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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 Review
publisher: EA Studios
PII 400, 64MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 100MB HD
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Oct 21, 02 (released)
|» All About Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on ActionTrip|
What could be better than racing through the countryside in your favorite flashy car, while your favorite tune whistles in background? It seems a bit unfair that Pierce Brosnan, Vin Diesel, Jamiroqai, and other celebrities should have the privilege of driving those insanely exotic cars, while the rest of the world just gets to watch and drool. Well, not any more! Thanks to EA and their latest addition to the popular Need for Speed franchise, you'll finally be able to test-drive those speedy vehicles yourself.
Look at me, mah! I'm faster than the wind!
Don't drink and drive son.
After chatting with the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 development team a while back, we discovered that they've made several modifications and improvements since the Playstation 2 and Xbox versions. To be honest, after seeing the game in action on the Xbox and PS2, we weren't able to distinguish any radical gameplay or visual improvements in the PC version. Still, that doesn't mean you should shun the game. There's a whole bunch of stuff that makes this title worth your while.
First off, when compared to Need for Speed 4: High Stakes (1999) and Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (2000), the game definitely shows significant improvement. Focusing mostly on arcadish features, the developers have enriched the gameplay with action-packed racing events. The whole game's a lot more exciting, but a touch less realistic. As a result, the player tends to notice some unpolished details, like childishly simple vehicle handling and unrealistic physics. Happily, such issues were slightly adjusted in the PC version.
Besides 'Hot Pursuit,' the game provides the player with alternative racing modes, such as Championship, Single Challenge, Multiplayer, and so on. You should know that the Championship mode is a police-free zone (not all lands are cop-infested you know...). This means you can enjoy the pure racing type of gameplay without having to check your rearview mirror for any blue-red flashes. Anyway, each mode offers a very pleasing variety of lengthy tracks. The surroundings change from delightful and soothing Mediterranean sceneries, to huge metropolitan high-ways. Also, before each race, you are going to have a selection of appropriate vehicles that befit your task in a particular race. I'm happy to say that the developers have included almost every lavish car imaginable: Aston Martin Vanquish, BMW M5, BMW Z8, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper GTS, Ferrari F50, Ford Mustang Cobra, Ford TS-50, Ferrari 360 Spider, HSV Coupe GTS, Jaguar XKR, Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0, Lamborghini Murci'lago, Lotus Elise, McLaren F1 LM, Mercedes CL55, Mercedes CLK-GTR, Opel Speedster, Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche Carrera GT, Vauxhall VX220, etc. Hope that's enough for ya. They are all there and they all react according to their specifications in real life - well, sorta...
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 features a rather predominant arcade gameplay style. Basically, each track will have you worrying about a number of things. Usually your main concern is to shake off cop patrols, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds. The cop AI represents one of the most challenging aspects of the entire game. Apart from being extremely accurate, the AI has a few down sides as well. Sometimes it's too demanding for players with average driving skills (not saying I'm one of them though). Patrol cars are just a sample of the police department's might. You're also going to have to watch out for choppers that keep dropping smoking barrels on the road and unexpected, carefully placed road blocks. When you sum it all up, the choppers, police cars, highly skilled competing drivers, and various road obstacles you've got yourself one hell of a racing challenge. Still, that's why they call it Hot Pursuit I guess. However, with all due respect to the development team, the Pursuit tends to get too Hot on occasion. The particularly annoying bit is when you finally get your mitts on a Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0, only to realize that the freakin' cops are equipped with the same damn car brand. Yeah right. Still, most aspects in the game are similarly unrealistic and yet they do not seem to clog the overall experience that much. So, this is more like my personal nit-pick, rather than a serious gameplay snag.
Into the sunset.
But, here's where things will start to pick up. Once you become fed up with those annoying cops chasing you all over the place, you can take the opportunity to swap sides. Yep, you've read it correctly. You get to be on the side of law and order. And let me tell ya, it can be one helluva ride. The game even lets you choose from a wide variety of speedy police cars, most of which can be quite efficient in stopping crooks on the road. There's just one thing that sorta disappointed me here. When playing as the cop, the player is left to deal with an AI that's mostly mediocre and not particularly challenging. Usually, your job is to stop those hasty drivers and acquire as many speeding tickets as possible; within a certain amount of time of course. So, that's about the only challenge you'll have in this mode. Still, dealing justice out on the road doesn't have to be boring all the time ya know. If you should have any trouble catching up with some of the racing cars, you can always call for backup. Police support can often help along the way, sometimes with road blocks, and other times with chopper assistance or more patrol cars.
Typically, the PC has a fortunate advantage over consoles - the possibility of switching to various high-res modes. So, normally you'd think that when it comes to stuff like multi-texturing and highly-detailed backgrounds, the PC should definitely have the edge over next-gen. platforms. The sad thing is that even when you use high res modes such as 1280*1024, you still don't get anywhere near the feeling of a true photo-realistic ambience (still waiting to see how Colin McRae Rally 3 handles that issue). Next to that, I really don't see the reason behind the developer's surprising decision to exclude stuff like day & night cycles, various weather effects, etc. Another thing managed to catch my eye. Different water surfaces such as ponds, waterfalls, and lakes do not seem to stand up those we saw in the Xbox version. Xbox owners are going to see more colors, details, and reflections in the surrounding areas. OK, we shouldn't criticize too much. The tracks are reasonably lengthy and the physics are better than in the console version. The unrealistic physics engine observed in the Xbox and PS2 versions, was effectively tweaked, and seems to be working just fine now. Although, car damage is still somewhat frail if you ask me - you really have to bash your car about if you're looking for some realistic damage effects; and even then they appear scarce and almost flimsy. On the plus side though, you can see skidmarks on the road, smoke rising from screeching tires, and so on. The cars can sometimes twirl and swirl from intense collisions, giving the game's atmosphere a slight reminiscence of Hollywood blockbusters such as "The Fast and the Furious". And, you have the so-called jump camera that automatically switches on whenever your car leaps across a road slope. This also happens when you stumble on those exploding barrels, which are dropped by police helicopters. Quite an impressive effect. It boosts the adrenaline and maintains the games awesome addictiveness.
And, I should say that the game treats you to a first-rate audio experience, featuring top-notch sound effects and excellent up-to-the-minute music themes. Oh and when I say top-notch sound effects, I mean just that. For instance, the engine sounds are believable and are some of the most realistic I've ever heard in a racing game.
Regardless of your taste in video games, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 should be on your buying list this month, because it has more to offer than your average racer nowadays. The arcade gameplay can be fun, the tracks are huge, and there's tons of different cars models you can try out. Although, I'll have to admit that the force-feedback was sorely missed when the game was played on the PC keyboard. But, the physics were definitely adjusted in the PC version, making the in-game vehicle more realistic All things considered, NfS: HP2 is one heck of racing experience.
8.0 Very Good
A lotta them flashy cars to ride in. Huge tracks. Various challenging missions. Good AI. The all-new racing experience - playing as the cop! The music, the sounds;
The good cop-AI can sometimes get on your bloody nerves. Frail damage effects. The background needs more texture detail...
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