Review by RyuGB
"I got the green glow under my car!"
The Need For Speed series had begun to slide away from it's roots since the last Hot Pursuit; but those days are now over! Electronic Arts hasn't forgotten what made the original Hot Pursuit such a runaway success; back roads racing with awesome sport cars, and the ever present boys in blue hell bent on pulling you over at all costs. The new Hot Pursuit is faster, louder, and equipped with one of the most impressive lineups of autos ever assembled.
(btw: I'm looking forward to the upcoming Need For Speed Underground. I've always thought the Need For Speed formula would be perfect for a street racing title.)
Gameplay: Hot Pursuit 2 features some of the most thrilling single player racing you'll come across; and it actually has some length to boot!
The two main modes of focus in this exercise in illegal racing are: Championship and Hot Pursuit. Each mode is presented as a championship style tree; with thirty or so challenges apiece. Championship plays out sort of like an arcade version of Gran Turismo. It is devoid of cops; and instead shifted towards pure racing skill then anything else. Hot Pursuit is much like Championship; only you'll have cops breathing down your tail pipes all along the way. The cops are truly vicious; and unlike the PS2 version, they are more intent on skillfully spinning you out then merely playing bumper cars with you. Personally, I favor the A.I of this version. In the PS2 version, it simply felt like the cops were mindlessly ramming you into whatever object presented itself. I must also note, that you only have one strike in the Xbox version. (compared to three in the PS2 version.) Again, I prefer this style. Having only one chance to keep yourself in the race makes you be a bit more careful about your driving. Plus; it's just realistic. Besides, it made races a little too easy on the PS2; since I never needed more then two chances at most. The points structure in the Xbox version is also different then the PS2 build. In the PS2 version, you would unlock extra cars and courses as you completed challenges and reached point milestones. On the Xbox, you receive the NFS points and can use them as you see fit. So, no longer do you have to wait until well into the game to get the most powerful and speedy rides. Either way works; but I can't help but love getting my favorite cars all the more sooner.
Multi-player is a real hoot; especially when cops start throwing out dangerous obstacles such as spike strips or helicopters bearing explosive barrels your way. (It just seems all the more intense with half a screen.) Speaking of half a screen; you are only allowed to race against a single human player. That is a bit of a bummer, but I'm beginning to get used to it with console racing titles. The avalanche of options should help to alleviate the disappointment. All the single player options are available; and can be tinkered with to your hearts content.
Xbox Exclusive Content
Okay, so the Xbox doesn't have any exclusive content all it's own. EA Seattle handled the Xbox and GC port, while Black Box got the development duties for the PlayStation 2 port. So, while the Xbox has all the same content as the cube version; it does have some stuff the PS2 version does not. With the Xbox version you get three additional cop cars that the PS2 version lacks; the PS2 version supposedly has about a dozen autos exclusive to that platform.(I didn't confirm the numbers though.) The Xbox version also has different paint schemes for many NFS edition vehicles then what is present with the auto on the PS2 version. Plus, many vehicles have more paint schemes then the PS2 version includes. However, one area that really stings, is the complete loss of the desert courses which were so cool on the PS2 game. There in no new courses to make up for it. Well, at least the three Hawaii theme courses (Island Outskirts, Palm City Island, and Tropical Sunset) are still alive and well on the Xbox build. They are my absolute favorites (with Desert in a close second); and since I went on vacation to Oahu a few years ago, I can vouch for their attention to detail.
Graphics: The auto's in Hot Pursuit 2 look super nice; with quite possibly, some of the highest poly counts I've seen on a console. Even better, subtle details such as the Viper GTS lettering near the Viper's front fender are not lost on EA Seattle. The lighting and reflections are also incredibly conceived; and are the best right here on the Xbox. Damage modeling is also top notch. Really, some crashes will probably make you cringe when you realize how much the damage would probably cost you in real-life. The only areas where the Xbox falters in comparison of the PS2 version, is in the less defined courses (texture wise), and the somewhat slower frame-rate.(ie: Slightly slower, but not all that much.) Otherwise, (as you'll soon see below) the Xbox version improves on the PS2 in almost every way.
Xbox Graphics Advantage
While it certainly is disappointing that the Xbox port falls below the environmental texture quality of the PS2 build; a number of enhancements bring it back up to speed. Lighting effects are much more dynamic then those found in the PS2 version; with a wide variety of real-time effects to dazzle the eyes. Things are much cleaner across the board; all thanks to some truly quality anti-aliasing. It must also be noted, that the Xbox port has 480p HDTV support.(I wouldn't be too surprised, if that would take care of much of the nasty graphical issues.) The damage modeling also seems much more prevalent in the Xbox version. I can remember bashing up my auto really good on the PS2 version; only to be bitterly disappointed with how little visual damage I had to show for it. One last thing; the colors are darker and richer then the PS2 version. (Tropical Sunset is especially a treat because of the more vibrant colors.)
Sound: Hot Pursuit 2 has quite possibly the best licensed soundtrack for a racing game. Period. However, seeing as this is the Xbox, you can always use a custom soundtrack off your hard drive instead. Cars sound really meaty; although, I question whether the engine sounds are as authentic as Gran Turismo. The only thing that bothers me about the audio package; is the complete lack of customizable options for the default soundtrack. The PS2 version allows you to turn off the songs you dislike, and even assign where songs play. (Such as during the menu or while racing)
Control: I've read several online publications which have stated that there is a delay in the game responding to player commands; but I'm not too convinced of their claim, since I haven't ran into any problems myself. The game not only responds well; but manages to control wonderfully at the same time. Even though this is no Gran Turismo; Hot Pursuit 2 does include a lot of the subtle nuances of the real-life autos; albeit, in a heavily exaggerated manner. Vehicles such as the Viper and Corvette need careful cornering to keep their back-ends from throwing the car around; while such autos as the Opel Speedster and the Lotus Elise are nimble as can be. The developers even saw fit to include several different control schemes to meet the needs of any race fan.
The Xbox version would have nabbed a nine; but I feel a few problems hold it back. For starters, it really stinks how the desert courses are completely absent from the picture. The environments are a bit sore on the eyes, and are hard to overlook since the weakest system of the bunch did them better. (However, the variety of improvements go a long way towards making up for lack of texture detail.) Also, while the Xbox version has three new cop cars; it lost about a dozen (if the numbers are true) regular sport cars from the PS2 version. However, I really like the structure and the more finely tuned A.I for the police. Plus, I think only being allowed to be busted by the cops once is both fair and realistic. In the end, I'm going to give the edge to the PS2 version; but it is a very close call. Honestly, the lack of desert courses is the main reason I consider the PS2 version worthy of a point higher. I consider the graphics a trade-off; since, other then slightly slower speed and less defined courses, the graphics are a step above the PS2 game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 09/30/03
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