another vehicle, although that has to be done manually.
Review Source: IGN.com
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