Racing around corners doing 130MPH, Dodging road blocks, having a crazed police helicopter dropping mysterious smoking barrels that will blow your car up on impact. Sound interesting? It sure is! Even more fun when you do it in a video game. Trust me.
In this latest installment of the "Need for Speed" series you can take control of 24 exotic cars to elude the local authorities. Or you can become it! For the most part playing this feature of the game quickly explained why I will never be a police officer. But boy is it fun! One thing I noticed right off the bat is they now have some interesting car licenses. Such as Ford, Opel, Lamborgini and HSV. I for one could not wait to get my hands on the BMW M5, my dream car.
This game really kicks some ass here, even on my Geforce 2 mx400 64meg card! The tracks are simply stunning, which is to be expected from the Need For Speed series. The cars are very well rendered as far as I could tell. The game's replay feature does not include any camera angle changes other than the one you raced in. One of my biggest complaints about this game. I do all my racing in the bumper cam so I enjoy being able to watch the replay to see what my car looked like power sliding around this 90 degree turn. Also another really upsetting decision was not to include a dashboard view; while this does not take away from the gameplay it makes the game so much more realistic feeling.
Like stated earlier the cars look superb, unfortunately I do not have any experience driving or even laying eyes on some of these cars. So I can't tell you if the Lamborgini Diablo actually looks like its real life counterpart. They do sustain some moderate car damage if you get in an accident (trust me you will be in a lot of those in this game). But it is hardly noticeable in some cars. Small things such as bent bumpers/crumpled hoods/smashed roof. And this damage will not effect the speed or handling of your car. It seems like EA's latest fad is adding slow motion camera angle changes during key moments of their games. The jump cam in this game is cool the first time you see it, until the game shoots back into real time and your car is doing 170mph and you forget where you were going.
The tracks on the other hand look gorgeous. I think almost a bit too much detail went into them! Ive often found myself staring off over a hill trying to figure out what was going on, only to find my car upside down in a creek. They range from wooded areas to urban and even exotic places with volcanoes and waterfalls. The courses offer plenty of "short cuts" and alternate routes too which offers more to look at. Most of the time you spend blasting your way through the courses anyways so it doesn't add too much to the game really. Great for showing off your graphic cards though.
The games audio is very well done. Engine sounds are loud and mean, car skids roar with the sound of a dieing bird. And the all menacing police siren that will probably follow you the whole race and cause your neighbors to look out the window. You are equipped with a police scanner which will let you know what those pesky bastards are up to. It will provide a little humor also. The music in this game is a good variation, ranges from heavy metal to electronic with some new names you will be hearing on the radio shortly. The overall quality of the music is very nice, with the music usually being appropriate to racing at 140mph, or at least what I find to be appropriate.
The gameplay in NFS HS 2 is simply summed up in one word. Frustrating! Let me explain. The game offers 5 basic game play modes: Hot pursuit, championship, quick race, single challenge and multiplayer. Those of you familiar with the NFS series will know car physics and realism isn't exactly on top of their list which is fine by me because that is what the NFS series is about. Break neck speeds and lots of action. In this installment they actually incorporated some decent car physics! Rear wheel drive cars are easy to spin out and lose control of on sharp turns. As usual EA has really captured a good sense of speed in this game and a surprisingly decent physics system. However the jumps are exaggerated, let's face it, no one jumps their Ferrari like that. No one that is sober at least. A new feature in this game I already mentioned was the "jump cam"; it slows down the game and pans to an external camera of your car. Very cool but its near impossible to gain control of your car again after it instantly shoots you back into high speed. I had to turn it off.
The in game traffic is a utter nuisance. Its very sporadic and always seems to be placed perfectly in your way. The police are a lot harder to shake with the starting cars, making it very annoying to have a cop on your ass spinning you out every turn forcing you into a weak last place. They will also call in road blocks, spike strips, backup, and a pesky helicopter that drops "bombs" in your path. It's bad enough you're dodging poorly routed traffic AI, insane cops with a death wish. You have a helicopter dropping bombs in front of your car which if hit will send your car cart wheeling down the road. Don't get me wrong, i would love to see this incorporated into fox's wildest police chases on TV but it's just too much going on in the game. Luckily you can turn the traffic/police off in the single challenge mode and enjoy a real solid racer. You will have to purchase cars and tracks this time around using points urned from winning races/out running police, which I really do not like. Often you will have to race a track 10 times to earn enough points to open just one next track, let alone buy a new car.
The single challenge mode is where the game really shines. You can turn off all this pesky traffic and really enjoy the fast paced racing the game has to offer. You can even turn off the police, but with the traffic turned off it is much easier to elude/dodge them. You can even switch to the other side of the law and play the police. Which I found offered the most fun outside the standard racing this game has to offer. Aside from the games frustrations lies a excellent racer, all it took was a quick trip to the options menu!
This is probably one of the best features of this game. You can choose to host your own private LAN or Internet game for a few friends or join/host a random public server! This is absolute fun, knowing every car on the track is a real live driver. You can choose to observe these races too. You can switch drivers and the view which can prove interesting. The server gets control of which class of cars you can choose ensuring the race is as far as possible. This will offer tons of replay value. While usually lag free it does have its down falls. Even when lag is evident it doesn't affect severely your driving, just displaces the other cars on the track. However, there are some noticeable bugs in the multiplayer mode, for example While trying to catch up to cars ahead of me, I noticed sparks were always flying from the cars. Also when they caught air it seemed like they were launching to the moon then back on the track.
Aside from all the annoyances and frustrations the game is pretty good. And definitely worth playing for any racing game fan. In my opinion they should not have included any police in this game what so ever. I know the game is called "Hot Pursuit" but I found myself turning off all of that nonsense and just enjoying a good racer.