A great old-school game

User Rating: 8.5 | Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit PS
EA has gone to the effects shed and sharpened its tools, and has thrown a truckload of effort into making NFS look realistic, animate cleanly and quickly, and shine, reflect, lens flare, etc. The number of reflections that appear on your car are eye-popping. While most cars reflect the sky conditions, these reflect from the headbeams, each curve of the car, windows, bumpers, hubcaps, you name it. The realtime lighting, particularly in the night mode, is simply a spectacular site using either high or low beams. Believable smoke effects are issued when players peel out, dirt sprays up when you hit off-road surfaces, and water splashes and sends off waves when your pass through it.

The Pursuit mode really makes the game, pushing it far and above its predecessors. It takes place in either day or night, one of many choices the game offers. Visually, the nighttime aspects highlight a rack of graphic advances that prove EA's designers have learned - and mastered - the advanced stages of PlayStation programming. Realtime lighting enables you to light up the road as you corner turns and climb up hills, and the cops' lights can be seen slowly from far away to bright and annoying when they come close up. You know what is coming up, but only the area that your headlights hit are viewable, which adds a sweet extra challenge. What is especially enticing is when the pigs actually arrive: The whole screen fills with circling blue and red lights that creates a feeling of fear and desperation. You'll have to watch out for smart, double-teaming cops who lay down roadblocks and who know how to drive. In fact, they're so smart they actually learn your driving patterns and emulate them, pushing you to learn a variety of avoidance strategies.

Need For Speed III features a slightly disappointing number of tracks (eight, plus one bonus track), each filled with alternate routes and shortcuts - perfect for dodging cops and traffic, and strategically placed for jumps, avoiding roadblocks, and confounding your opponents. The game takes place on mixed road surfaces, each of which feel and react differently, depending on which car you've selected. As many as eight fully licensed cars, including the Ferrari 550, Ferrari 355 F1, Italdesign BMW Nazca C2, Lamborghini Diablo SV, Lamborghini Countach, and Jaguar XJR-15, are chooseable. But for those who see Grand Tourismo and need to ask why Ned for Speed is better in a different way, here's the kicker. The game offers five modes of play, plus an arcade and simulation mode in each of those categories.

The five modes provide elaborate choices for racing. To simply begin, gamers will want to choose the Single race, which is any track in any car.Practice is self explanatory, and Tournament Mode is a linear progression in which you earn accumulative points. As long as you have the highest point total, you still win. Beat the game as a beginner, and you'll win a sleek, new Jaguar. Beat the game in expert, and you'll win the Mercedes.

Knockout Mode follows with a different angle. You just want to not finish the race without being in last place. More like a battle mode sans a save option and comprised of only two laps, Knockout Mode is a fast, furious balls-to-wall race that puts an emphasis on the 'need for survival.' It's packed with competitive AI and clustering racers who remember when you've done them wrong and come back after you. And of course, there is the Pursuit Mode. If and when the cops slow you down to a certain speed (like around 40 mph) three times, you'll be arrested and thrown in jail. But the object is to outsmart the cops. What's cool is that the police react to your behavior intelligently and like real cops. Use anything in your power to avoid their speedy pursuit. Drive off-road, access short-cuts, drive them into walls, off the road, into other cars, whatever it takes.

A lapful of cool options enable you to change just about everything in the game. Starting with weather conditions, which adversely affect your driving experience, you can tinker with many other little items as well. When you earn simulation (yes you need to earn it), you can actually build your cars, and pick slick or other tires suitable for rough or slippery terrain. Finally, the menu interface is slick, logical, and extremely cool.