Replay Value: 10
It's been long since I can say I've actually enjoyed playing a Need for Speed game. Hot Pursuit was an unbelievably good racing game when it launched on the Playstation years ago, and it was even better on the PC. For its time, Hot Pursuit was arguably the best racer on the market and still to this day I find myself coming back to booting it up on my PC. It has obviously withstood the test of time, but unfortunately Hot Pursuit's follow ups, High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed weren't as extraordinary as I'd hoped for them to be. Being a long time Need for Speed fan, I was rather disappointed with the last two Need for Speed titles. Ever since I played the original NFS on the 3DO and then on the PSX, I was hooked. It was the first realistic three-dimensional racer that I played, and it was the game that got me into the racing genre. The ability to race cars on rural and suburban streets as if you were a Road & Track editor took videogame racing to a new level. Ironically enough, the first Need for Speed game even sported the Road & Track likeness, though it can't be denied that it was aptly suited. Need for Speed 2, while not as exceptional as the first, was still a great, fun arcade racer that featured a bunch of stages, cars, and great Easter egg codes. But of all the five Need for Speeds, Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit (PSX/PC) and Need for Speed: Special Edition (PC only) were easily the best. So it made sense, when came the announcement, that EA would use the most popular NFS brand and grant it a true sequel. Hot. Pursuit. 2. That is exactly what it is. Rekindle your spirits in the NFS series and feel rest-assured that not only is this the best Need for Speed title, but this is arguably the best racing game around, second to Gran Turismo 3, of course. Yes, Need for Speed: HP2 is that freaking good!
When it comes down to the graphics, in a game like HP2 everything matters, but most importantly the sense of speed and frame rate are priority. Not only does Hot Pursuit 2 feature a flawless sense of speed, but it has a fantastic frame rate of 60 to go along with the package. In a game as furious as HP2, a consistent frame rate is a very crucial thing, as it could diminish the fun factor. The sense of speed is every bit as crucial as the frame rate is, and fortunately EA was able to do a stupendous job at creating an incredible frame rate and adrenaline rushing sense of speed. The sense of speed in HP2 is easily the best of any racing game to date; it's just that good. Moving on to the more technical and obvious aspects such as texture detail, environmental detail, and car detail; rest-assured that NFS: HP2 handles each one of those categories with ease. For starters, the texturing in the game is excellent. Every object in the game, including the pavement, sand and dirt, look sharp and detailed. The ground isn't flat and boring like many other racing titles, but instead intricate little details can be spotted. When you hit the dirt on the side of the roads, not only does it create a monstrous dust cloud, but pebbles and rocks are kicked up as well, if you're behind a car you will notice it.
The cars themselves look wonderful. The polish on every body in the game is noticeable, as the cars are texture and modeled superbly. They do a very nice job of looking just like their real-life counterparts, and they are also superbly detailed to react to lighting effects, be it a shadow, or a sunbeam. Not only that, but this time around cars take damage, which is an option that can be turned on and off. The damage model is well done; though it isn't extreme, so don't expect to see doors hanging on loose ends or whatever. The lighting in HP2 is another praise worthy visual feature in the game, as is the environmental detail -- the track design in particular. Hot Pursuit 2 features some of the best track designs in a racing game thus far. Every track is filled with twists, turns, hairpins, straight-aways, and more. The only downfall to the game's graphics is the aliasing that takes it toll on the cars, though it isn't that bad, it is there. Jaggies aside, Need for Speed: HP2 is a gorgeous looking title, with a ton of visual scenery to awe over.
Cars. Speed. Police. Helicopters. Mines. Speed. Roadblocks. Speed. Mayhem. Speed. Mayhem. Speed...I think the point has been made clear. Returning to its true roots, Need for Speed: HP2 has it all. Everything you wished for has been granted. For starters, the game boasts a fantastic and huge car lot that spans 50 cars. Not just ordinary cars...cars you only dream about. Ferrari's, Lamborghinis, BMWs, McLaren F1, Aston Martin, Corvette, Fords, and many, many more! Every vehicle is a joy to drive and none of them are annoying or have weird handling tendencies. Getting adjusted to the game should take no longer than two minutes. The game is so well crafted, that even a first time NFS gamer could get his grips with the game in no time. I haven't played a Need for Speed title for God knows how long, and I adjusted to the controls in a matter of seconds. What makes Need for Speed: HP2 such an extraordinary title is its simplicity, while at the same time the game offers so much that it's mind boggling. To kick it off, HP2 includes a kick ass Championship competition, which is of course to progress through the game and unlock many of its secrets. But much of the secrets are also unlocked by accumulating points with the point system that EA went ahead and set up. For every race you win, you will get a set amount of points (depending on difficulty, car grid, and lap number). When you reach certain milestones with your point tally, the announcer of the game (the same one who's been covering the NFS games since the first) will tell you that you've earned a new vehicle. Most of the vehicles and tracks are unlocked by competing in the Championship and Ultimate Race mode. Complete events in the respective modes and you will be opening new boards to race on.
