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Bobby Blackwolf
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Retro Rearview: Do you have the NEED? PDF Print E-mail
Written by DarkTetsuya   
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 18:22



First I want to apologize for the lack of these, it's just getting tougher to write articles like this. But, this is one I've been kicking around for a while. As most of you know, one of my favorite genres of games is racing games, and one of my favorite series of racing games would have to be EA's The Need For Speed series, which I thought I'd take a closer look at the series' past, present and future.

So strap in, pull up to the starting line, and hit the jump!


It all began in 1994. SEGA and Nintendo were in an epic struggle for Americans' videogaming dollars with the Genesis and Super Nintendo. Enter newcomer Panasonic and their '3DO: REAL Interactive Muitiplayer'. The system launched with a $700 price tag (Sound familliar?) and featured several games, one of which was Electronic Arts' Road & Track Presents: The Need For Speed, an arcade-like racing game for the 3DO system. Featuring digitized graphics and CD sound, it was leap years ahead of what was currently availble on the SNES and Genesis.

The very first game only featured eight cars, but they were all great picks, from American muscle like the Chevy Corvette and Dodge Viper, to the European exotic powerhouses Lamborghini and Ferrari, as well as Japanese imports such as the Mazda RX-7 and Toyota Supra. You'd be hard-pressed to find a car you didn't like.

After you've chosen your ride, you can take on one of six tracks, one of which is unlockable (the PC-exclusive Special Edition of NFS also featured two additional bonus tracks) in either head-to-head, single race (you vs. seven AI cars) time trial, or a Tournament mode, which limits which 'class' of cars everyone can use (C, B, or A rank)

The game was a lot of fun for its time, and I liked the little touches of realism. For example each car's cockpit view has a digitized image of the interior, and each car's is closely modeled after its real-life counterpart. Even each car's engine sounds were faithfully reproduced in the first NFS.

But one my favorite parts of the game were the corny video sequences of either the cops who will throw the book at you if you can't outrun them, or your opponent -- who can be a real jackass if you lose to him. I only wish I could find Youtube evidence of this guy's existence, but the only one I've seen was part of another retrospective for the NFS series so I can't link it, sorry.

The series would later go on to spawn several sequels:

