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PlayStation Game and Hardware Reviews

Developer: E.A OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: E.A 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Memory Card
Review Date: April 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

Electronic Arts has finally completed the Need for Speed trilogy with
NFS III: Hot Pursuit.  We won't count the NFS: V-Rally title since it
truly wasn't an NFS game. It was actually a title that was developed
overseas in Europe, purchased by EA and slapped with the NFS nameplate.
Besides, it's our magazine and I just don't wanna include it!

At any rate, the history behind the NFS titles is an interesting one.
The first NFS game was truly a driving simulator.  Car physics were
incredibly accurate and unforgiving and we had those magnificent car
flips.  The second NFS title attempted to be more of an arcade racer,
fresh with a new 3D engine and international locales.  I uncomfortably
remember being one of the few people that actually liked the 2nd
game...not more than the first of course, yet I found it entertaining.
Most fans threw their hands up in disgust and walked away from it.

Well now NFS III has arrived and EA has tried to iron out all of the
shortcomings of the second title, while bringing back one of the most
enjoyable aspects of the first title; the pursuit mode.  Does EA succeed
with number 3 or is it just more of the same old stuff?  I would hope
that you know the line by now..."Read on to find out!"...


Need For Speed III is a combination arcade / simulation driving game
that provides would be Mario Andretti's with the opportunity to cruise
in some of the worlds most exotic street cars. 


For those of you familiar with the previous two NFS titles, all I can
say is "Yippee!" the grainy graphics are finally gone.  The one thing
that has always annoyed me with the two previous NFS games was the
grainy scenery graphics.  They always appeared as if you were viewing
them through a diffuser of some sort.  The background scenery in NFS III
is just plain wonderful.  Besides the somewhat "papery" looking towns,
the backdrop is alive with colors and motion.  Leaves kick up and swirl
as the blazing cars cause turbulence. Blimps, trains, planes and
assortments of other animated goodies all make appearances as you motor
on down the highway.  Getting distracted with the backgrounds is a very
real problem in this attention!

The car models are also a thing of beauty.  Each car is very easy to
make out from the next one and all resemble their real-life counterparts
pretty damn good.  There is liberal use of reflections off the
windshield with tunnel lights and sky patterns shining off the glass.
The cars can also be color customized.  There are at least four colors
for each vehicle to choose from and the colors vary somewhat from car to
car.   There is also a nice slide show included for each car.

The graphical special effects used in this game are truly cutting edge.
Don't believe me?...just try driving in the nighttime with the weather
effects set on rain...unfreaking believable!  The car headlights reach
out just far enough up the road to make out where you are going.  Of
course the faster you go the better your chances are of over-driving the
light beams and becoming one with a canyon wall.  But wait, there is
hope...just when it seems that you need it the most, a bright flash of
lightning occurs illuminating the sky (and the track) just long enough
to get your bearings straight and push the car ever faster.  This effect
is stellar, and it's not even the best one.  The coolest effects in the
game occur in the Pursuit Mode while driving at night.  As the cop car
approaches from behind, little by little the red and blue lights begin
to bleed into your field of vision until finally the entire screen is
virtually filled with a blue and red swirling light show.  It's so
realistic, it brought back memories of my good old days....Doh!

Rounding out the special effects department is the weather.  Rain
actually looks like rain, pelting down on the streets.  As your car
fires down the road, water sprays from the tires...the only thing
missing is a windshield wiper. The snow billows and swirls and naturally
makes the road quite difficult to grab.  It also makes the background
look like a winter wonderland.  It's all very convincing.    

To say that the graphics are a step up from the past two NFS games would
be a dreadful understatement...they are leaps and bounds ahead and some
of the best seen in a console driving game to date.  It's what we should
expect from a 3rd generation driving franchise.

