This past Thursday, EA released a teaser video revealing a new title in their Need for Speed racing series. After the reveal, I figured now would be a great time to revisit some of the older Need for Speed titles, so I’ll kick things off with my personal favorite: Hot Pursuit 2. The following is based on the Playstation 2 version of the game.
Not to be confused with Criterion’s 2010 title Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, EA released Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 for the Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, Xbox, and PC back in 2002 following the success of its predecessor, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit 2 (as with other titles in the series) is an arcade racing game – this title is specifically known for police chases, fast cars, and overall fun factor. This game happened to be my introduction to the series, first experiencing it when I was about 7; I’m 20 now, and I can still sit in front of my TV and play it for hours, which my mom would have hated when I was younger (being an adult is awesome fyi).
One of the best things within Hot Pursuit 2 is the police chases. Selecting Hot Pursuit mode on the home menu allows players to race 3 other AI drivers with the police trying to chase and stop you. The police use road blocks, spike strips, and a helicopter that drops bombs and missiles on the road. Nothing can completely destroy your car, but their police tactics do slow you down, and spike strips make it nearly impossible to drive above 30 mph. Hitting a spike or letting a cop pin you gets you busted; getting busted 3 times ends the race. This mode can get pretty chaotic on longer races. Alternatively, you choose the World Racing mode, which has no police and allows you to race up to 7 other AI drivers. And feel free to grab a second controller to race your friends or significant other in either race mode…nothing like ramming them into a tree to show them who’s boss.
The Hot Pursuit and World Racing modes both give you numerous choices for how you’d like to race: Quick Race, Challenge, an event tree racing mode (Ultimate Racer for Hot Pursuit; Championship for World Racing), and You’re the Cop. In Quick Race, players are thrown right into a race with a randomly chosen track and car that they have unlocked. Challenge mode allows you to change the race type and settings. You can choose between Single Race, Knockout (a series of races where the racer in last place is eliminated), Lap Knockout, and Free Run; you can also change the difficulty of the race, select the number of opponents (up to 3 in Hot Pursuit, or 7 in World Racing), turn the AI catch-up boost on or off, change the amount of traffic, and turn the visual damage on or off.
Ultimate Racer and Championship are the event tree race modes for Hot Pursuit and World Racing, respectively. Each event tree has 30 events, with 2 secret events for each mode that can be unlocked after completing all others. The events range from Lap Knockouts to Time Trials to Tournaments, where you have to get the most points in a series of races to win. They start off easy, but get more difficult as you progress through the tree. In these modes, players unlock a majority of the tracks in the game, as well as a few cars.
You’re the Cop is unique to the Hot Pursuit mode, and allows you to hop into the police cruiser and chase 4 AI racers. You have 3 helicopters and road blocks to use at your disposal, but you shouldn’t need them – the AI drivers are not nearly as aggressive as in other race modes. This mode is fun to play, especially since the police cars have boost you can use to catch up to the racers (200 mph in a Crown Victoria?! Who woulda thunk…).
Racing in any of the modes gets you NFS points, which you use to unlock cars within the game. The most expensive car is 5,000,000 points – it takes a while to accumulate that much, so prepare to grind. Getting air off of jumps, completing clean laps, and finishing high in the race are different ways to earn some. You can earn even more by evading road blocks and not getting caught in Hot Pursuit mode.
Before we get into my favorite part of the game, I’ll go over the tracks and locations. There are 5 total locations, each with 3 tracks. The areas aren’t specifically named, but each has a theme: theres a national forest, an outback desert, ancient European ruins, a tropical island, and an Autumn countryside. The 3 tracks for each location include 2 circuit courses and 1 point-to-point course that connects the two corresponding circuits. There are a variety of tracks, including curvy and wide open to tight and focused, and range in difficulty from beginner to expert. Each has a slew of shortcuts and scenic routs for players to take; be sure to use these to your advantage as you shoot for 1st place and evade the police.
And now for the good stuff: the cars. Hot Pursuit 2 has a total of 49 cars, including 5 police cars, as well as NFS edition cars that sport better special paint jobs and better performance over their regular counterparts. As an extra bonus, you can hear a short description of each car – this can be accessed via the Square button on the PS2. While there are no formal car classes in the PS2 version of the game, it is evident that the cars differ in performance, since your vehicle choice depicts which vehicles the AI drivers can use; I’ll split the cars into classes for the sake of this review. “+NFS” or “+Police” tags signify that the car has an NFS and/or Police version in addition to the regular version. The only exceptions to this are the Ford Crown Victoria, which only appears as a police car in the game, and the Ferrari 360 Modena, which acts as the NFS edition of the Ferrari 360 Spider.
Class A (fastest):
- McLaren F1 + NFS
- McLaren F1 LM + NFS
- Mercedes CLK GTR + NFS
- Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (C5) + NFS, Police
- Dodge Viper GTS + NFS
- Ferrari F50 + NFS
- Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 + NFS
- Lamborghini Murciélago + NFS, Police
- Porsche 911 Turbo (996) + NFS
- Porsche Carrera GT (Concept version) + NFS
- Aston Martin V12 Vanquish + NFS
- BMW Z8
- Ferrari 360 Spider
- Ferrari 360 Modena
- Ferrari 550 Barchetta + NFS
- Ford SVT Mustang Cobra R + NFS, Police
- BMW M5 + Police
- HSV GTS Coupé + NFS
- Jaguar XKR + NFS
Class E (Slowest):
- Ford Crown Victoria
- Ford TS50 + NFS
- Lotus Elise + NFS
- Mercedes CL55 AMG + NFS
- Opel Speedster + NFS
- Vauxhall VX220 + NFS
When picking a car, you can choose which transmission setting you want to use (Automatic, Manual, or Semi-auto), as well as the handling setting (Classic, which is more stable; or Extreme, which is like driving without stability or traction control). Each car has their own handling characteristics; a heavy car like the Ford TS50 will be harder to control than the nimble Lotus Elise. Cars are also more difficult to control when going at speed – a McLaren F1 going 230 mph on a straight won’t be able to dart around a corner so easily. I should also mention that players can use police cars in races: unfortunately, you don’t have access to the boost from You’re the Cop mode, but its always fun hearing the the police talking about a “borrowed” police cruiser in their chatter. You’ll hear descriptions of the make, model, and color of other cars you drive while in a police pursuit as well. Its always nice to be recognized, right?
Every time I play Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2, I always get a sense of nostalgia; it’s one of those games that just can’t get boring for me. As I was going through the game and taking notes for this post, I found myself just sitting and playing for two hours. I love the sounds for the cars, the police chatter, the game’s soundtrack, and the ambient noise. I can’t lie and say that this game is perfect, however – it can get annoying since the helicopter (you know, the one that drops bombs on the road and shoots missiles at you) is focused only on you as you’re playing. There are a few glitches in the catch up boost for Ai cars too; an AI racer can blow past you at impossible speeds or go around corners with the grip of the racing gods.
Regardless, I still find this game to be engaging, even after 13 years. The police chases still provide enough of a challenge for me, and the AI racers can get pretty aggressive on the Expert difficulty. I recently reset my progress on the game, so I have to grind through it all again – not sure how many times I’ve done that, but I’m going to have fun with it either way.
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