Need for Speed

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Need for Speed is a driving video game series produced by Electronic Arts. It is the most successful video game racing series of all time.



The Need for Speed was originally being developed by Canadian game company Distinctive Software. Prior to the company's purchase by Electronic Arts in 1991, they had already developed racing games such as Stunts and Test Drive II: The Duel. In 1992, development began by the recently acquired studio (renamed EA Canada), who teamed up with automotive magazine Road & Track to match vehicle behavior and to help with the game's realism. On August 31, 1994 the first NFS installment made its debut. It was released for 3DO, MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Windows and well praised.

Later, Need for Speed II was released in 1997. It featured exotic vehicles and the realism was toned down for a more arcade approach. This was followed by Hot Pursuit, High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed all of which were praised by both critics and remain ultimate fan favorites, often the subject of nostalgia by NFS fans of the early days. These games also developed the true edge Need for Speed was known: fast, thrilling street racing with police pursuits, a fine range of cars and customization.

After Porsche Unleashed, EA Canada acquired Black Box Games and renamed it EA Black Box. They took control of the NFS game development and made their debut with Hot Pursuit 2, later followed by Underground, which is often considered to have started the new era of NFS. Both were very well received games, brought a new age of the franchise and attracted much more fans. The Underground series focused on the import scene with its car selection being entirely tuners, night racing and no police. This style could've been possibly inspired by the 2001 summer street racing blockbuster The Fast and the Furious.

Underground 2 and Most Wanted went on to follow. The Underground series was noted for its extensive tuning, the introduction of Drag, Drift and Sprint races as well as a story told via pre-rendered videos. Underground 2 featured a larger car selection, three new racing types (Street X, U.R.L. and OutRun) and an explore mode. However it is worth pointing out that Underground 2 encouraged players to "rice" (apply heavy visual work) to their car in order to pass a stage.

Most Wanted is often considered the most intense and challenging Need for Speed game due to its tight police AI, getting more aggressive as you move on. Usually hailed as the best of the new era (heavily rivaled by Underground 2 in fan preference), this installment featured a different way of telling the story - CGI effects mixed with live action, referred to as a FMV (full motion video). MW did however feature less extensive customization than Underground and lacked drift races.

Most Wanted's sequel both release and story-wise was Need for Speed: Carbon, which like the Underground series was set entirely at night (as street races usually are) and featured the new AutoSculpt feature which allowed players to custom-fabricate their parts. In the game, the player had to start their own street racing crew and making a logo out of various ready designs and editing them by color. These crew members would assist you in every race, except for drift, Canyon and checkpoint. They were often helpful, as they could most of the time easily overtake the lead, however this also depended on your performance in the race. The Canyon races were an exclusive touch in this game. There were four types: Canyon Sprint, Canyon Checkpoint, Canyon Drift and Canyon Duel. The point of the Canyon races were generally to survive staying on track without crashing and be sent flying off-course, as well as to avoid your opponent catching up.

The game received generally decent reviews from critics but the fan reception ranged from decent to negative, many criticizing the AutoSculpt and other features.

Later ProStreet was released. Unlike the typical NFS game, this was a track racing game. The game revolved around a former street racer Ryan Cooper who dominates various racing organizations and racing kings before defeating the Showdown King Ryo Watanabe. The game featured various real world locations and extensive customization but was received as mediocre by critics due to its clutter of in-game advertising, unrealistic handling of cars and generally lacking in substance and high production values. The game was also criticized for a glitch in the drag racing, usually resulting in your car going off into a very poor start, crashing into the wall while your enemy catches up, or the difficulty of getting a good starting shift at times. Fan reception was very negative as well.

Undercover, the 12th installment was very hyped by the trailers and screenshots. The general feel of Most Wanted returned - aggressive police, street racing in bright daylight, but ironically the player was actually a cop sent to invade street racing gangs undercover. The response from critics in the end was mixed - most being poor, mediocre or passable/decent. Fan reception was very poor, mocking the acting in cutscenes and lack of any interest whatsoever in the game. It was at this time fans started being very doubtful of EA.

EA then hired Slightly Mad Studios to make the 13th installment Need for Speed: SHIFT, a racing sim like ProStreet only much better in pretty much all levels. Once again this was met with doubt, but trailers, gameplay videos, information and screenshots starting unveiling very quickly, starting to please fans. The game was met very well by critics, getting two full scores, two 8/10 scores, six 9/10 scores or the equivalent of it and only two 7/10 scores, overall a MetaCritic store of 83%. However fan reception was mixed, but generally on the positive side with some interest regained after the announcement of a patch.

NFS Nitro was released November 2 and 6, 2009 for US and Europe, respectively. It is a Wii and DS exclusive, focusing on cartoony graphics, disproportionate real life vehicles and very over-exaggerated and unrealistic racing. Later, Need for Speed World was introduced with many beta stages and is scheduled to be released on July 27, 2010. At first, it received criticism from fans before its release for having to buy the World Starter Pack in order to advance after level 10. The game received lukewarm/mixed reception with a MetaCritic average of 61%. On September 8, 2010, due to World passing one million registrations, the game was made free-to-play and the level cap was removed.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2010, based on Need for Speed III Hot Pursuit and developed by Criterion Games was released on November 16, 2010. It has since received a lot of praise for sticking to the franchise's roots, its Autolog feature, chases and general gameplay, receiving a MetaCritic average of 90% for PS3 and Xbox 360, and 87% for PC, becoming the first NFS game since the original Hot Pursuit to win an E3 award.

Shift 2: Unleashed, the sequel to Need for Speed: SHIFT was released on March 29th and was well received by the critics. It was a direct sequel with many improvements and made use of the Autolog feature introduced with Hot Pursuit.

Need for Speed The Run is the next game in the franchise, being developed by BlackBox. It seems to be a sequel similar to NFS Undercover, albeit at the moment there are almost no details about the game.


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