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For those unfamiliar with The Need For Speed, it can best be described as a car fanatic's dream. The player is taken behind the wheel of eight of the most exotic street cars on the road today, consisting of the Lamborghini Diablo VT, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, Porsche 911 Carrera, Ferrari 512TR, Acura NSX, Mazda RX-7, Dodge Viper RT/10, and the Toyota Supra Turbo. Each car is complimented with it's own stats, history, and video clips, as well as handling almost exactly like it does in real life. The exteriors and interiors of the cars have been replicated perfectly for the game, and everything from the rumble of the motor to the bleep of the horn has been made to sound exactly as it would in real life. In fact, the publication "Road and Track" was a main contributor to TNFS experience, which explains the incredible realism in all aspects of the automobiles. These cars can be taken to three open road courses with live traffic as well as three closed circuit tracks (which are new to the PC and PSX versions), and on all six there is the option to race up to seven other cars. The power of the PlayStation has made it possible to race 2 player split screen or in link mode (neither of which was an option on the 3DO). There is literally a plethora of options and extras to choose from, including: Automatic or manual transmission, choice of music tracks, sound effect/music levels, number of laps to run on closed circuit tracks, four different viewpoints when racing, an excellent replay feature, whether to race in the morning, mid-day, or evening, what type of cars to race against, a time trial option, tournament mode, whether to save games on memory or through a password, four different ways to configure the controller, and much, much more. Upon winning tournament mode, even more options and extras are opened up by holding down on L1 and R1 when selecting certain options: Two new tracks are made available, a new dream car, arcade mode, the option to race rally mode (with dirt tracks- more fun than Sega Rally), and likely other yet undiscovered bonuses. These options are what make The Need For Speed one of the most highly replayable racing games of all time, but beneath all the extras are extremely solid play mechanics and top notch presentation.
When racing in TNFS, players have the following controls over their car: Shift up, shift down, steer left and right, honk the horn, gas, breaks, and hand brake (which is used by experts to go into power slides around turns). Every car has a different feel to it, and differences in acceleration, top speed, car weight, and cornering are very obvious to the player when driving their selected car around. Electronic Arts has done an excellent job of providing deep and exact game play for the gamer. As the game is played, more and more little secrets are discovered to shave seconds off of lap times, and players who have been tinkering with the 3DO version for nearly two years are still discovering new and better ways to handle their cars. This is where the real excellence in TNFS lies, and is why the game has nearly infinite replay value. Skidding and doing donuts has always been a favorite of gamers, and has been made even more fun by adding skid marks to the PSX and PC versions of the game. Computer opponents are smart and difficult to beat, but not impossible after a good amount of practice.
Graphically, TNFS holds its own. Though still based on the older 3DO version, and not particularly ground breaking, the graphics are still very crisp and inspiring. Although the PSX has improved on the 3DO version in almost all ways, the graphics are actually more blurry than on the 3DO. This is particularly noticeable when trying to read the RPMs and the speedometer from the dash viewpoint. The reason for this downfall is that the 3DO version ran in an interlaced mode, which allowed for the appearance of more detail than was actually being processed. The PC made up for this by running in SVGA mode, but the PSX didn't have that option. Other than that, everything else is a step up. The frame rate has been increased, and the game itself has been sped up. Pop up is much less noticeable, and more cars are being processed by the PSX to race against. The new tracks are more graphically impressive than the old as well. Light reflects off of cars as they pass through tunnels, and the two extra times of day help provide variety. Each car has been given a second color so as not to confuse one racer from another. Crashes still make players cringe in pain, though the cars do not crumple in accidents, as in Destruction Derby. Crashing cars in this game seems to become an art of its own, as the real world physics model allows for extremely realistic collisions. All in all, TNFS comes off as a graphic powerhouse, if not for it's sheer "wow" factor when observed as much as the amazing variety displayed and the amount of information being processed on screen (particularly in the split screen two player mode).
The sound effects and music in TNFS are other outstanding features of the game. A new PlayStation only soundtrack has been added, which consist of a nice arrangement of hard rock and techno music. This music can be arranged to play one specific track, all tracks randomly, the hard rock tracks only, or the techno tracks only. It fits nicely in the background, and is good enough to warrant listening to even when not playing. The sound effects have been a standout in every version of TNFS so far, and the PlayStation version doesn't disappoint. Every sound of each different car is replicated perfectly. The sounds of burning rubber and tumbling crashes are well represented as well. Dolby Surround Sound is used to its full effect as cars pass to the player's left and right. The combination of great music and incredible sound effects comes together to create a great racing atmosphere.
Written by Andrew Phelan
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