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Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2

Jason Thompson

Electronic Arts has always given a true feeling of insane speed in these games, if nothing else.

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: $19.99 (Greatest Hits line)
Multimedia: Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2
Platforms: PlayStation 2 (also available on GameCube, Xbox, and PC)
Number of players: 1-2 s
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Black Box Games
US release date: 2007-07

Yes, I know this is an old title, released a couple years back and now making another run on the Greatest Hits line of PlayStation 2 games, but that doesn't make it any less worthy of review. To me, it's still "new" as I only picked it up a couple weeks ago, having been a huge fan of the original Need for Speed III Hot Pursuit on the PSX. In my eyes, that title was the ultimate racing game. The follow-up Need for Speed 4 tried to replicate its success, but by that time Electronic Arts was worrying too much about keeping up with Namco and Gran Turismo and began to tinker with its own winning formula. As such, the title suffered in comparison.

I was never a big fan of true racing simulators, anyway. Yeah, when Gran Turismo first debuted, it was a beauty. But the whole depth of the game, being able to outfit the cars with all sorts of different parts, changing gear ratios and suspensions, etc., seemed like more of a chore to me. I just wanted to race. But Gran Turismo's arcade mode was also its weak side. But it set the bar and is still considered the racing title that all other games have to live up to.

Well, I say that's a load of bunk. I grew up on arcade racers, and Electronic Arts has often catered to my tastes along those lines. So of course the question is "Is Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 as good as the original?" You bet your ass it is. It's better, in fact. And if Electronic Arts never makes another Hot Pursuit title in its NFS series, this one should rightfully go down as an all-time classic.

The best thing about this game is its depth. It's strictly arcade racing, but borrowing slightly from Gran Turismo, Hot Pursuit 2 features not only an extensive Championship mode in which the player gets to unlock all sorts of various courses and cars, but also a deep Hot Pursuit mode as well. You'll need to complete both to unlock everything, and I think that's an excellent feature. No longer is the player confined to just competing in the regular circuit and knockout races to acquire the goodies. This time, the game encapsulates all the full-blown mayhem that makes the Hot Pursuit franchise the thrilling experience it is. After all, why even bother with the game if you're not going to flee from the cops?

Or be the cops. Yes, this time you'll also have to be the good guys if you want to unlock certain cars and courses. The sweet thing is that for once the cop cars handle beautifully. No longer will you automatically be left in the dust by a string of Lamborghinis, stuck inside some rotten black and white clunker. And there is just as much satisfaction taking down a few speeding punks flying down a rustic back road as there is being that same punk giving the proverbial finger to the authorities as you speed along in excess of 140 mph.

And that's what really is the true core of any of the Need for Speed titles. Electronic Arts has always given a true feeling of insane speed in these games, if nothing else. That's not something I can say for other racing games like Gran Turismo or Test Drive that often rely more on either car "feel" or flashy graphics. But when I am playing Hot Pursuit 2, I often catch myself gripping the controller for dear life and feeling the muscles in my neck tense up. A mark of a truly fine racing game, to be sure.

But EA hasn't left out the "feel" and handling of its various vehicles, either. Those Lamborghinis are a truly smooth ride, whereas the BMWs are a complete pain in the ass when trying to corner a curve at 110 mph. There are a lot of cars here to play with (49 in all), and during some races the player is forced to race a specific kind of car altogether, or make a choice between two or three. This is also a nice touch, making the player become familiar with all the cars and not just picking one and kicking ass all over the place with it. This was a big problem I had with the original Gran Turismo; I beat most of the game just using an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza.

Graphically, the game is as much of a rush as the speed. Lots of beautiful city and country tracks from around the globe. The evening races are especially pretty, with the sun going down and creating shadows along the roads. Sonically, this game is another title packed with heavy rock tracks. Some are super, such as Bush's tune and the Rush song. But others, namely one called "Fever For The Flava" are just flat out terrible. A minor complaint, but that damn song plays more often than I'd like it to.

But yes, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 is one of the best racing games I've encountered on the PlayStation 2, as well as being one of the best racing games ever, period. Being bad behind the wheel truly never felt so good.

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