Last years Need For Speed 3: Hot Pursuit was a racing gem for those looking for some arcade type racing at home. The latest NFS is just as good and brings some new tracks, new cars and a great High Stakes two player feature which really adds to the excitement. Fans of NFS3 will rejoice, but be warned that this game is an almost seamless continuation of the last game.
I don't know of too many people who didn't like last years Need For Speed game. It did everything right. This game continues in that tradition, but just as in another game I reviewed this week (Gex 3), it didn't move me like the last one. Sure there are more cars and different tracks, but honestly this game would be more at home as an "expansion" to NFS3 rather than a whole new $75 game. Of course, the PlayStation can't do that, so we are stuck having to purchase almost the identical game that we bought 12 months ago. EA is the king of slight upgrades, thanks to it's experience in the video game sports market. Yes it may be the way things are done in the gaming biz but that doesn't mean we have to like it or buy it.
I'm going to do things in reverse order for once and get the things I hate about NFS4 out of the way. I cannot stand the ton of menu screens you must wade through to play a game. I bitched about this last year and although I couldn't do a side by side comparison, I'd say this year is worse. EA could have put almost everything on one screen for %$#@ sakes. Just as annoying is the loading time for the game to begin. This is more of a PlayStation console complaint rather than a programming one, however. Wouldn't it be great if we had the option to upgrade to 36X PlayStation CD drives? Only in my dreams...
Once you do get out on the open road in your shiny new wheels, it'll all be worth the wait. This arcade style racer is fun from start to finish. To prolong the longevity of your game, only a few tracks are available at the outset. You must unlock the rest in Tournament Mode. Select your skill level (Beginner, Intermediate and Expert) and take on the NFS challenge. As in previous incarnations, you have many options at your disposal for setting up this game to your liking. Options such as night driving, weather, traffic and how many opponents you'll race against are just some of the available modifiers.
Hot Pursuit Mode returns and allows you to be either the pursuer or the pursued this time out. It's a lot of fun trying to outrun the cops while racing and vice versa. The opponents don't present too much of a challenge at first but later the ante goes way up. As well, you have some options to fall back on if you are playing on the right side of the law. Back-up, Road Blocks and Spike Belts become available as you progress.
The One Player Mode offers more depth to the gameplay by making you race for cash. The more cash you win, the better cars you can by in The Showroom. You also can use the money to upgrade your existing car.
The best new feature is in the Two Player High Stakes Mode. Both players race for pink slips. How does it work? Both players insert their memory cards, which holds their hot-souped up mega expensive cars that they've worked so hard for. The PlayStation removes both cars from the memory cards and places them into memory. Whoever wins the race, gets their car back and receives the loser's car on their memory card. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Oh it is. You'll really sweat when your baby's on the line. Luckily I kicked ass and only lost one of my cars. It really is High Stakes, and we were thoroughly addicted to this aspect of gameplay. Bravo to EA!
Control is spot on with the dual shock analog control. You shouldn't play this game any other way. The vibration features in as well, and will immerse you just that little bit more into the game.
With Ridge Racer 4 on the way looking amazing, NFS: HS may end up looking somewhat pale in comparison, but that's not really an issue. The game is fast, fun and furious, just like last years offering. It isn't all that different, and some may want to try before they buy, especially if they still haven't completed NFS3. Whatever way you look at it, this game is a winner.