reviews\ Oct 11, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 - PS2 - Review

Nothing beats highway racing.  Bugs get stuck to your windshield; wind is thrown in your face; the sun gradually blinds your eyes; and the sweet sound of police car sirens fills your ears as you exceed 120mph.  That is what it's like to be a racer in the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The thing that set the first Hot Pursuit apart from the rest (other than its stellar gameplay, of course) was its unique use of the boys in blue.  They'd chase you down, put up road bocks and do whatever they could to stop you from making it to the finish line.  And for the most part, they'd succeed.  The Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit was one of the most challenging racing games released on the PSone.  That may be the reason why the sequel is a bit easier, to make it more accessible to casual gamers.  The cops are still pretty relentless though, so don't expect to avoid getting busted too easily. 

As with any good sequel, the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 features more of the same great gameplay that you've known and loved for the past several years.  From the minute the game begins, you'll be taken back to 199_ when the original was released.  Everything about it is nearly the same...which is both good and bad.  It's good because that means that there is so much to love about Hot Pursuit 2.

The most appealing aspect is the game's length.  Hot Pursuit 2 is one of the longest racing games out there!

Both Championship (standard, cop-free racing) and the Ultimate Racer (Hot Pursuit) modes have a 30-race event tree, where each win unlocks more tracks, cars and events.  The tree is set up in such a way that you don't have to win or even bother entering all thirty events to beat the game.  For example, event 2 unlocks 4 and 5, while event 3 unlocks 6, 7 and 8.  I chose to race each event in order though, because skipping them would mean that I'd miss out on more than half the game's fun.  It's no fun to rush through a game, and in this case, it's beneficial to take things slow because the only way to unlock every car is by entering (and winning) every event.  The rewards are well worth the extra effort (which didn't feel like effort at all -- I really enjoyed unlocking the vehicles).  Just wait till you take the speedy Ferrari for a spin.  The cops will have a really hard time busting you in that thing!

Cops have a new ally to help them out though: explosive barrels.  Helicopters drop them from above, usually right in front of your path.  On big roads, the barrels are easy to avoid.  On small roads, it's a whole other story.  When a barrel is hit, it explodes, lifting your car into the air.  It also cuts down your speed, giving the local law enforcement a chance to catch up.

For the most, Hot Pursuit 2 is a good (but not always great) looking game.  Rather than dwell on the bad (bland ground and tree textures; a less-than-perfect framerate, etc.), I'm going to use this space to talk about the most incredible fog/smoke effect that I have ever seen in a video game.  In the first or second event, you'll come across a fire truck in a burning forest.  Smoke fills the area very quickly, making it hard to see.  As you drive into the smoke, it floods the screen in a realistic way that hasn't been done before.  When you exit the forest, the smoke quickly dissipates, but not so fast that it looks fake.  The cars themselves look fabulous, and, grainy or not, the backgrounds have a ton of intricate details.  Still, none of those things impressed me quite like the smoke effect.

It's hard for me to not recommend the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 as a must-buy game.  I love almost everything about it, but it doesn't take the series as far as I would have liked.  Granted, I wouldn't have wanted EA to change the game so much that it no longer felt like a sequel to Hot Pursuit, but something seems to be missing.  It's a long, well thought out game with nearly 50 awesome sports cars to race.  All of the tracks are long, have multiple paths/shortcuts and the controls are silky-smooth.  The speed is top-notch as well (except for when the framerate drops).  The thing is, none of these things are "new" experiences.  The best thing about Hot Pursuit 2 -- running from the cops -- was introduced in the first game.  However, given the fact that the only real complaint I have with this game is that it's a little too familiar for its own good, there's no reason why you shouldn't own it.  So what if it doesn't blow you away with innovative gameplay mechanics!  It will entertain you for a very long time, and that's really all that matters.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.6
Any racing fan will be thrilled by the Need for Speed's first next-gen outing.  It's doubtful that anyone will not like this game.  The event tree was a great idea, since it gives impatient players the chance to rush through the game, and gives players like myself a longer, more challenging experience.

Graphics: 8.4 
Bland tree/ground textures (there are a lot of trees, mind you, so this really stands out) and an imperfect framerate are the only things that prevented this game from being one of the best-looking racers of the year.

Sound: 8
EA has finally hit the bulls-eye with a soundtrack that suits their game well.  Most of the songs are familiar rock releases from well-known artists (Bush, Course of Nature, Rush and Uncle Kracker).  All of the songs are really good.  Keep up the good work EA!

Difficulty: Medium
The Ultimate Racer mode can be challenging, but for the most part, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is a fairly easy game.  I'm sure that some gamers will find it more challenging than others, but experienced players will conquer most of the events on the first or second try.

Concept: 7.5 
Other than the event tree and the multiple types of events, the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is a pretty straightforward sequel.  The tracks are bigger and larger, and the gameplay has been refined, but not a whole lot of innovation went into creating this game.

Multiplayer: 7.9
This game is fun to play with a friend, there's no doubt about that.  But why, why can I only play with ONE friend, when PS2 is capable of four-player split-screen action?  Four years ago, Hot Pursuit was justified in having a two-player mode, but on PlayStation 2, it just isn't enough.

Overall: 8.5
The Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is a great sequel that every racing fan will love.  Since it's not a PS2 exclusive, Xbox and GameCube owners will be able to get in on the cop-evading fun that this game has to offer.


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