Need For Speed (NFS) is probably the only racing game that I've ever played with on the PC. Although the first version was just a pale shadow of those racing simulations which can be found on the consoles, I was mesmerized. The fact that the NFS series allows you to drive hot new sports cars and achieve what the title suggests was what caught my eye. Ever imagining yourself driving a Ferrari, A Lamborghini Diable or a Porsche? This edition surpasses even the best of the consoles in terms of sheer fun and speed.
NFS 3 : Hot Pursuit is a great game. (What can I say?) It has an exhilarating sense of speed, clean and beautiful graphics, polishes production values and loads of unadulterated fun. It gives you the feeling of moving at breakneck speeds in actual real-life settings rather than going round and round a stuffy race track. I find the game engrossing and rewarding which is why everytime I play, I find that time is just whizzed by. NFS contains some of the most astounding and advanced graphics specially grafted into the cars on the screen that I've ever seen. The sound of my revving engine and the fast frame rate combines to create the illusion of driving at high speeds.
After the obligatory intro FMV, you'll see a slick menu screen with swishy sound effects to accompany it. You can decide between a single-player, two-player split screen and a network game. After that, you choose your desired mode of play, whether it's single race, tournament, knockout or 'Hot Pursuit'. You need to accomplish certain objectives with the different modes in order to gain extra cars and bonus tracks.
There are more than a dozen sports cars for you to race with. Each car is designated within 3 classes, A, B and C. The range of cars is a fascinating 'dream' gallery : Corvettes, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Jaguars and Mercedes. There are also roughly 10 tracks, including the bonus track, encompassing several different environments and difficulty levels. You'll race through canyons, snowy mountain caps, urban utopia and even forests. In actuality there are only 4 tracks, yes, 4 only. Well, basically, each track has a clearly defined fork on the road which is blockaded by impassable road signs. Depending on the track you choose, there will be different blockades. You might be thinking that you have been conned but the plus side to it is that the two courses that share the same track are set at different times of the year. For example, 'Hometown' which is set in the summertime gets a frosty treatment in it's counterpart, 'Country Woods'. Also, once you take the split, the courses differ in style, locality and difficulty so you don't feel too muck of the same thing. You can even race during the night and in rain to add to the variety. Visibility takes a hard hit when you pick either condition. Furthermore, you can even get to race through the course backwards. Imagine the number of possibilities you can create through these options!
Unlike the previous games, you can fine-tune your sports car, making modifications to the engine tuning, brake balance, steering speed, gear ratios, suspension, aerodynamics and tires. Each change makes a significant difference to the car's performance. Driving assists can be turned on for those in need of aid as well as speed. You get extra traction and a helpful navigator : colour-coded arrows and voice-overs.
The graphics in the game are pretty amazing. Reflections of the car is outstanding, as is the rain, the leaves, the dust that follow your wake. Lighting is especially impressive in the night time and rain races. The special effects include snow or rain splatter against the camera lens and windshield, makes a forceful appearance. Best of all, everything, including your 7 other competitors, animated background objects, your rearview mirror, can be packed into one screen without much of a performance problem. Track briefings and car gallery is also a must-watch-and-listen!
Audio, as expected, is superb. Engine revs and collision noises are substantially authentic. The most impressive sounds comes from the radar detector and police transmissions you get on your illegal scanner while playing Hot Pursuit. The dialogue is wonderful, ranging from 'I'm chasing a car' to ' I'm in pursuit of a red Ferrari, he's going more than 180!'. The music tend to be loud, aggressive techno beats, perfect for a game of this speed.
Hot Pursuit, the most appealing feature of the game so far. It allows you to train your ability in outrunning the cops or switching sides and hunt down the law-breakers. Your objective is to complete the set amount of laps required before another AI competitor does. While doing so, you get a good number of AI-controlled policecars around the track hoping to catch either one of you. You get an indication of the speed limit which is on a road sign around the track. You even have a handy radar detector which beeps and blinks red when you get close to a policecar. You can then choose to either step on the brakes or more preferably (in my opinion) step on the accelerator and let the chase begin! You'll hear sirens and from your scanner you'll pick up the policemen reporting the pursuit. This in turn will alert the other policecars around the track to look out for you and join in the chase. As the pursuit lingers on, traps maybe set including roadblocks and spike strips, but you'll be forewarned about it on your scanner. Once caught, you'll be given a ticket. 3 tickets later and you're out of the race.
Fancy dishing out tickets to offenders? In the act of role reversal, you get to become the police and start chasing the speeders. Your HUD changes slightly, and a full overhead map of the course is overlaid in the center of your screen showing the location of every 'speeding' car on the track. When in range of one, the name of the car appears, including his speed and the maximum speed over the limit that he has reached. You then switch on the sirens and the HUD will target the car with a green square. You can then either choose to ram him off the road or get ahead of him and set a spike strip. Unfortunately, you're in this chase alone instead of having backups.
All in all, Need For Speed III : Hot Pursuit is a worthy purchase if you're a red-blooded racing fan. This rip-roaringly fast, frighteningly realistic and highly customizable racing game with state-of-the-art visuals and sound is a definite expression of what this game holds. If you want high speed thrills in an expensive sports car, I recommend that you get your hands on this as this will probably be the only time you get to drive a million-dollar vehicle.