Sounds and Effects

Most driving games have been doing a pretty darn good job simulating the
sounds of the beasts you are driving.  You always hear the stories about
the recording crew dragging their equipment to the pits to get the
actual digitized sounds of the cars from the game.  This is all very
nice, but what the hell would I isn't too often that I
actually get the chance to stand next to a Italdesign car revving it's
engine to know the difference in sound between that and a Ferrari (or a
Porsche for that matter).  Let's just say that I suppose the same holds
true in this game.  Each car has a very distinctive engine rumble as
well as that particular cars horn sound.  One thing I know for sure, the
'98 Vette motor AND horn sounds exactly like the real thing.  You also
get the appropriate metal on metal sounds, burning rubber, skids and
other road noises.  Where EA separates itself from the rest of the pack
are the sounds that give the game a presence and style unlike almost any
other racer out there.

What I meant by that last statement are the subtle background noises and
the attention to detail in any given circumstance.  For example, your
sizzling down a country road approaching a town when all of a sudden off
in the distance you hear a dog barking...or cruising along a farm and a
crop duster makes it's presence known.  Travel through a tunnel and you
can hear the echoing sounds of the cars engine off the walls.  When
driving through the pavilion on the Atlantica track with coppers on your
tail you can hear the magnified PA voice of the officer telling you to
pull over bouncing all over the place.  When the blimp makes its first
appearance you can actually feel the sucker long before it comes into
view.  Of course this is all accomplished in Dolby Surround sound so
those of you pumping your Playstation through a surround receiver are in
for a real treat.  What it all boils down to is atmosphere...the game
goes that extra mile to really make you feel like your out there
driving, not just observing.     

The music is a decent blend of driving rock rhythms and pop.  It's no
Sound Garden or Pantera but it does the job without being annoying or
obtrusive.  I say crank the sound effects and have the music playing off
in the background and you have yourself a nice blend.

On a final note, the voice effects for the police are pretty cool too.
Actually it's kind of laughable...listening to someone yelling at me to
"Pull over...what are you, crazy"...well, of course I'm crazy what else
would I be a doing driving a $200,000 car at 200mph on an icy


Sitting down with yet another Need For Speed game late on a Thursday
night was not exactly something that I looked forward to.  Don't get me
wrong here, I have a special little place in my cold heart for the
previous two titles and absolutely love driving games to death, but I
was suspecting that NFS III was just going to be more of the same except
with different cars...boy was I wrong!

Right from the start, I appreciated the wonderful menu system that is
used in this game and all of the fantastic options that were available
to me.  First off you can independently adjust the voice, music and
sound effects volumes and set the game for mono, stereo or
surround...heck; you can even adjust the volume of the music playing
while in the menu screens.   Next up you can select the various types of
races you want to participate in.  Here are the choices:

- Single Race: 	Check out the available tracks and cars to get a feel
for things before setting off on the more difficult modes.  
- Hot Pursuit:	It's just you and another driver out on the open road,
with vehicle traffic thrown in to make things interesting.  Oh, this
mode also introduces the fact it introduces a whole bunch of
them.  If you survive until the end of the race, they are virtually
swarming you like a nest of hornets trying everything from a Corvette
cop car to road spikes to bring you down.    
- Tournament:	This mode pits you against seven other drivers.  The
object is to finish the tournament with the overall best time and
ranking.  This mode will unlock tracks and some of the games super cars.
- Knockout:	Elimination at its best.  The object is the finish each
race ahead of the last place driver to proceed to the next round.
Finish last in any of the races and you are out.  This mode is tough and
there is no option to save the game between's all or nothing
my friend.  Win this one and you unlock a hidden track (it's very cool)
and another car.
- Practice:	This is a solo venture on any of the available tracks to
learn the bends and curves of the road before taking on one of the
previous modes.   BORING!  Get in there and race!!

