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SummaryThe best racing game I have ever played, bar none.
The GoodNeed for Speed: High Stakes is a logical upgrade to the previous game in the series, NFS3: Hot Pursuit.
I wrote all about what I enjoyed in NFS3 in my previous review for that game, so I won't rehash it here. What I will write about is what's been added to the game since NFS3 and what's been improved:
As Kasey Chang wrote in his review, it's the game that NFS3 was supposed to be.
The BadNo game is perfect. As enamoured as I am with High Stakes, I have to point out a couple of flaws that may turn people off to the game.
The online racing portion seems to need a lot of work. Over a year now (2000) and their EA Racing online program is still in beta, which is evidenced by the long sync time when trying to start a race and the confusing interface. Worst, however, is that in all versions of the game v4.44 and lower, it is possible to cheat by modifying the default car statistics and create a supercar under the guise of "Chevy Camaro" or some other car that can't possibly go 250mph. This was so offputting the first time I encountered it that I went back to Campaign play. I'll wait for a patch that prevents cheating, thank you very much.
Some of the 3D elements aren't handled properly by all 3D cards and drivers. This is nitpicky, and I probably shouldn't even have mentioned it. I guess I just really wanted to see what "fog" looked like on my 3D card (a GeForce II GTS), but enabling that option turned the screen into a murky blue mess.
Realism isn't exactly out the window, but it is annoying that cars won't flip over under extremely hard turns like they would in real life. I'm sure this decision was made so that you could master the arcade racing art of "powersliding" (which, I hate to admit, is a guilty pleasure of mine in any game that supports it).
The interactive music of NFS3 is missing, replaced by songs that play once through and then switch to a new song. The songs are good, and there are many of them, but the single best thing about NFS3 was how the music was tied specifically to portions of the track and really helped build a powerful immersion into the game. I was really sad to see the interactive music missing in High Stakes.
The car showcases have been pruned down a lot to just a few pictures and stats. This is a continuing trend in the series, as the first few games had full-motion video of the cars, and the latter games have only narration of statistics to a few static background pictures.