Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Need for Speed - Hot Pursuit 2

The PC racing game with superb graphics and horrible backgrounds
I’ve always been a hardcore racing fan and the realism was my key-feature that I always searched in racing games. In 2002 only Formula 1 2003 and Grand Prix 4 were the racing games that deserved a look but only if you like Formula 1 (the European version of CART series). Need For Speed: Porsche was EA Games next step into racing realism because the game was pretty much close to reality (with glitches/bugs here and there). When I heard about Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (I will be calling it NFS6) was announced I was over enthusiastic as I am a fan of this series. Remembering the great physics of NFS Porsche I hoped for an even more realistic game but sadly those hopes have died with the wind.

The game is actually a combination between arcade and simulation. Handling of the car isn’t as accurate as in NFS Porsche but the differences between cars is big and a very important factor when choosing your car. The first thing you will notice when you start your first race is the fact that the cars accelerate almost immediately. This is one of the few things I don’t like about the new physics. In rest I can’t say they are bad, not as close to reality as I hoped but it doesn’t matter since it was sacrificed in the name of FUN. 

So after a few spins and a couple of events done I became addicted to this game and I can call it the best racing game of that year for PC (well at least so far but Collin McRae3 rally has been delayed in that time). As the name suggests “Hot Pursuit 2” the game is the direct sequel to NFS Hot Pursuit in which you were able to play on both sides of the law, against it (be the speeder) and for it (be the cop). So the great fun of the first HP is back and it’s better then ever. 

One of the first things that really surprised me was the installation. It actually only installs 50megs on your HDD. For some people it worked badly because everything needed to be loaded from the CD but I have a friend to whom it actually worked perfectly. Proceeding and running the game and getting passed EA Games new motto (which I like) the intro appeared. Can’t say it really impressed me but I don’t judge a book by its cover. I quickly made a profile and off I went. 

The single player “campaign” is structured into two event trees, Hot Pursuit mode and Championship mode. The difference between them is that in the HP mode there is traffic and cops and the Championship mode is pure racing. In the event trees you start from the top of the list. There you will find the weakest AI and the slowest cars. As you move progressively down to the bottom and to the end of the event tree the AI gets better and you get access to the real racing cars. 

I started with Hot Pursuit and after selecting a car off I took it out for a spin. The HP campaign is rather easy for a hardcore racing fan. Didn’t have major problems. What impressed me was the variety of cars raging from Opel Speedster to Ford Mustang to McLaren F1. To tell you the truth quite a decent number of cars appear and I won’t mention them all here only the known brands: Opel, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Porsche, Ford, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes etc. The worlds where the races will take place are actually only 4 but there are a big number of routes for each of them, which will make around 3-4 tracks per world. On all tracks alternative routes are available. Starting from one or two alternative routes to quite a big number of five or six. But not all of them are shortcuts, some are long cuts (and can cost you big time), some are shortcuts and some are equally balanced alternative paths. For the equally balanced paths it depends if it’s faster or not on two things: 

1. The skill of the driver - because there is a very fast paced track where the road is wide and no teeth breaking corners but the alternative path is slower and quite possible it involves the car slamming to the side of the road 

2. The handling of the car - because on the same track a slower car but with better handling can make a very good use of the alternative path 

Also important to mention is that you have a couple of missions in which you are the cop. You need to give a certain amount of tickets to speeders in a certain amount of time to successfully win the mission. You do not give tickets by stopping them as you did in NFS HP but by hitting them and destroying their cars. They have a “health bar” that once it reaches 0% the speeder automatically gets “arrested”. 

The AI of the traffic has been improved compared to Porsche but they are still dumb. Cops are very aggressive but they are still easy to loose. You just need to let the cop be in front and you can spin him very easy. Job done and you walk away from a bust once again. But if you don’t stop they will call for back up that includes: another unit, road blocks or spikes (the road blocks/spikes haven’t managed to stop me, not even once) or a helicopter which flies over the road and launches barrels loaded with explosives. The AI of the opponents is weak and if you aren’t caught you should get an easy win. I have friends that seem to have problem with the opponents even if they are hardcore racing fans (strange). 