The Hot Pursuit mode is of course the main attraction of the game. You can either play as the long arm of the law, or you can attempt to escape its grip. At first, you will be equipped with a rather kick ass Ford Crown Victoria cop car, which is pretty much what every law enforcement agency uses today. But the reason the Crown Victoria kicks ass is because it features a nitro boost function which makes this game an even sicker and more adrenaline rushing experience. By pressing down on the Right analog stick (R3) you will set the nitro off -- this goes for every cop car in the game. As you progress, gain more points and complete more challenges you will unlock new cop cars including the Mustang SVT and the grand pappy of them all, the Lamborghini Murcielago. There is a total of 6 cop cars in the game. As a cop you have the ability to alert other police officials to drop spike strips, or set up a roadblock ahead, or if the situation calls for it, call up a chopper to drop mines on the ground. EA has clearly been listening to the comments that have been made by the millions of Need for Speed fans out there; bring back the linear point-to-point courses. EA has done exactly that. Hot Pursuit 2 now has both circuit and linear tracks to race on, complete with traffic, shortcuts, alternate pathways, interactive environments, and the works. The multi-player aspects of Need for Speed: HP2 are fantastic. You have a variety of modes to play on, though the hot pursuit mode alone makes the multi-player experience every bit as worthwhile. Electronic Arts has gone all out with the latest Need for Speed title. It has risen above my expectations and blown me away. The game plays like a dream, and honestly, I couldn't ask for anything more from the game.
To my surprise, instead of throwing together a bunch of techno tracks, as was the case in the previous Need for Speed titles, EA pulls a 180 and implements a list of licensed music tracks. EA even gave the compilation of songs a title -- "EA Trax." The soundtrack includes:
Bush - The People That We Love (regular and instrumental)
Course of Nature - Wall of Shame (regular and instrumental
Hot Action Cop - Fever for the Flava (regular and remix)
Hot Action Cop - Going Down On It (regular and remix)
Matt Ragan - Bundle of Clang
Matt Ragan - Cone of Silence
Matt Ragan - Flam Dance
Pulse Ultra - Build Your Cages(regular and instrumental)
Rush - One Little Victory (regular & instrumental)
The Buzzhorn - Ordinary (regular & instrumental)
Uncle Kracker - Keep it Coming (regular & instrumental)
The music is good stuff, but like any soundtrack it can get annoying, or the gamer just won't like it one bit. Full intact with Dolby Surround Pro Logic 2 support, Need for Speed: HP2 can be an even more satisfying experience if you have the proper audio equipment. With Pro Logic 2's 4-channel sound, the engine noises, the ambience effects, the crashes, explosions, the sirens, and everything else you can think of that makes a noise, sounds exceptional. The audio in the game is heavy, loud, clear, and downright awesome. What more do you want?
Controlling Need for Speed, and more importantly, getting adjusted to the game takes absolutely no time at all. You have a variety of control options. First of all, you can either play with the classic Need for Speed handling, or go for something a bit more realistic and not as road griping -- in other words, slippery. You can set your transmission to automatic, manual, and even semi-auto. The first two are pretty obvious, though semi-auto is a mixture of automatic and manual. You'll be able to change gears by yourself or let the car handle it. Though what's unique about this is that you can lock the car in a certain gear for a period of time and just cruise around, if you please. The most obvious inclusion is of course the compatibility of Logitech's GT Force/Driving Force steering wheel. If you have the wheel, by all means plug the baby in and play away. It works very well with the game and adds a new level of fun to the already nearly perfect fun factor.
It took 4 years, but the Need for Speed franchise has finally been put back on its feet and planted in a new pot of soil. Hot Pursuit 2 does absolutely everything right. While it's not perfect, this is about as close to perfect you'll get with an arcade racer. NFS: HP2 is easily one of the finest racing games to ever grace a console, and in a genre dominated by Gran Turismo, that's saying a lot. I haven't had this much fun, joy, excitement, and an adrenaline rush with a racing title in a very long time. Visually, HP2 is a gorgeous game. Technical jargon aside, the game plays like everything I wished for it to play like. The sense of speed doubles the whole experience, and without it the game wouldn't have been as fantastic as it is. Just look at the Xbox and GameCube versions, they are sub-par and boring titles because they have a very sluggish sense of speed, not to mention awkward visual presentation. By now, if you're not convinced that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is one of the finest titles of the year and on the PS2, then I don't know what else to say. Do not pass this game up. Run to your store right now and pick up a copy of Hot Pursuit 2, if you know what's good for you.