Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed Review
EA's long running Need For Speed series has hit its fifth title. The first one was released originally on the 3DO, then later enhanced and ported over to the PS. The second (which by the way was my fave) had the best cars, tracks and the best sense of speed. What NFS 2 lacked in, NFS 3 made up for it, the cops were back in NFS 3 but the game lost some of its charm due to the lack of speed. The fourth EA was said to be the most promising, although EA delivered they didn't completely fulfill the statement. NFS 4 suffered from much loss of animation when a few cars would show up on screen, that was the games only main complaint. To go off the track a little, when GT2 showed its face in the US, gamers quickly noticed that there were no Porsches in the game. Instead the manufacturer was replaced by RUF, a German company that tunes up Porsches and sells them as their own. The reason for the Porsche license being absent from GT2, was because EA had secured it. A month after GT2's release we all saw a new NFS title, Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed, the game was dedicated to the 50 year history of the Porsche franchise. Now that the game has been released see how the game fairs up with the others.
When I compare NFS 4 to NFS 5 visually, there is definitely a difference between the two. One is that the frames don't act up anymore in NFS 5, and two is the car models look a lot more smoother. But what plagues the game's visual atmosphere is the pop-up in the backgrounds. I would argue that the engine in GT2 had less pop-up than NFS 5 does. At times the engine will actually freeze and stop loading the backgrounds, while you are driving into nothing. The way that the problem is fixed is by changing the camera view, this happened to me twice already and that was the way I cured the problem. NFS 5's car models look incredibly polished, but strangely at the same time look somewhat different than their real life counterparts. When looking at the cars through the showcase, they look absolutely stunning and realistic, but when playing with them on the road, they seem a little modified, it's no biggy though.
The track design has always played an essential key in the NFS series, and it's safe to say that the tracks in NFS 5 are great. Each course has an enormous amount of detail within it, that really pays off and I quickly noticed that. The colors used in the tracks are very bright, and although the textures get washed down when you get too close, they still look great from a farther distance. NFS 5's pop-up sometimes makes navigation a bit confusing, and that may result other cars from speeding right by you. Now the frame rate, which plagued NFS 4, is not present anymore we know that, but how is it when playing on the multiplayer stages? You'll be happy to know that the frames are excellent, but that happiness will be pretty much gone when I tell you that the amount of pop-up is excruciating. The pop-up isn't fair anymore, when you get about 10-15 yards distance the background will then appear, it's that bad. I was somewhat disappointed by NFS 5 visuals, although they are very solid, some of the things bring down the score.
Innovation has been a big part in the franchise, when EA first introduced the High Pursuit mode in NFS 3, fans quickly became addicted. Later on that feature was heavily modified and this time around you were able to play as the cop or bandit. I haven't discovered a mode where you can be the cop but the Chase Mode is where you flee from one. You drive around through city streets a'la Driver (finally!), you have to evade a cop for a certain amount of time, but once the cop gets you your hauled away to jail. I have always wanted tracks with traffic lights, and streets that would resemble streets that we would normally drive on. By that I mean the freedom of turning left or right at an intersection or just not driving on a linear track but driving in an area replicating something that would be seen in Driver. The minor aspects in gameplay feature damage, on coming traffic cars, and police cars. Porsche Unleashed includes over 50 Porsche vehicles, everything from a 914 to a 911 Carrera 2000, this game basically has all of Porsche's cars fro the last 5 decades. A four-player mode is also a nice addition to the gameplay, it is fun for a while but since the game doesn't have any weapons it's just no match for a title like Crash Team Racing. Not only is this the most car populated NFS but is also the one with the most tracks. 74 circuits are featured in NFS 5, along with 20 open-road segments.
Moving on to the physics. We found them to be very lacking and NFS 4 had relatively tight and realistic physics, but NFS 5 doesn't. I'm sorry to say this but the physics almost feel like Ridge Racer 4, they are very artificial. GT2 had 600 cars and Polyphony was able to achieve such work, but NFS 5 compared to GT2 has a measly 50 cars with bad physics. I'm not saying that the cars aren't controllable, they actually are very easy to maneuver, but the physics are false. As for all of the modes, NFS 5 has the Evolution mode, that is basically your season mode where you are taken through five decades of Porsches and like the previous NFS you are also required to fix and purchase your car. Chase mode and Quick Race are self explanatory, but the Factory Driver mode is something else. You are a newly hired Porsche employee, your boss and comrades send you on missions with Porsches, your missions may include anything from driving down a course and breaking a record, or even being a bell boy and escorting somebody's car to them without a scratch. The Factory Driver mode will promote you if you succeed a certain amount of times, just like real-life. I don't think I left out anything else that was crucial, but as far as my opinion goes this NFS' gameplay is probably the most fun out of all of them.
Like every other NFS title, this one also has techno/rock songs, but it adds older music genres as well. When playing the Evolution mode and starting out in the first stage of your progress, you hear tunes that will probably make your ears bleed, these songs most closely resemble 50's retro songs, just think of a surfer in the 50's or 60's and you will get the theme. That is generally my only complaint about the sound, otherwise the rest of the tunes and the announcer sound great.
The control is fairly simple, although the physics are not real, that actually makes handling the car a lot more easier. Making turns and not spinning out of control almost never happens, and handling overall is very easy. The analog and dual shock are both supported, the V3 Steering Wheel is very effective with the game and so is the Logic 3 Roadster.
In the end Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed is a very good title. Any NFS fan or even Ridge Racer fan should pick it up, while more casual gamers who prefer games like GT2 should only rent. Need For Speed 5 has quenched my thirst for gasoline, and gave me the sense of speed I craved for. In addittion, EA completely overwhelmed me when I noticed that the game had open road tracks. Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed only needs a tweak in the pop-up and that is it, when that is done we may very well have the best NFS title, but for now we are stuck with this one. Oh well, the game is still kick ass!