Review by dmhwareagle8

"A pretty arcade racer, but not the best."

The Need for Speed racing series has been a staple in the racing genre for quite some time. The latest two efforts by EA have been heavily inspired by movies highlighting the tuner car racing scene. With that in mind, EA improved on most aspects of the original Need for Speed, but hurt some other areas, or ignored them all together.

On the positive side the graphics are nice. They are not up to par with say Forza Motorsport (from the demo of course), but they are nice. All races take place either in the late night, or early dawn, and the city looks like a city should late at night. The lighting on the buildings is nice and sets a good mood for street racing. The car models look great. They have licensed car in the game so you are able to race with, perhaps, some of your favorite cars. Mine included the 2005 Mustang and the Skyline. You are able to upgrade your licensed cars with all types of parts, including but not limited to: rims, hoods, body kits, graphics, neon lighting, sound systems, tires, turbos, and many more. Some parts make your car look better, others make it perform better. Both are important because your car must perform well to win, and it must look good to get on the covers of magazines and dvd's. The achievement of both goals is required to move on in the game. Another aspect of these parts is that they can be tuned to affect your cars performance. While tuning your car is not necessary offline, when competing online it does become necessary. The large city that is available to drive around in between races is a nice touch. You will find yourself learning your way around the city just as you would in real life, it is in fact detailed and diverse enough to do that.

The sound in the game is well done. It is a lot like the graphics in that they are good, but not great. The cars sound differently as you would expect them to. Using cars with more horsepower gives you a satisfying throaty roar from the engine.

There are many different types of races, all of which are welcome to avoid monotony. There are drag races, street cross races, circuit races, sprint races, and drift races. The drag and drift races were my favorite as they are a unique experience not often seen in racing games.

The game started off wonderfully for me, but that feeling did not last. There are five different stages you must go through to beat the game. With each stage, the competition gets slightly harder, and the number of races goes up considerably. In each stage you get a sponsor who you must please to earn your new cars. By stage four I was just plain tired races. They quickly became too numerous and the monotony really set in, despite the ranging types of races. To add to this the difficulty is controlled by rubber band AI. As turns out, it doesn't really matter how well your car is tuned offline, or how well you race in the first half of the race. It only matters that you do enough in the last half. No matter how well you run in the first half you will not open up a sizeable lead. On the other hand, if you drive poorly, you fall behind too much either. This is a cheap way for the developers to not put in ranging difficulties and tune them to be right. The result is that the player does not get a feeling of accomplishment when they complete a race.

The environment also added to the monotony. At the first the only driving at night thing was fine, but by the later stages, it just got old. Furthermore it rains constantly in the city, which also became mildly aggravating.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the type of racing. Going into the game I expected an arcade racer, and I got that in its fullest. Bouncing off walls is as much a good strategy and knowing when to properly brake. This is all fine and good, except you have to know a thing or two about cars to compete onine. I believe most people who do are like and me and would like a more accurate racing experience.

In the end the attempt to combine realistic aspects of racing such as car tuning and easliy accessible with arcade racing rubber banding AI may have seem like a good idea, but it comes up short. With racers like Project Gotham 2, Rallisport Racing 2, and TOCA Race Driver, this game will only really satisfy those with a strong affinity for tuner car racing. Everyone else should stick to other racers and save their money.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/11/05

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