Electronic Arts' fifth Need for Speed game is finally available for purchase. We installed the retail copy to see what improvements, if any, the company has made since we last saw the game several months ago. All of the bugs have been removed, graphics artifacts cleaned up, and stability problems solved.
We played a little of Porsche Unleashed's factory driver mode to get a feel for some of the newer cars. The game's physics and handling models are certainly improved over Need for Speed III and Need for Speed: High Stakes. The cars' tendency to severely understeer has been completely eliminated, and they now require a careful touch to control under high speeds. In previous Need for Speed games, excluding the first, simply downshifting would bring an understeering car back under control. In Porsche Unleashed, however, quickly downshifting will snap your car's tail outward, forcing you to counter-steer to prevent an ugly wipeout.
Porsche Unleashed is certainly more of a simulator than any other Need for Speed game, but amateur gamers shouldn't be turned away from it. The factory driver mode is actually a series of cleverly designed levels that are meant to acquaint you with all facets of defensive driving, and it is intuitive enough to make anyone feel comfortable with driving at a slightly more challenging difficulty level.
GameSpot will have a full review of Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed next week. In the meantime, take a look at the nine screenshots we took of the final version and be sure to download the Porsche Unleashed demo, linked to the right.