Those gamers who found Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, a little too heavy on the simulation aspects will be enamored with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. It tries to be nothing short of fun and it succeeds admirably.
The game is all about offering more – more tracks, more cars (49 unlockable), more music, game play modes, detailed visuals, longer courses…the list goes on and on. Additionally, each car handles a little differently, too; certainly more in the way you’d want them to perform rather than the way they do in real life.
The visuals have also taken a serious leap forward since the last Hot Pursuit, and as they should when graduating from PS1 to PS2. Tracks are wider, longer, more detailed, and include a number of special touches. Billowing dust clouds block your view as the leaders move off the road ahead. Smoke plumes from screeching tires as the beastly Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, Porsches, BMWs, and the mighty McLaren F1, leap from the starting line. Environment affects play as well, throwing sandstorms, trees, forest fires, and water hazards in your way.
Single-player modes are similarly robust and varied, keeping players from the grip of boredom. Split-screen play is considerably smoother here than in past NFS games as well. Hot Pursuit 2 will keep you busy for quite a while with a 30-event championship tree, 49 cars to unlock, dozens of tracks to conquer, and a beefed-up Hot Pursuit mode, too. This time around, players can either be chased or the chaser, and when upholding the law, calling in backup, spike strips, roadblocks, or air support everything is just a button press away.
Multiplayer runs smoothly with many varied options for keeping the experience different each time you play. The computer A.I. (both cops and racers) is aggressive but not impossible to beat. There is a ton of stuff to unlock, the point-to-point tracks are finally back, and the return of shortcuts and big jumps is great. No online support is included at this time, but the variable A.I., traffic conditions, number of tracks, and silky split-screen play will keep you so busy that you’ll hardly notice.
The cops are very tenacious, too, and will do anything to stop you. This includes ramming you off the road, laying spike strips, setting roadblocks, and having helicopters drop crippling flash bombs on the road in front of you.
The game’s visuals and frame rate are particularly good, the latter of which doesn’t suffer through stutter except in very rare instances. The soundtrack is exceptional, offering rock and techno play-lists, and a fully customizable jukebox feature letting you filter any tunes or even whole genres however you like. The only notable problem here occurs during split-screen mode when the title/album/artist info manages to blocks half of Player Two’s view for a moment or two.
Night racing and weather effects (so prevalent in the first Hot Pursuit) have been sadly excluded for the sequel. Day and evening times can be selected, as well as clear or overcast weather, but they’re an entirely visual aesthetic. EA went all out in the original Hot Pursuit, letting the player choose various times of day; rain, snow, or sunshine; mirrored, forward, and/or backwards tracks; and El Nino – the first hidden fictional super car in the series since the original Need For Speed’s Warrior. Still, considering what they accomplished with this sequel, these trivial issues are mere litter on the development roadside. Maybe next time, eh? For now, though, if you’re a racing enthusiast, you can’t possibly go wrong with at least giving Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 a try.