Released in 1995, Need for Speed is a pioneer of racecar games that combines simple but fast paced arcade style gameplay with a choice of realistically simulated sports cars. Players race against computer-controlled cars on eight tracks using machines like the Dodge Viper, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche 911, Corvette, Mazda RX7, Toyota Supra Turbo, and Acura NSX.
Five of the tracks are closed circuit speedways, with all other cars computer-controlled. The other three tracks are open road courses, complete with oncoming traffic to weave through and police cars to outrun. Full motion video showcases exhibits of the various sports cars.
Performance-wise, each sports car reflects realistic attributes like top speed, acceleration, and handling characteristics. Dashboard panels and engine sounds are modeled realistically to emulate real world counterparts. The experience of driving the cars in the game, especially on a PC equipped with a steering wheel and pedals, is the next best thing to driving them in real life.
Even with the impressive showroom of sports cars, the primary focus is the simple, fast, and exciting arcade-style gameplay found in popular games like Out Run. Need for Speed will appeal to any car enthusiast looking for realistic modeling of world class sports cars, while those seeking the thrill of driving fast and dangerously without the risk need to buckle up for the ride.
Drive some of your favourite sports cars through wild and fast tracks, including the Dodge Viper, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porshe, Corvette, Mazda RX7, Toyota Supra Turbo, and Acura NSX. Some of the tracks are open road, meaning you simply fly down a huge highway, with cops following in hot pursuit. One of the options in the game allows you to pick which time of the day to race in.
Every now and then, a new game appears that sets new standards in its genre. This game surely doesn't need a lot of introduction: The Need for Speed, the starter of the series and, if not the best, then it was without doubt among the best racing games at the time and it made an immediate impact.
When the game finally came to Europe, many of us game nerds thought that it was a commercial for cars. You could see all the characteristics, interior, engine, and the short movie of a car in action on polygon (and the prices too, that make you think "Wow, I'll stick with the game.") All those movies and presentations, as well as the game menu, were accompanied by rock music. And since the game concept was very similar to the famous Test Drive, the game that was much ahead of its time, even hardcore fantasy, horror, strategy, and adventure lovers like me had to make an exception and simply dive into the magic that NFS brought. Every player surely had hundreds of replays, good movies, interesting situations, and crashes to remember.
Enough praises, what about the game itself? If you played Test Drive, then you have a picture of what to expect. Let's speak of machines first. There are eight types of cars you can choose from and are classified in three different classes:
Mazda RX-7, Acura NSX, and Toyota Supra Turbo are in class C. Porsche 911 Carrera, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 and Dodge Viper RT/10 are in class B. Ferrari 512TR and Lamborghini Diablo VT are in class A.
As for tracks, they can be separated into two groups: racing tracks and open road. In racing tracks you drive a certain number of laps, while open road tracks consist of three parts and the total time decides the winner. There are six tracks at the beginning, but you will unlock extra ones once you win the tournament. To do so you must win the race on all tracks, but tracks are also classified. So, in tournament, you can only choose the car from the class that is assigned for the certain track and you will be facing other cars from the same class. There are a total of eight racers, with you being one of them, and the rest are computer controlled. Computer players are marked with arrows that have different colors and act as independent drivers, meaning that you can win on open road tracks even if you don't finish either part first, but your total time is better than the total time of other drivers.
Besides the tournament mode, you can also play in single race (where you can choose to race against a "pack", meaning your opponents drive different car types, all except Mazda to be precise), time trial (race all alone to practice the tracks) and the famous head to head mode, where you race against one opponent. The head to head race on open road includes regular cars that use the road, and the police, which will chase you if you drive too fast (which is the idea, right?). You may get as many warnings as possible, but if you get two speedings in the same part of the track, you will be arrested and the race is finished for you. The police never chase computer players, but I guess that wouldn't be very interesting. Once the siren is on, if a police car manages to get in front of you, your speed will slowly reduce to zero, so it is better to stop right away to save time... Or not to let the cops get in front of you. That shouldn't be hard once you learn the tracks and the appearance of the vehicles, since vehicles are pre-ordered and appear in the same places every time. But until you learn them all, don't drive much on the left side of the road.
The graphics surely can't match today's standards, but at the time, this was one of the best looking racing games. There is an invisible wall on both sides of the road, so despite the landscape you see, you can't drive off the road. Everything on the roadside is for appearance only, and many things looked very nice (some of us were very impressed with the idea of balloons in the Coastal track; it reminded us of the CorelDraw logo). The opponent AI is pretty good - they are capable of performing some solid driving, as well as doing some dirty driving like blocking you off or pushing you. If you race in head to head mode and the computer driver is not close to you, it is not likely that the computer player will crash with cars passing by, but it is possible. NFS is no simulation, but it does have decent physics. The cars don't take damage, the invisible wall pushes you back on the road, and the collisions are not perfect, but still you need to practice and adapt to each car type before you start breaking records. The controls are simple and easy to master for beginners, but later on you may choose the manual gear and use the handbrake - nothing too complicated, but it may get you better results. The game supports multiplayer over modem or direct link in head to head and single race modes.
Some of you may prefer other games in the NFS series, but this will remain my favorite. Switching to an even more arcade style, where it seemed that you could drive around 250MPH as easy as 100MPH, turned me away from the series (as well as lack of rock music and bringing more electro sound, which is less important). I don't really like racing games much, but this one I played for months. Driving the Alpine track with the third part covered in snow, looking at the surrounding graphics, pushing my opponents... crushing my car behind the non-moving cop's car, making circles while standing on the front part of the car and landing on wheels in front of the cops without even touching their car - unforgettable! And winning the Alpine track in tournament mode for the first time because two leading drivers crashed at the end of the third part which got me the best total time without actually winning any part of the track - all this is just part of the fun you can have in this game.
It is much simpler than the racing games today (you don't even get to choose the color of the cars), but this legend is still a great game. If you played its sequels and wondered how the first game was, now is the time to try it out. And maybe there is a car you wanted to drive that you haven't seen in other games. And if it's none of the above, this is definitely a game that influenced the genre and will be remembered for a long time. An absolute must for the lovers of races and sports cars and a must-try for everyone else. Do you have a need burning inside of you, but you either don't have resources to fulfill it, or maybe you don't have the guts? Try it out in the safety of your room with this legendary game.
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