  • Need For Speed II - Featuring even more cars and tracks, but sadly lacking the wise-cracking adversary from the 3DO original.
  • Over Drivin' Skyline Memorial - Originally in Japan, the NFS series was known as 'Over Drivin'', and this was one of the Japanese exclusives. Similar to the NFS: Porsche Unleashed game, this version was based on the PSX port of the original NFS, except this one only featured different versions of the Nissan Skyline (including the mid-70s version, which I don't think has been in NFS since up until the release of NFS: SHIFT in 2009.)
  • NFS III: Hot Pursuit - For those who only recently got into the series, the new 'Hot Pursuit' is actually a spiritual successor to this spinoff series of NFS, featuring a heavy emphasis on police chases, outrun the cops and cross the finish line before they catch you!
  • NFS: High Stakes - Featuring a similar 'cop vs. racer' theme as the first Hot Pursuit, only this time with an even larger car roster, and the ability to go 'double or nothing' and race for pink slips, but be careful! if you lose, you lose your ride! (hence 'High Stakes')
  • NFS: Porsche Unleashed - As the title implies, this particular installment featured only the European sports car manufacturer Porsche's lineup of high priced, high speed vehicles.
  • NFS: V-Rally - I haven't played this one, I believe it's a rally racing specific version of NFS, of course.
  • NFS: Hot Pursuit II - In the series' debut on Playstation 2, this game featured more of the same cops vs. racer chases as the original Hot Pursuit. But this time with the improved visuals of the PS2.
  • NFS: Underground - Pretty sure this was released around the time the Fast and the Furious films were released. In this game you could also customize your car with different tuning parts, as well as other aftermarket accessories, such as rims, spoilers, vinyls and nitrous! Also new were some never before seen events, like drifting. This one was alright, but I wasn't that big a fan of it.
  • NFS: Underground 2 - In my opinion a huge leap over the first underground game, featuring a vastly improved car selection. One of my favorite parts of UG2 was the soundtrack. Featuring cuts from Paul Van Dyk, Xzibit, and a phat remix by Snoop Dogg. In addition to the returning events from the first UG, there were also 'Underground Racing League' races, which if you won you could unlock additional cars for purchase. The Underground games definetly seem to skew more toward the imports, but there were a handful of muscle and exotic cars, if imports weren't your thing. (can you tell this is one of my favorites?)
  • NFS: Most Wanted - Probably one of the first games since the original to use FMV cutscenes and live actors, Most Wanted was the first game to appear on the XBOX 360. Sadly I haven't played this one so I only know about it from what I've read online, the adversaries known as the 'Blacklist', and speaking of which this was the first one in a long time to feature a 'Special Edition' with exclusive cars.
  • NFS: Carbon - Another one of my all-time favorites, this one took place entirely at night. Picking up after the events of NFS:MW, you're eventually chased into Palmont city. But, the big cheese in town Darius doesn't want you horning in on his turf. So you have to fight him and four different 'gangs' for control of Palmont city. Out of all the games I've probably sunk the most time into this one, mainly due to its amazing online feature, where you can take your career mode car and race it against multiple players online.Also epic were the 'Canyon' races which took place over a cliffside, and if you took just one turn wrong, you'll wind up at the bottom and have to restart the race. very nerve-wracking indeed!!
  • NFS: ProStreet - Reviews weren't kind to this one, so I skipped it. Critically panned as a low point in the NFS series, it was certainly a departure from the previous two games, which were more  'arcade-like' than ProStreet was.
  • NFS: Undercover - As an undercover agent investigating... yknow I barely even remember the plot... Sadly I think NFS had hit a slump by this point, as Undercover wasn't nearly as much fun as Carbon was. Granted I've only played the Wii version, but I don't think the PS3/360 versions fared much better. About the only highlight of this game was actually being able to make the Concept Camaro Bumblebee from the Transformers movies since you could paint it and add custom vinyls (Which seemed kind of out of place since it wasn't the same atmosphere as the Underground/Carbon games, none of the opponents cars were painted like that.)
  • NFS: SHIFT - After almost losing the NFS series to the recession, EA came back with a pretty amazing game, NFS: SHIFT. About my only complaint is the difficulty, as the uber-realism makes the game extremely tough. But the cockpit view from the original is back, along with an interesting feature where you can literally feel each hit and have to wait for your virtual driver to 'shake it off' before your vision is restored... pretty serious stuff.
  • NFS: NITRO - I was really excited when I heard about this game at last year's E3. A Wii-exclusive version of NFS built from the ground up just for Nintendo's motion-controlled console, NFS: NITRO featured 'Super Deformed' or 'miniiature' versions of 30 cars, as well as several different events around the world, from standard Sprint to Drifting to 'time trial' to beat the clock. Also great about the Wii exclusive is the special 'paint' mode where you can actually paint your cars however you want via the Wiimote. It's a fun game and I definetly reccomend at least a rental if you're into racing games.
  • NFS: World Online - This one I was particularly excited for, however my current computer can't seem to run it. (FML) A free-to-play MMO set in the NFS universe (Featuring tracks from UG2, Most Wanted, and Carbon) as well as many of the cars that NFS is known for, as well as some cars exclusive to this game (like the Porsche 959, for example)
  • NFS: Hot Pursuit - EA has revived the 'Hot Pursuit' series for a current-gen version on PS3/360/Wii, the big two featuring an interesting online feature called 'Autolog'


So no matter what kind of racing you're into, Need For Speed probably has you covered. As for my favorite NFS? Given how many hours I've spent with it online, I'd have to give my vote to NFS: Carbon. A close second would be its predecessor, NFS: Underground 2. I've always kinda liked the whole 'underground' line of games, with their limitless customization and paint schemes available to create your one-of-a-kind unique racer. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this adrenaline-fueled sprint down memory lane of one of my favorite racing series of all time!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 20:20

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