Review by Ido Skira
"Porsche - Best car in the world! Not to mention the game!!"
About 5 years ago I didn't care much about sports cars. Then Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed came out which is the 5th installment in the NFS series. Now Porsche is my favorite sports car manufacturer. I got myself a copy expecting even better than the last 4 games which I played just for the legacy of the game. I got more than I bargained for. A whole lot more.
The graphics have been improved so as to give players an even more realistic feeling. Tracks are so beautiful you need to watch out not to crash while admiring the view. While you are driving through the courses try to look for trees, piles of trunks, stores, houses and other buildings, ships, trains, hills, mountains and more. The Porsches are designed with the utmost accuracy, from interior to extreme bodywork design, so as to give a true feeling of how it might feel like when you drive a Porsche. Car damage is also designed to imitate a real dent on a car. Windows will break when a car rolls over on its roof. On some tracks the skybox looks really good. If you drive in the direction of the sun the light will reflect on your windshield like in a real car. I took a point out for the disappointing fact of how the traffic cars are designed. Traffic cars look like boxes on four wheels which is pretty ugly.
I would have to say that the music in this game is not what I was expecting. From hearing the little in game music I've heard I found it not much to my liking, which is composed mainly out of trances. The menu music is so good and fitting though, that I still can't get it out of my head. Sound is also a crucial factor in racing games as it gives the player a feeling of realistic play. Fortunately, this game doesn't lack sound effects as one would expect, which go pretty well if I might add, which add up to that realistic feeling. Engine roars, tire squeaks and original horns are a part of those sound effects. Ambient sounds are exquisite which makes a feeling of driving on a real track. Birds, foghorns, livestock, falling trees, blizzards and rain drops are some of best ambient sounds.
The bread and butter of every game, the gameplay is very addictive. Evolution is the heart of this game. Part racing, part car collecting and part money making makes this mode very fun as you race through the years, driving most models Porsche makes, buying and selling cars and earning money while your goal is to collect all the models and make it to the year 2000. Evolution is divided into 3 different eras, Classic era Golden era and Modern era, each of them with its own tournaments and challenges, AI difficulty and Porsche models. Each tournament has its own restrictions and entry fees which are supposed to balance between different cars so as to prevent a state of handicapping by the AI or the player. Except for the Classic era, each era is divided to a number of tournaments and Club Races. Tournaments count as passing the years and progressing through Evolution mode while Club Races are a good way to earn money and increase the value of your older cars. When you finish an era you are taken to the bonus race menu in which you are given a chance to win a bonus race class car without paying for it. All you have to do is win a five lap race on one of the circuits tracks. You can tune the cars to match the the terrain of the track and also purchase optional parts, all taken from the Porsche catalogue, to increase your car's performance. The AI offers little, if any, challenge on the earlier races but, as you progress through Evolution the AI improves in both skill and car managing and will later provide you with healthy competition.
Another addition to the game is Factory Driver. Factory Driver is a mode in which you are employed as a Porsche test driver, testing various models in stunts which include timed acrobatic runs, timed races, car delivery, the occasional challenge from fellow test drivers and more. Factory driver is a great way to add new and refine existing player's driving skills as some tasks require perseverance and patience to complete. After you complete a certain number of stunts and missions you get a chance to earn a promotion which will award you with a higher rank ID and the use of a factory standard model with a custom paint job on it, if you complete it. The classic Single Player exists along with the classic game modes such as single race, knockout and tournament. Hot Pursuit has been dropped in favor of the Evolution and Factory Driver modes. In addition to that rally style tracks have been added for those who've had it up to here with circuits, although there are a few circuits for those who can't do without them. A Porsche chronicle has been added for that little piece of history which might interest Porsche lovers. The chronicle contains beauty shots and print media of all the Porsche models in the game.
Evolution might take some time to fully complete if you're trying to collect all the models because once you have let the years pass there is no option of load or save. Some models will appear on the used car market for you to buy but some will forever be gone, which might make you start the game all over again. After Evolution mode there's Factory Driver which will last depending on you driving skill. If you know how to handle a car and use manual transmission Factory Driver should be a breeze.
Sports cars fans who love racing should buy this game pronto, otherwise you're making a mistake. An NFS fan, should rent this game and see if it suits him before making a final decision. Either way you'll have fun playing this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/05/04
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