Review by yuuwaku

"Graphically gaudy to make up for other short comings"


This is the latest installment in a long line of ''action'' car racing games. In past installments, ''Need for Speed'' was a series for people that wanted to drive super cars with realistic handling and controls, and the occasional police car to outrun. Now evolved with an awkward finger on the pulse of today's youth enraptured by the ''Fast and the Furious'' movies, comes a direct port Nitrous Oxide induction of a 30-something game developer's empty attempt to cash in on the exploding demographic for teenagers and import car tuning.

Story - 2/10

A vague semi-story is added pretty much for effect. Apparently, it is your goal to take out the bad boy of the streets - Eddie, be ranked #1 in all the different modes of play, and get featured on magazine covers. There are occasional cut-scenes where you are being berated and ridiculed and taunted into putting orange spoilers and green neon on your car. Something can be said about the highly stylized direction that went into the cut scenes however, they are all cut backs and reveals that give your character a sense of getting in over his/her head.

Game Play - 6/10

Gone now is the somewhat realistic control and police chases that were the mainstay of past ''Need for Speed'' titles. But no worries, there are 2 new modes of play!! Drag and drift courses are added for new and inventive ways for impressionable teenagers to copy and be able to drive like maniacs! These modes are actually really fun, and add a lot of replay to the game as each of the limited selection of cars perform uniquely in these modes of play. Traffic in this game is murder; it is obvious that the programmers of this game put traffic on all the essential lines through turns, and if you hit that car around that blind turn or in mid-air coming down the hill, you have a 99.9% chance of losing the race.

Something also has to be said about style points. The more gaudy you make your car look, apparently the more points you have to unlock to put more gaudy vinyl on your car. I think this is a travesty of the game, because I myself as a car lover can appreciate high performance under the hood, not over the hood.

In-game controls are easy to master. Changing gears will score you an awesome turbo blow-off valve sound effect. However the product placement does distract from the game; here and there are McDonalds' billboards and when upgrading parts you have a choice of brand (which has no effect on handling). You are also welcome to put just about any car performance company name on the side of your car. One saving grace of this game is the popular music selection by current artists, similar to other EA games such as Madden and NCAA Football.

Graphics - 5/10

This is where the game really can cause frustration. Throughout all the courses you don't have much vision in front of you, lights and objects that pass you have tracers, all of which I assume is some forced perspective technique to make you seem like you are moving at high speeds. This was a huge cause of frustration for me in contrast to previous titles by Need for Speed. In prior games, you had a lot of vision, no objects flying into the screen (which Need for Speed: Underground has) and no blurred objects so you really had an ability to pick a great line through tough turns. This game, however, relies on the game player to memorize the courses hard twists and turns. Oh, and by the way, if you hit the wall there is a 99.9% chance of you losing the race.

Replay Value - 5/10

Past the distracting accessories you can have for your car, this game is fun after you memorize all the twists and turns, and the courses get progressively challenging (sometimes a bit too challenging). Each car is unique performance-wise, which might keep gamers coming back for more.

Game Development - 4/10

My review title sort of suggests I think this game has a few shortcomings... so here's a list:

no replay
tracers on everything (at any speed) and overall poor visibility
one location (same city)
one type of weather
one time of day (always night)
no free roaming
one type of forced induction system (turbo-charger).
no fine tuning (boost pressure, gear ratio, suspension)
parts and cars are unlocked when you complete parts the game, not when you have the money (but vinyl can be unlocked anytime)

Final Recommendation:

Buy if you like ''The Fast and the Furious'' movies. This is a rental for everyone else.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 12/06/03, Updated 01/08/04

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