Newest 'Need for Speed' fills the need
April 15, 1999
By CNN Interactive Senior Editor Dave Ragals
(CNN) -- Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed" series has been one of the mainstays of video game racing, particularly on the Playstation. Last year's installment, "NFS 3: Hot Pursuit" was a significant improvement over its predecessors. But despite that, it took a big hit from Sony's "Gran Turismo," probably the greatest racing sim the PSX had seen.
This year, EA is back with an even flashier, more addictive "Need for Speed." "High Stakes" contains all the best elements from previous versions, plus some of the missing ingredients that were found in the PC version. And, yes, it contains features similar to those that made "Gran Turismo" such a hit.
"High Stakes" is far from an overhaul of "Hot Pursuit." After all, as they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Anyone familiar with the series will be able to pick it up and start playing right away. At the very least, gamers will be treated to new tracks and new cars, including the Porsche 911, BMW M5 and Mercedes SLK.
You can still play Hot Pursuit mode, picking the car of your choice and trying to outrun the police. This time, instead of listening to the police yell at you to pull over, you their radio chatter. Unlike the last version, you can also be the police, attempting to pull over as many speeders as possible in a given amount of time. You can call for back-up or request a roadblock or tire spikes. Pull over enough cars and you're rewarded with an upgraded cruiser.
Where the game really excels is tournament mode, which is really quite reminiscent of "Gran Turismo." Start with a car you can afford, then race it in a series of tournaments, earning points along the way which you can use to upgrade your car or buy new ones.
Different tournaments require different cars, so you'll either keep trading in the old wheels or have to win enough races to stockpile a nice fleet of performance cars. You can also enter your car in several "Special Events," which require an entry fee but also pay nicely if you win.
In "High Stakes" mode, you can take your favorite machine and race head-to-head against another player or the computer in a winner takes all race. Beat your opponent, and put his or her car in your garage. If you lose, turn over the keys to your wheels and start over.
"Need for Speed: High Stakes" isn't so much a new game as it is a drastic improvement over previous versions. Its new features and smoother graphics make it a considerable upgrade, one worth the investment for fans of the series or anyone looking for a top-notch racing sim.
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