At the beginning of the game, the player chooses one of two available cars, before waiting at the “COOL-Market” for contestants to arrive. Once someone willing to race comes by, the player is given a choice of tuning parts from their opponent that the player can race for. Before every race, the player is required to bet at least one of their own items, and since the player cannot save the game manually, losing a part means that the player has got to earn it again.
Every part of the player’s car (engine, nitro, etc.) can be enhanced in several stages and once the player has collected all parts of the same stage, the player can do a “pink-slip race”, in which the opponent bets his car. Losing that race will cost every single tuning part the player has collected for the player’s car. The parts the player wins are limited to the car they win them with, so the player cannot swap them between cars. If the player puts parts of different stages on their car, the handling will decrease, so the player needs to decide if it is wise to get the power of the tier 3 engine if this makes the handling of the car much worse.
The ranking list is divided into four prestige levels, with every level having its own starting location. For instance, if the player goes to the Village Motel, the player needs prestige level 4 to race, or otherwise, they will send the player away. The same thing happens when the player is level 2 and the player waits at the COOL-Market because the player is too powerful for them.
The races themselves take place on marked-off streets in Los Angeles at night. The cars handle more realistically than the ones in Need for Speed: Carbon, which means that the player cannot “fly” through curves by taking the foot from the acceleration for a second. The player needs to consider, for instance, that the back drifts into the scenery if the player takes the curve too steep. If certain parts of the race track are driven without a mistake, a small nitro refill is granted.