The cars can be set for arcade or simulation.  There is a very BIG
difference between the two settings.  In arcade mode you can pull off
some of the best power slides and drifting maneuvers since Rage Racer.
This mode is a blast to play and is best used for winning the
tournaments and unlocking all of the goodies. Simulation mode is a
different story all together.  The physics of the game change radically
when you are in this mode.  To see just how accurate it was, I selected
the one car in this game that I am intimately familiar with...the '98
Vette.  From around 10 to 80 miles per hour all was fine and the car did
pretty much what I told it to do, once I popped it over that magical
100mph mark though, things went wrong in a hurry.  Braking around turns
is unforgiving if not done at just the right time and speed.  I also
noticed that the steering under compensated during lateral acceleration.
Side to side buffeting was also rather unpredictable with the car
occasionally swerving out of control.  There are many little custom
settings that you can perform on your car in the sim mode to try and get
it just right for each track so perhaps with the proper effort I could
have gotten the car to handle more like its real life counterpart.
Overall, I just found the simulation mode to be more of a hassle than
anything else and found myself jumping into the arcade mode time after
Next you can set the skill level between beginner and expert.  Beginner
mode has the computer controlled cars driving slightly slower and less
aggressively. In the expert mode there is no margin for error and you
best not piss off any of the other drivers because they very much carry
a good deal of hostility!  I can remember a few races in which I had
accidentally (yeah right) "nudged" a driver off the road a bit and into
a canyon wall (Hehehe) only to be later surprised by that same car
trying to ram my ass off into the trees or into a building!  Yo!  The
game almost becomes more of a grudge match than a race for the checkered

Thankfully the game is compatible with the Sony Dual Analog controller.
Anything else would be a waste.  Driving games are perfectly suited for
this controller with the gas/break set on the right knob and the
steering on the left one.  Control is great in the arcade mode and the
cars do just as they are told...for the most part!   Driving is a rush
and the game simulates a very good sense of speed.  I don't mean to
elude to the fact that you feel like you are going over 200mph, but
considering all of the polygons the game is pushing around it sure does
move along just fine.   The cars also feel like they are on the road
this time instead of just hovering above it.  That was one of my major
criticisms of the last NFS game, the cars always felt like they were
floating above the track.

Oh and speaking of the tracks, they are engineered beautifully.  Each of
the tracks has a unique theme and appearance to them.  There are also
multiple paths that become unlocked on each track as you win races.
Everything moves by extremely smooth with no pop-up or draw-in...sweet.
The tracks are also quite long as well, so it's a good thing they are so
much fun to drive on.  Laps can be adjusted from 2, 4 or 8 in the single
race or Pursuit modes but become fixed at 4 laps in Tournament mode and
2 laps in Knockout.   You also get to select mirror mode, backward mode
or any combination thereof.  

Some other nice stuff that is thrown in are a ton of camera angles, an
awesome replay mode, verbal track descriptions and car histories.  About
the only thing missing here is the inside dash view of each car.  You
can certainly drive form inside the car, but gone are the nice
instrument displays, steering wheel and drivers hand.    

EA apparently took their time with NFS III, combining the best elements
of I & II, refining the gameplay, tightening up the control and adding
lots of bells and whistles to round out the package.  What we end up
getting here is easily the best of the 3 NFS games and in my opinion one
of the greatest racers to grace a home console.  The gameplay is deep,
car handling is dead on and the title is just plain damn fun to play.
Now if we can just get those spectacular car flips and dash boards from
NFS I back...ah well, there's always a NFS IV lurking around a corner
I'm sure...

Value for Money

I have yet to find any secrets that let you drive all of the neat stuff
that the last NFS provided (remember the T Rex...), but I am willing to
bet there are more than 8 cars available.  The track count starts out a
bit low at 4 but quickly grows as you open up new routes and hidden
tracks.   Throw in mirror and backward modes, night driving and
selectable weather and you should have enough to keep you busy.

The overall balance of the game and the challenge it provides in each
race mode is significant enough to warrant a very good value for your
money.  Heck, that's one of the beauties of a good driving
always try to do a little better and squeeze a little more out of the
car with each and every race. 
GRAPHICS: 17/20 A truly awesome driving game with everything thrown in except for the kitchen sink (and a dash view...errrr). You get a stable of incredible cars, wonderfully designed tracks and immersive gameplay thanks to some of the best sound effects ever to grace a console racer.

I'll tell ya, I wasn't looking forward to another NFS title but was damn glad to see this one on my Playstation. I know a lot of people out there are waiting for Gran Tourismo to get released but to be honest, NFS III offers enough different types of racing modes and thrills that it will stand on its own and actually compliment GT very well. It's a very solid, competent racer.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 19/20

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