Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Published by: Electronic Arts
Reviewed by: Zachary Rounds
How to outrun the police, Vol. 1
I have a car. For this review, I shall refer to my car as the Crudmobile. I also live in Los Angeles, which I shall refer to as Los Angeles. If you live in Los Angeles (or any major city), then you probably have freeways (west coast) or payways (what the east coast calls highways). If you have ever driven on a freeway (as I have done many times, the Crudmobile spewing smoke out from the hood due to an oil leak), then you have probably been passed by someone in a sportscar. The sportscar can usually be identified by three distinguishing characteristics:
1. The sportscar is not spewing out smoke from its hood (unlike the Crudmobile, which looks like a fast moving stormcloud).
2. The sportscar looks unusual and sleek, with a good paintjob (unlike the Crudmobile, which just looks unusual).
3. The sportscar is usually speeding (speeding in Los Angeles is roughly 100-110 MPH, a speed that causes the Crudmobile to disintegrate).
I almost always see sportscars as they whiz by, roaring their presence to the world and parting the smoke that is covering my windshield. I dream of the day when I rule the world (or something like that) and have enough money to get a sportscar, or at the very least, a non-Crudmobile. The only joy I receive from watching the sportscars race by is the inevitable traffic jam caused by the gawkers staring at a cop giving the sportscar a ticket. As a result, I always look forward to the next (and inevitable) Need for Speed game. Through my computer I am able to drive the cars that usually leave me standing in a puddle of my body fluids (that would be drool, not.... never mind). With each game, Electronic Arts pushes the driving game watermark farther, leaving all the other games in the dust. Featuring 9 tracks and 13 cars, some of which are unlocked by winning races, NFS3 offers plenty to do and proves that EA is still the king of sportscar sims..
The purpose of racing games such as these is to give you a feeling of real speed (hence the name Need for Speed). One of the first things I look for is the sensation that I am flying down a road at over 80 MPH (top speed for the Crudmobile). I've been disappointed in the past by games that said I was going 120 MPH while looking like I was going only 50 MPH. My fears were quickly dispelled as I found myself racing down mountain trails so fast that my hand started to sweat from gripping at the joystick. I can't recall any game that gives such a sense of speed, and it truly helped me appreciate just how fast those cars are going.
But a driving game can't be saved by a sense of speed if it doesn't handle well, right? Fear not, for NFS3 behaves incredibly well. Driving on asphalt? Smooth sailing for you then. Veered off into the embankment? Get ready for some steering problems as the car loses some of it's grip. Just drove into the snow, and you forgot the chains? Get ready for a short trip as you slam into the nearest wall available (or slow down enough to regain traction, but who wants to slow down?). The only thing that seemed odd was the total uselessness of the handbrake. In most games, the handbrake is how I perform slides and get around sharp turns. In NFS3, pulling back on the stick (brake) gave me plenty of stopping power to make those quick 90º turns.
One of the main complaints I had about NFS2 was the disappearance of the police. Part (most) of the fun of the original NFS was trying to outrun the cops. They're back in NFS3, and this time they brought a spike strip. That's right, a spike strip. IF you manage to outrun the first few cops and IF you manage to get through the roadblock, then you get to guess which side of the road the spike strip will be. If you guess wrong, your tires blow out and you get a ticket. Get too many tickets and you lose the race (in Hot Pursuit mode... there are a total of five modes, including knockout and regular racing). If you do manage to choose correctly and dodge the spike strip, then you get to contend with the cop that is sitting between the spike strip and the edge of the track. I found that the best tactic was to ram the police car at an angle, causing my car to veer off at an angle but allowing me to regain speed and flee the area.
"Wait a minute", I hear you ask. "How can you ram into a car and keep on driving?" Well, like the past NFS games (and to my knowledge, any racing game where the cars are real), the cars show no damage. You can plow headfirst into oncoming traffic and look just as fresh as when you started (just like the Crudmobile, which would look just as bad before and after a collision). The cars are made indestructible because the manufacturers of said cars don't want people to think that their pretty sportscars can be turned into melted piles of slag. I've always felt that this was a frivolous lawsuit in the making, since all it would take would be one moron to drive his new Lamborghini Countach into a brick wall expecting little more than a mild shaking.
Lastly, NFS3 allows you to play as the police. You are thrown into a cop car, at which point you begin tailing all the other cars. As soon as a car hits the point of speeding (and they will... we're playing Need for Speed, not Need to Drive Safely) you can turn on your sirens and begin a high-speed chase. You pull over offenders in a very humane fashion: You ram into them. To arrest the speeder, you must cause the offending car to come to a near stop, and this is accomplished by shoving them into walls and causing them to spin out. Now and then you'll get a opponent that is really aggressive. They get the spike strip. Just drive ahead of them until you get to a narrow stretch of road, then drop the strip. Turn around and wait for your prey.
Oh baby. Let me say that again. Oh baby. Everything looks good. The tracks look great. The backgrounds look great. The cars look great. The chrome effect that causes the cars to reflect like mirrors looks great. The rain/snow/dust that gets kicked up into your windshield looks great. The cars look great. The menus look great. Oh baby. But this comes at a price. The game requires a 3D card, and the more power you can cram into it, the better. It ran great on my P2-266 with a Voodoo 2, and that was with full detail. On a P-200 with a Voodoo, it still ran pretty good, but that was with some of the detail turned off, such as the backgrounds.
I would like to make one more point. The headlight effect looks real. Not good, not great, but real. It may require some CPU horsepower (on the P-200 you got the Gamma Correction headlights), but it's worth it. It looks absolutely amazing. I actually enjoy the night driving because of it.
I could say more about the graphics, and perhaps I should, but to be honest, words can't do the game justice. Only by seeing the game in motion could you understand how fabulous the game looks.
I have never been in a Lamborghini. Therefore, I do not know how they sound. I can only hope that they sound this cool. I know that the Crudmobile doesn't. It sounds more like a dying cat. Each of the cars has its own distinct sound, although by the time I had the car going at top speed, I was too engrossed in the race to pay much attention to the engine sounds. However, I was listening intently to the police radio. In order to help you elude the police, you are allowed to hear what the cops are saying. This lets you know what and where they plan to set up roadblocks. It is a very cool effect, since they'll bark out that a roadblock has been set up by the cable car one mile down the road. One mile later I'm skidding out of control as my car slides on the ground, slamming into the wall next to the cable car, wondering why I didn't listen to the radio and try to dodge the spike strip.
Games like this are hard to top. Although it may not appeal to everyone, even someone with almost no interest in driving games should find a lot to like in it. By creating a game with amazing graphics and killer gameplay, Electronic Arts has secured its position as king (at least until Need for Speed 4 comes along)
Our rating out of 10: 9.0
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