Review by PGharavi

"An overall great game."

Every so often, you'll find a game that literally takes away all your freedom and sucks you in until the ending credits roll by. Need For Speed: High Stakes is without a doubt one of those games. It'll redirect all your attention away from remedial chores such as eating and sleeping and put it straight into masterpieces such as the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR. What separates High Stakes from the pack is the authenticity that oozes from the opening intro, through the in-game menus, and on into the actual gameplay. Many games simply create cars that look like the real thing but really aren't. While aesthetics doesn't make a bad game better, it certainly raises the realism level. And really, we love driving a BMW M5 in a videogame for the same reason we like our football and baseball characters to have real names. There's much more in the way of immersion, and the experience is decidedly more enjoyable.

High Stakes raises the ante on the competition by including thirteen vehicles and seven all-new tracks in addition to the surprisingly included tracks from Need For Speed III. The graphics when running with 3D acceleration are nothing short of beautiful. The cars reflect their environment elegantly while the tracks show a great diversity and are packed with atmosphere. The control, vital to any racer, is perfectly implemented and just plain feels right. However the sound is mixed bag of great sound effects and mediocre music. The roaring of the engines is distinct for each car and sound great. Unfortunately the in-game music appears to be nothing more than a development afterthought. It's disappointing considering that the music in Need For Speed III was a blast.

What pushes High Stakes into the top of the racing ladder is the inclusion of some absolutely great racing modes. Hot Pursuit has been further improved with better police AI and is an absolute blast to play. The obligatory tournament and time trial modes are done well but the real meat of this game is the career mode. Borrowing a page from Grand Turismo, the career mode in High Stakes raises the level of depth immensely by allowing for upgrades, buying and selling cars, and dealing with real world damage. That's right, no more magically pushing the reset button and suddenly having your upside-down car reappear right in the middle of the road again with nary a scratch. In High Stakes, the cars take physical damage that can adversely affect gameplay. Trying to drive 140 mph in a McLaren F1 GTR during a night race without functioning headlights because you drove your car into a tree is an experience like no other. And you better believe that every nick and scratch on your beautiful car is just as painful in the race as it is in your wallet. Repairs are a must if you car is damaged; you'd better hope you can afford it! Above all, racing in High Stakes mode, with your car on the line, inspires a real feeling of excitement. The drama that is betting your six-figure car on your driving skills is a great rush. This is what separates High Stakes from the rest.

Need For Speed: High Stakes has everything a great racing game needs. Great graphics, perfect control, and depth like no other. There won't be a better racing game on the PC this year.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 11/01/99

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