Need For Speed PorscheWritten by Mike Gazda
IntroductionPorsche has been a part of the Need for Speed series ever since the beginning. The Need for Speed, released by Electronic Arts in 1995 featured eight cars, one of them being a blue Porsche 911 Carrera. Now this excellent manufacturer is in the spotlight with a game of its own: Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed. The game features only Porsche vehicles, spanning the entire life of Porsche's existence. You can drive almost any Porsche dating from 1950, all the way to the year 2000. So let's turn the key (remember it's on the left side of the wheel) and start.
GameplayBe prepared to throw away everything you've ever learned or remembered from the previous NFS games. PU offers a completely revamped and rethought physics model. The cars handle realistically, and sometimes unpredictably - true to the Porsche legacy. Lift off the throttle in a '75 Turbo in the middle of the corner, and the car will just slide ass-forwards into the guardrail. Unless you do some precise counter-steer that is, in a desperate attempt to save your car from damage. EA has done a great job mixing in simulation-realism and arcade-fun. Each car looks, handles, sounds and feels unique. The ambience in this game is incredible, and every effort is made to immerse the player into believing he is actually driving one of these cars in a realistic environment. That immersion is carried through to the menu system as well. I call it a system because it is very detailed, and has a smooth and great-looking interface. The car is presented to you in a garage, and on two rails. Very convincing. Sometimes you have to do quite a bit of navigating to get to the options screen you choose, but it allows for tidy packaging, and a clean-looking design. Damage for this chapter in the NFS book has been revamped, and improved upon greatly. Visible damage looks much better now, and the car suffers more on the track as well. Once you've hit a wall at 100mph, you'll certainly feel the after effects. The front of the car will be mangled and wrecked, and the steering and suspension will be damaged hindering your ability to direct the car properly. When you climb into the Porsche for the first time, you are amazed at the detail the cars and tracks both have to offer. The most notable difference in this game are the new physics of the cars. In an engine that features what Electronic Arts calls 4-point suspension, the cars behave much more accurately, and with more precision than ever before. This doesn't mean that NFS5 is a pure racing simulation - it isn't. The worst part about the game is the true lack of speed. When one is racing at 60mph, it's barely noticeable. I think this is should be the main focus that is targeted in the next NFS series. (And, yes, there are reports already of NFS6.) That being said, the gameplay in Porsche Unleashed is still among the most satisfying ever to be seen (or felt) on the PC screen.
GraphicsIf it's one thing that Need for Speed has been a symbol of, it's great graphics. From the menus, to the tracks, to the interiors of the car, everything looks smooth, polished and professional. The game will run as high as 1280x1024 in beautiful 32bit color, as long as you have the right hardware. It is unconfirmed, but I believe it is possible to up as high as 1600x1200 given the right card (GeForce anyone?). The results at these resolutions are amazing, and must be seen to be appreciated. The lighting and atmosphere on the tracks is incredible, and the textures are particularly rich and detailed. One look at the road surface of Pyrennes and you can see exactly what I'm talking about. The HUD (Heads Up Display) is also revamped for this year, and includes some neat new features. Among these is the ability to actually move around the various bits that make up the HUD to places you want. Analog speedometer in the bottom left corner not good for you? You can easily switch it to a digital one, and position it anywhere you want on the screen with a click and drag of the mouse. I think this is a very neat and overlooked feature of many games today. The HUD itself is informative and unobtrusive, and lets you customize it to your needs. The detail on the cars is very readily apparent and it shows the graphical accuracy of the car. Even the windshield wipers are modeled, and not simply drawn to the texture. There are a few flaws, like the spoilers of the opponents' cars not coming up, but nothing you'd notice casually playing. Also, the interior of the cars aren't as pretty as they were before, but if you want the best track times, I suggest not using that view anyway. In order to find the faults in the graphics of this game, you'd have to look hard, and seek to find them on purpose. The player has the option to turn the lights on and off, and in the dark this helps a lot. As a little teaser, the player can turn either the left or the right turn signal on/off, in addition to the hazard lights. It all makes for a spectacular display of lighting and color that dazzles the eye, and stimulates the senses.
SoundThe sound is a key factor in any game, and helps push said game over the boundaries of the surreal. In this department, NFS5 does not disappoint. There is a sweet techno/trance beat that accompanies your menu navigation, and helps power your car through every apex. Of course if that style doesn't appeal to you, you can opt to turn all music off, and have your choice of mp3 or CD running in the background. (NFS5 allows you to remove the game CD so you can pop in your own taste of music.) In addition, the sounds in-game are smooth, distinguished and have as much detail as the graphics. Every engine sound is unique, and the sound is different depending on which camera view you choose. Cockpit view muffles the engine sound appropriately, while bumper-cam resonates it. A great touch is when inside a convertible, you can hear the rush of the air stream passing through accompanying the engine's note. There are nice ambient sounds, like seagulls wailing and factories working. Some of the noise is a little flat, like the sound of skid marks being formed on the pavement. I would prefer a little more screeching, but the overall effect is nice.
