Review by Brad Da Man

"Best. Racer. Ever (Nearly)"

The Need For Speed series have always been recognized by petrol heads as a series with potential. There has always been room for improvement, but they've still been a blast to play. Well my friends, EA were extremely close to making the perfect racing game ever, but it lacked something which the original Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit had; having to pay for the damage you cause to your car, which means you'll also to earn cash for winning races, which is another ingenious aspect missing from this game.

Earning cash and having to pay for damages your car incurs makes the game much more enjoyable and realistic in my opinion. It makes you drive a lot more cautiously as you know that you'll be out of pocket if you crash constantly. Sure, some might see it as draining the fun from the game, but it seriously doesn't. It means you have to have some skill to win races, not just bash around each track causing serious damage to your car, winning and not having to pay for the damages. In order to unlock cars in this game, you either have to accumulate a certain number of points or win a certain race. The latter is acceptable and is challenging, but earning points is not as fun as having to earn cash.

But enough winging, time for why this game is currently the best racer available. I'll start with the tracks. There are numerous tracks available, all of which are detailed from the individual grains of dirt on the road right down to the crumbles of bark on each tree. Each track is vast in size and unique from the other tracks in the game. There are multiple short cuts throughout each track too, which means that at one minute you're winning the race by 12 seconds and the next you're behind by 10 seconds. Whilst the tracks are relatively easy to master, you'll be blitzing through them at such high speeds that you won't see that tree appear around the bend until it's too late...

But what is a Need For Speed game without wicked cars? Rest easy petrol heads, there is a magnitude of cars here to take for a spin. Cars range from the Australian made Holden to the Porsche 911 Turbo. There are also special concept N4S edition cars to unlock too, which are basically cars you already have with a wicked paint job. Cars accelerate, handle and steer perfectly, and react to the different terrain realistically too. They are modeled to perfection and handle differently depending on the damage they obtain.

There are two different ways you can play this game; either Hot Pursuit mode or World Championship mode. World Racing is pretty self explanatory, you race at different locations throughout the world competing for the World Champion crown. Through World Championship mode you can unlock tracks, cars and as you gradually advance through the levels, the tracks become harder, longer and your opponents become a lot smarter. There is also a Quick Race option available if you just want a quick hoon around a track.

But where the game accelerates away from it's competition and leaves them eating it's dust is in Hot Pursuit. In Hot Pursuit you race against other drivers to be first to the finish line but there's a catch; you must also avoid being arrested by the police. Think that you're invincible in your Ferrari? Think again. The police cars are souped up to the max, having a turbo charge that allows them to cover ground at ridiculous speeds and be on your tail in a matter of seconds. They are also smart, being able to set up roadblocks and knowing where on your car to hit you so that you will spin out of control into a fence. But the sweetener about Hot Pursuit mode is the fact that you can be the law, that's right you can take that beast of a cop car and extract your revenge on opponents. And of course, you have access to the ability to cause roadblocks and can also use that very handy turbo boost!

The A.I in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is not to be underestimated. Your opponents (depending on the difficulty level of course) are ferocious and just as determined to win as you are. They will do everything in their power to win, no matter what the cost. They will attempt to knock other racers off the road, including you, and will honk their horn if you cut them off. Also unlike most other racer in history, they all don't follow the same pre-determined path (i.e. they don't follow one another in a perfect line, performing perfect turns etc). They swerve all over the road, crashing into fences and trees if they make a fatal misjudgment in the road's design. I seriously think that the A.I in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is the best seen in a racer. Ever.

Graphics 9/10. The graphics on offer here are some of the best the PlayStation 2 has ever seen. Every piece of scenery is individually detailed and look very close to photo-realistic. The cars also look like their real life models. However it is sometimes hard for the game to keep up to everything that's happening on screen, thus this results to some very rare, but very annoying frame rate slow down.

Sound 10/10. The cars grunt with such realism that you think that there's one outside in the street. The soundtrack is also the best soundtrack in a car game ever. Hardly any techno on offer (which is a good thing), you get a rock compilation featuring bands such as Bush and Motorhead, which suits the game to a tee.

Control 9/10. Your typical racing controls are on offer here, with an accelerate, brake and handbrake buttons, as well as buttons to change your view of the car. It works well.

Story N/A. The story is simple: Turn on PlayStation 2, open the disc tray, put Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 disc into the disc tray, close the disc tray, wait for game to load up, press start at the title screen, choose your racing mode, choose your car and drive!

Adrenaline Meter 9/10. Your hands will be dripping with sweat and your heart will be beating at 100 miles an hour as you are neck and neck with an opponent entering the final turn...

Fun Factor 9/10. There's nothing better than hopping in a Porsche 911 Turbo and playing a game of cat and mouse with the police. Also performing huge jumps is fn, as not only do you get the thrill of getting some serious hang time and earn some hue points, you also get a ''matrix'' style video which slows the action down and shows your jump from a number of different angles.

Overall 9/10. An unforgettable racing experience that you can play in any mood; whether you want a quick 5 minute fix or a few hours sit down, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is perfect for all video-gaming moods. It misses out on the full 10, however, as you are unable to pay for damage you incur and the game slows down in some instances, which can throw your ''racing concentration'' off.

My final thoughts. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is brilliant. It's the best racing game available and is an absolute blast to play. A game that must be experienced by all fans of car games. Even if car games aren't your thing, it's definitely worth a look as it's unlike any car game you've ever played. If you have enjoyed the other Need For Speed games then you'll definitely love this, and if you didn't then you'll still love this as it's one hell of a racing game. Buy Now!!!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/11/03, Updated 05/20/03

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