Need for Speed: ProStreet has taken the series in a different direction of gameplay. In previous installments, racing scenes are set around streets with moving traffic and street crashes with a broken window feeling sound to give it a more in depth feeling of hollywood style racing. However, all racing in ProStreet takes place solely on closed tracks, making ProStreet the first game in the series since Need For Speed II that doesn't animate illegal racing. Rather, the type of racing appears to be Touring Car Racing. Performance tuning feature is enhanced, compared to previous versions, especially Autosculpt. Unlike Carbon, where only certain body kits can be autosculpted, this can now be applied to all body kits, including stock bumpers and wide body kits. Furthermore, some adjustments through autosculpt impact the car's aerodynamics.
In ProStreet there are four different game modes: Drag (a race in a drag strip, point to point), Grip (similar to Circuit races but with four different types of Grip races available), Speed (similar to a Sprint race) and Drift.
* Drag race is a simple straight away race that has three heats. There are three types of drag races, 1/4 and 1/2 mile drag races where the fastest time, out of three runs, wins. There is also a wheelie competition where the longest wheelie on the 1/4 mile track wins.
* In Grip races, there are four different modes (Normal Grip, Grip Class(not available in the PlayStation 2 version), Sector Shootout and Time Attack), the player has a choice to race rough, such as ramming, smashing, or blocking the opponent in order to win the race, or race cleanly and follow the given racing lines. Normal Grip races feature 2 to 4 laps around a circuit track with up to 7 other racers. First driver to cross the finish line wins. Grip Class races take 8 racers and divide them into two even groups. The racers are placed into the groups based on their vehicles performance potential. Group A starts about 10 seconds ahead of group B, both groups race on the same course but are only competing against the 3 drivers in their group. In Time Attack, the driver with the fastest overall single lap time wins the event. In Sector Shootout the track is divided into several segments, with drivers attempting to complete these sectors in the shortest possible time. Extra points are awarded to drivers who 'dominate' the course by holding the fastest time for every segment of the track.
* In Speed Challenge races, players must cross the finish line first to win the race.Players have to be cautious in Speed Challenge at speeds exceeding 180mph.
* In Top Speed Run races, the course is divided into 3 to 9 sections (just like that of Sector Shootout in Grip races) and at the instant a player crosses a checkpoint their speed is clocked and added to that player's score, the player with the highest cumulative speed wins.
* In Drift, players drift to emerge as the driver with the most points scored in the event. Points are scored based on speed, angle, and how long the drift is held.
Other than gameplay itself, ProStreet features detailed damage modeling, unlike previous Need for Speed games (except NFS High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed) where damage is relatively little or non-existent altogether. The new damage system introduces more depth of damage (except on the PlayStation 2,PlayStation Portable,DS and Wii versions, where the damage modeling has been scaled down due to the limited processing power, so the damage is similar to the previous titles) where any object in the game world has the potential to inflict cosmetic damage breaking off pieces of the car such as the hood,bumpers,side view mirrors, light damage, or heavy damage which reduces performance of a car, and even has the potential to total a car immediately after impact.
ProStreet features customization of cars. The changes affect the aerodynamics of the cars, and players can test them in an enclosed chamber called the "Wind Tunnel" (not available in the PlayStation 2 and Wii version).
The Speedbreaker does not return for ProStreet (as the game lacks a police presence; the Speedbreaker was mostly intended for police evasion, however it returns for the Nintendo DS version of the game).