Modes of PlayNeed for Speed: Porsche Unleashed features four modes of play. You can select between Singleplayer, Multiplayer, Evolution, or Factory Driver. Here is a brief synopsis of each mode.
Single PlayerThis is basically a carry-over from the previous mode found in all other NFS games. It's once race, with any options you care to choose. Options that include the amount of AI, which track, which car - you know, the good stuff. Singleplayer is a good opportunity to mess around, and to see what your car is truly capable off. It's great fun to weave between traffic at 160mph. Also carried-over from last year is the knockout mode. If you're already a fan of the NFS series, you'll know what this means. If you're not, then I'm not going to spoil it for you, because it's a nice surprise.
MultiplayerMultiplayer was first featured on a wide scale in the previous game of the series, and was a huge success. I've always said the quality of the multiplayer is what keeps a game alive months, even years, after its initial release. This is definitely what kept nfs5 alive, and it's the reason the game is still being played today. PU (that acronym is weird) offers a great multiplayer experience that can be played over a LAN or, better yet, over the internet through TCP/IP. Another possibility is to sign up for EA Racing, which is an online server that allows you to connect to and find other multiplayer games happening at the same time. EA Racing is in its beta stage, but it will hopefully be ready soon. You must sign up at their webpage and it is free of charge. I've played TCP/IP mode, and believe me, it's a lot of fun. You can show up in either the stock factory cars, or from one out your own garaged, tuned and painted to your liking. Rest assured that the modified cars kick the pants off the stock factory ones.
Factory DriverThis is one of the two more detailed modes, the other being Evolution. In Factory Driver the objective is to become the top Porsche test driver. In order to do this, the player (that's you) must complete a set of missions one after the other. Each mission gets harder, and the goal of each mission is always different, although there are recurring themes. Themes include test driving the new racing Porsche on the factory skidpad, or delivering a brand new 2000 Turbo to the awaiting hands of a customer. Each mission must be completed in a certain amount of time, and in some of them you must pass certain checkpoints (in the form of arrows) in order to successfully complete the mission. As you progress, your rank will elevate, and you will be eligible to receive new, factory modified cars into your garage. This is the only part of the game where the police make an appearance, and they're not very good. Don't expect any wild chases a la nfs5. Another problem with this mode is you can't go back to select a passed mission without starting a whole new game. This can get a little annoying if there's one mission that you particularly like.
EvolutionThis is the feature mode in Unleashed, and it revolves around the main concept found in High Stakes, although it is much more comprehensive. In addition to completing several tournament-style races on a variety of tracks, an extra dimension is added: time. With it, time brings depreciation (or hopefully, appreciation) of the cost of your classic Porsche. Holding your old 1950s cars all the way into 1999 will enable you to sell them off at like 10 times their original price. You start off in 1950 with 10,000 credits (dollars). After your initial purchase of Porsche's "new" 356, you can proceed to race for some money, and work your way through 50 years of Porsche evolution (get it?) all the way to the year 2000. In order to keep up with the faster AI, you must buy authentic Porsche parts and install them on your vehicle. You'd be surprised what a replacement ECU, big bore throttle body, and stage 3 turbo can do to boost up your power, increase your speed, and shorten your lap times. You can choose from about 25 different parts for each car, and modify it to your liking. That is, of course, providing you have the cash. On top of that, you can paint your car's exterior and interior whatever color you like, and add racing stripes and a number decal to truly personalize your machine. As you move on, you can decide to buy your auto new from the Porsche dealer, or buy it on the used-car market for less price, albeit the car will have damage to its body and internal components.
ConclusionNeed for Speed: Porsche Unleashed delivers exciting action behind the wheel of one of the world's most famous automotive manufacturer. The game offers eye-catching graphics and smooth-as-silk gameplay. Tied together with great sounds and a plethora of options and modes, NFS5 is a shoe-in for a classic street racer. It's a must if you're a fan of street racing, or of the Porsche brand. This edition has found its roots which debuted in TNFS five years ago. Although the game is not a true simulation of high-speed driving, it has an excellent blend of realism and arcade-style fun. As for me, however, I am going to wait for the next chapter of the NFS legacy: Motor City. That game, scheduled for release in November 2000, will feature classic muscle cars wrapped in a great multiplayer environment. It's going to be an exciting year for racing, so you best buckle your seat belt.
* Graphics: 94
* Sound: 86
* Gameplay: 83
* Replayability: 80
* Score: 87 (Not an Average)