Replay Value: 8.5
The Need for Speed series might seem a little bit outdone to some, but those of you that look deeply into a video game definitely won't be disappointed. For you racing fanatics that don't have a Need for Speed game of any kind, this one should definitely be in your library. For those of you that own a previous Need for Speed game, I think that this new incarnation of the series offers enough new modes, tracks, and cars for you to definitely consider buying it.
Graphically, this game is superior to any other game except maybe Gran Turismo. The developers at EA have completely done away with those petty polygonal based cars. If not that, then they did some serious polygonal welding so that you can not notice any of the edges of the polys that make up the cars. Another nice touch is that if you chose to take an outside view while driving, you can view all of the scenery around you on the window of your car. And everyone thought it was nice when some un-known light source reflected off of the window of you car in other racing games. The car models are also beautiful and almost photo realistic. Like I mentioned, you can not see any poly edges and the car models are so exact that you can even see the protruding tail lights of theMercedes. They have also added some great effects. You can now see the tail lights of your car reflected on wet pavement and rain coming through the the beam of light from your headlight. The courses are great too. The level of detail of the actual polygons is about the same as Need for Speed 3, but the courses are much more believable and constructed better. On one of the first courses that you go through, you drive through a forest of pink dogwoods and also see many huge, old-time wooden houses that are wonderfully detailed right down to the water mill in the back.
The game play is still about the same, with some minor changes here and there. The only real major changewith the game play is that the game now features a full-out monetary and damage system. You win a certain amount of credits depending on how well you placed in a race and can use those towards upgrading your current car or buying a new one. However, if youused the wall as a guard rail for the entire race, then you will probably be spending all of that hard earned cash paying off your repair bill. As many of you Need for Speed veterans know, the heart of the game play does not focus on simulation, but rather fast, action-packed game play. The base of game play is the tournament mode, which allows you to earn cash, and open up new cars and tracks. In the last game, it was fun to get chased by the cops for speeding, but in this game, you can actually take the role of a cop andhunt down all of those baddies to hand them their tickets. The other two modes in single player are single race and special event, in which you compete in a special race or tournament. In two-player mode, another nice touch is the High Stakes mode. In this one, before a race, both players cars are removed from their memory cards and both of them are then saved on the winning player's memory card after the race. So if you lose the race, you lose your car.
The control in this game is also good. A dual-shock controller or racing wheel is almost a necessity to do any good in this game, as with most racing games. After you play the game for a while, you realize how each car has its own feel on the road. An example of the detailed control is that in the rain, your car's control is very loose and you will have the tendency to skid out more than usual.
The sound in the game is its only lacking category. The sounds of the cars are muffled and if you own other games from EA like Fifa 99, you will realize that they used the same music from them.
To conclude, I think that Need for Speed: High Stakesshould definitely be considered by owners of previous Need for Speed games as it offers many new game play options and better graphics. As for racing fans that don't own any other Need for Speed games, you should definitely get this one except if you don't own Gran Turismo.