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February 7, 2009

Need For Speed - The Evolving Racing Game

Electronic Arts has done it again. The Need For Speed racing series is back with a vengeance, and it is thanks to the huge success with the Underground Series. Need For Speed came to life in 1994 with the title Road & Track Presents: Need For Speed. The original game focused on realism and was more of a driving simulator than an arcade style racing game. It also included high speed police chases which gave the game a lot of popularity. Need For Speed II did not include the police car chases and had a more arcade feel to it.
Each of the first two games had also a special edition. The sequel did not live up to expectations so EA brought back the police chases in Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit. It was still an arcade racing title but the Hot Pursuit mode had more depth than the first game and made it more fun to play. You even had the opportunity to be the cops. EA followed up their success by releasing Need For Speed: High Stakes/Road Challenge in 1999. Fans had mixed feelings about this installment and complained that the game had too many similarities to Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. But the game had a couple new innovations. This was the first game of the series with damage models. It also had a career mode where you bought cars and upgraded them as you progressed through racing tournaments.
The next installment of the series was Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed. Although it was a great success amongst Porsche fans and a great piece of work with the in depth coverage of the history of Porsche, it did not have the variety of the previous games. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 made its appearance two years later, but was not such a success as the first Hot Pursuit, due to the huge presence of arcade style racing.
EA played their cards right with the release of Need For Speed Underground. The game still had an arcade feel to it and there were no damage models. But did not compromise the game's success. The introduction of import tuners and car customization made it a hit amongst fans. The game was completely revamped by also introducing a storyline to make it more interesting. The hundreds of different combinations of after-market parts you could install to your car, gave the game more variety and flair.
The soundtrack was excellent and fitted perfectly into the atmosphere of underground racing. This was the first game in the series that did not have exotic cars in its lineup. The career mode introduced in Need For Speed: High Stakes, came to full circle in Underground. Fans still missed a couple of things, namely network play and the high speed police chases. EA rectified the absence of network play in Need For Speed Underground 2. The game had everything the first Underground had plus more. New racing modes was introduced, new ways to customize your car, more after-market parts, as well as the free roaming world. Outrun races brought back the feel of the police chases fans came accustomed too. EA was obviously doing something right.
Need For Speed Most Wanted, the next release in the series, will have all the strong points of previous installments: the high speed, adrenaline rush police car chases that was introduced in the first game, there are rumors that there may be damage models in the game, but it is not certain, the demo may reveal more of this. There will again be a storyline in the game and the feel of the Underground series will still be present, so you will still be able to pimp your ride. Most Wanted also brings back exotic cars, but there will still be import tuners. So you will be able to tune those exotics also.
There will also be quite a number of new racing modes to look forward to. The objective of the game is to become the most notorious racer on the street by evading the police and leave your opponents hanging in the dust. It is clear that EA has listened to the fans throughout the series and implemented suggestions from the gaming community. Need For Speed always impressed in the department of appearance and graphics, and from what I've seen from screen shots and preview movies, the game looks stunning.
So Need For Speed certainly evolved into one of the best racing games ever. One wonders what EA will come up with next.
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