The AI in the championship mode seems tougher and I did have problems with them in a couple of races but that was more due to personal driving errors and not to the fact that they were fast. A good way to “sabotage yourself” to be slower is to pick the worst car for that race. At the start if you want to go for a single race you will be surprised when you see that most of the tracks and most of the cars are locked!!! You need to unlock them by gathering points. Points are gathered by winning events and each event has three medals you can win: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each medal gives you more points and once you complete the game you have enough points to unlock everything. 

I mentioned before that the helicopters are dropping barrels filled with explosives. If you ask yourself what happens to the car if you hit one of them well the answer is this: You car will fly through the air. If you are lucky enough to land on the wheels you can continue the race WITHOUT damage. Only the way the car looks gets affected but there is no damage to the car itself (like in previous versions). 

Hmmm, let’s change our concentration to graphics. A plain short description is that they are very good (for the lack of better words). The cars look superb but they are not as accurate as in Gran Turismo 3 if that is what you were thinking right about…….. now. But the game has the best graphics I’ve seen in a PC racing game so far. The cars look great, the surrounding landscape looks great, the background looks HORRIBLE!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes. The graphics is so sweet and high quality raging from the cars to the houses, the trees (not the ones in the big distance, they are a flat 2D model), the fences etc but the background is damn horrible. 

The big problem of the background and of the water that is in the background is that it’s a 2D flat “wallpaper” and they added 3D models (like small islands) on that “water” and it gives a superb sensation of paranormal activity. What I mean by that? Everything that is supposed to come out of the water it actually FLOATS. Yes, it gives you such a strong feeling of floating that it’s actually irritating as heck! I have never been a person that puts graphics in the first place but the way it looks it’s just simply horrible. The water that is on the road looks very cool and when you drive through it raises a cloud of water spray. Same thing happens when you drive on earth/dust but another problem, it doesn’t appear in the mirror!!! It just doesn’t and the mirror isn’t running at the best frame per second. Nope, it’s at a reduced fps and it’s another minus for the graphics.

But more important then graphics it’s the sound (at least for me). And the sound of the engines roaring, tyres squealing is something that I enjoy hearing. Sometimes when you pass around houses or all sorts of things you can hear dogs barking, birds singing etc. The soundtrack is decent. It didn’t appealed to me. It’s supposed to be something dynamic to keep you on the edge of your seat but sometimes I forget all about it. My brain just stops hearing it and I decided to turn it off so I can hear the engine and tyres even better. Different cars have different engine sounds and some are even relaxing to hear. 

Another decision that I simply just don’t understand involves the replays. You can no longer change the camera in the replay. The replay uses the camera(s) you used in the race. So it’s almost no use of watching a replay since you cannot see a specific scene from a better angle. Added to that if you slow down the speed of the replay what the game actually does is it reduces the fps. It doesn’t slow the actual speed of the replay but it reduces the fps and the game drags exactly like when you would play the game with a computer that is capable of running the game only at the most lowest graphics setting (and tries to run it at high settings). 

What is annoying about this “feature” is that it hurts your eyes. After trying to watch the replay in slow motion for a couple of minutes your eyes will begin to hurt and once you return to normal fps you will feel how your eyes are relaxing. Terrible decision they made about the replays!!! I haven’t played the game in multiplayer yet but after the single player “campaign” I realized the game offers tons of fun in multiplayer. You will be able to race against other humans to see who is the best but you will also be able to play cops and robbers, which will increase the fun and the time a gamer won’t get bored with the game. 

So overall the game is good, perhaps very good. I don’t take into consideration the F1 2002 and Grand Prix 4 (because they are F1 games) and I dare to say that NFS 6 is perhaps the best racing game since NFS Porsche. The game does have some glitches (some intentionally added by the creators but I think its due to sheer stupidity) but the gameplay is good and probably it will replace the NFS Porsche from now on. Actually this is what counts, if the gameplay wasn’t good then the game wouldn’t have been fun but luckily such is not the case. I do hope I haven’t missed on any great racing games in this period. I did look and searched for titles and tried some games but they weren’t any good. 


SYSTEM: PC, Nintendo Game Cube, Play Station 2, XBOX



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