reviews\ Oct 13, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 - XB - Review

The latest from Electronic Arts is an arcade-style racing game that features tons of sexy cars for you to drive as fast as possible.  Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 features quite a few modes for you to play, quite a few cool tracks, and a cool points system to unlock cars.  The game is definitely fun, but it isn't perfect.  If some problems were worked out, and the game was more polished, it would be a must-have title for any racing fan.  As it is, it's a great rental - it probably even warrants a purchase if you're looking for a new racing title to play with your friends.


The main mode involves you racing with other computer-controlled cars.  Now that sounds peachy, but throw some angry cops in and you have a really cool racing game idea.  There are 33 different levels in the mode that spread out in a tree-like fashion.  For example, if you beat a level, it probably opens up two new ones.  Beating one or the other will lead to a different stage.  It would be a really cool element if there was an actual story behind the game, but there is none. A story could have really helped out the game, giving it some ingenuity, and also a better reason for cops to be bent on stopping you dead in your tracks.


Enough with blathering about the way the game progresses - how does it play?  The answer is a resounding "very good."  The control is very well done, giving you the idea that you really are driving one of these beasts.  Each car handles somewhat differently, but always smooth and sharp.  The controls probably don't really mimic how the cars would actually handle, like Gran Turismo would, but the game opts for a more arcadey, yet realistic feel that's a whole lot of fun.  There are a few glitchy spots, though.  Once I drove head on into a wall, resulting in the front end of my car shooting up into the air, the bottom of it spinning around like a merry-go-round the whole way across the side of the road.  At this point two cops came flying by, pushing my car along.  Instead of stopping in order to arrest me, which they easily could have done, they kept pushing me for awhile, and soon enough I was back in control and I crossed the finish line.  These moments are few and far between, however, and are kind of funny like that.


Which beings me to another point: the computer controlled cars are very disappointing..  While the other racers drive rather realistically, they are not aggressive at all.  They never try to push you out of the way or shove the cops aside.  Instead, they let themselves get pushed around, their only intent being to finish the race.  The cops are even worse, however.  I was going 120+ MPH past a sitting cop car once, and two seconds later it was right beside me.  It's like the cops aren't driving cars, but flying carpets (sans the flying).  And once they're up their with you, the only thing they do is try and hit your car at the right angle so that it spins out and stops.  They rarely try to ram you off the road, or stop in front of you, or take you out from the side.  They just try to hit a corner of your car so you go out of control.  Now and then, they call for backup, and you'll have two or three around you, but again, they all do the same thing.  There are also times where they call in a helicopter which flies above and drops flaming barrels on the road that explode if you hit them.  This is actually really cool, and more things like that would have made the police a much easier pill to swallow.


The selection of cars is very nice, ranging from the slower, weaker cars, to the big boys like the Ferraris and Porsches.  They are a lot of fun to drive, and the game gets going very fast at times.  My real complaint is that you never really earn the cars.  Every race in the main mode forces you to use one of the cars available for that race - you can't just drive whatever you want, which is really too bad.  In fact, the only place where you can spend your hard-earned points to buy cars is in the "Single Challenge" mode.  In Single Challenge you can change options to your liking and drive any course you've unlocked with any vehicle you've unlocked.  But it's only a single race, and it doesn't unlock anything or give you points.  It's just sort of a test-drive mode.


Multiplayer, however, is a lot of fun.  It's a part of the Single Challenge mode so you can use whatever car you want, on whatever stage you want.  It's great fun and should not be missed.  You can add other racers, the boys in blue, or just race alone if you wish.  If you like racing games, this multiplayer mode deserves to be played.  It's so much fun.  There's also a mode where you can be the cop, but it seems like it was just added in at the last minute for a little variety.  It's pretty fun at first, but very shallow.  You simply drive around, looking for a car (there's only one on the course at a time so you that takes out some of the depth), and ram in it until you put it out of commission.  You can call for backup or a helicopter as well, but that's not much fun to do, and you never really need to in the first place.


The graphics that Need for Speed sports are not as good compared to other Xbox games.  While each track is awesome, cleverly designed, and detailed, they're full of muddy textures, strangely shaped objects, and horrible-looking trees.  The trees look like poles that have pieces of leafy-painted cardboard sticking out of them.  At least the shadows are done nicely and the framerate is pretty solid.  Not perfectly smooth all the time, but solid nonetheless.  Thankfully, the cars, unlike the environments, look lovely.  They're smooth, nicely modeled, animated nicely and even seem to have a reflective surface.  You want to just jump in and speed off in that red Ferrari through the ugly, yet cool-looking, shortcut-infested world.


The games soundtrack isn't too bad, but not everyone likes the same kind of music, right?  The custom soundtrack option is more than welcome, allowing you to play while listening to what you want to listen to over the purring of engines, which don't sound too bad themselves.  The voice acting, on the other hand, could use some work.  The cops seem almost cheerful while they're talking, not gruff and angry like they should be.  But if they really begin to bother you, you can always change the settings so you can't hear them.


All in all, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is a pretty fun racing game.  It has great controls, awesome cars, cool tracks, and a great multiplayer mode.  Playing by yourself could use some work, but if you don't mind the unintelligent cops, or the racers that seem to ignore everything around them, there are 33 cool levels to enjoy.  This game is definitely worth a rent, and if you're craving for a racing game right now, this is not a bad option.



Gameplay: 8.5

Always fast and with spot-on control that varies noticeably between cars, NFS delivers.  If only the cops would act more realistically, then this aspect would have been rated even higher.


Graphics: 6.5

The tracks are detailed and full of creativity, but compared to other games, the graphics simply aren't good.  Trees stand out as being flat and ugly, textures could have been improved, and a slightly steadier framerate would have been welcome.  And don't get me started on these horrid cutscenes that show up if the cops catch you.  However, the cars make up for some of these shortcomings, as they look incredible.


Sound: 8.0

The default soundtrack isn't too bad, but why listen to it when you can use your own custom soundtrack?  I'm very glad to see that option.  The engines sound great, too, but many of the cop voices could have been better done.  They sound too cheerful.


Difficulty: Medium

It isn't incredibly hard, but not a cakewalk either.  Some races will be won on your first try, others will most likely need several tries to complete.  Unless you're just doing a single race, you can only use the cars available for each race, thus forcing you to try out cars you aren't familiar with.


Concept: 7.0

NFS doesn't do a lot that hasn't been done before, but what racing games do?  Cops chasing you is a great idea, even though it could have been implemented better.  There are several other modes, none of which terribly original, but fun nonetheless.


Multiplayer: 9.0

If the weird superpowers the cops seem to have is beginning to get on your nerves, boot up a game of multiplayer.  Only two people can play (by yourselves or with computer-controlled cars), but there are several options to modify play, and you can use any of the cars or tracks you've unlocked.


Overall: 7.8

Although Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 won't win any awards for groundbreaking graphics or ingenuity, it's still a very solid title that any racing fan ought to play.  Driving exotic cars that you probably never will in real life, at speeds a lot higher than you probably ever will in real life, against friends that, well, you do know in real life, is just awesome fun.


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