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Need for Speed: ProStreet

Preview: Hands-on with new in-depth NFS

Don't fret. Need for Speed fans have been up in arms about their favourite arcade racing series deserting them by going all realistic, but we can tell you that ProStreet is no Forza. Far from it.

In fact, the game's producer, John Doyle, told CVG, "I think 'simulation' is a bit of a dirty word", in an exclusive interview earlier this week.

"There's some baggage involved in [simulations] in that it's punishing or not fun," he explained. Doyle made it absolutely clear that the same high-speed thrills of previous NFS games remains intact in ProStreet, only this time the game has extra layers of optional depth for more hardcore players who like little more than a quick pedal-to-the-metal thrash-about.

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The new career mode is structured with race weekends that consist of multiple events with disciplines ranging from drag racing and time trials, to drift challenges and speed trials. When you enter a race weekend you choose two cars per race - one main car and a backup in case you total the other one, and set out to win as many of the events as possible.

You don't have to win all the events to move on to the next weekend - you merely need to rank top overall - but if you do you're considered to have dominated the weekend, for which you're awarded a host of extra treats like unlockable cars and other races.

EA says this is one of the ways the game adds layers of depth to the game. More casual players will blast through, winning whatever they can and not worrying about lost races, while more hardcore gamers will return to race weekends to complete every race and unlock everything in the game.

According to EA, laws against street racing have be toughened, which has lead to a growing trend for racer wannabes taking their flashy motors to licensed tracks and events to burn some rubber.

This means the police chases are gone, and you instead find yourself burning around race courses or closed roads, although one stage, Doyle revealed, will be set on the highway ringroad that circles Tokyo, where speed freaks risk their lives to get the quickest lap time. Sounds like fun.

Also new to the series is the ability to really modify specific parts of your car to boost performance in a more realistic way. Dozens of parts can be purchase, fitted and tweaked to come up with your motor of choice. Instead of having one car that you use for all the various events, you will need to build cars to perfectly suit specific events. So the way you build a course racing car, for example, will not be the same as your drag racer.

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Again, this new modification will feature different layers of depth - you can buy complete upgrade packages that tune up your car in one simplified hit, or you can go all techy and dive into the more complicated options, choosing individual parts for your ride.

Getting down to the nitty gritty, EA had two races in the early version of the game we played - one a speed trial through a Nevada-influenced desert landscape, the other a straight-up race on a road through what looked like an industrial harbour.

The speed trail was tough - you're slapped behind the wheel of a screaming Japanese sports car capable of up to 190 miles per hour (faster cars come later in the game) and your mission is to clock up the highest average speed over a long, relatively straight 20-mile stretch of road. So you spend around five minutes with your finger pressed firmly on the accelerator, pelting down a road at near top speed trying your best not to smash into anything. And that's easier said than done.

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