The most realistic game in the Need For Speed series
Naturally, what led me to buy the game were the screenshots on the box, but it turns out the gameplay was very enjoyable too. There are two special modes, Evolution and Factory Driver, that allow the player to grow and be rewarded. A lot more games are picking up on this now to extend gameplay past the regular arcade mode.
In fact, the driving in NFSPU is more simulation than arcade compared to the previous NFS games. Some will scoff at that, but I enjoyed it. It made the Porsche driving experience more realistic, especially feeling the immense driving difference between a 356 and a 959. Old cars wobble and powerslide, and new cars growl with power. Each car is very customizable with engine/body parts and colors/decals.
The scenery on each of the ten or so tracks is nice, ranging from twisty forest paths to city speedways to snow-capped mountains. The driving controls make a fair amount of sense, and the gauge display is very customizable depending on how much or little you want on-screen.
When you first play the evolution mode, it's a great challenge, but after a few plays, you realize you can just buy and sell used cars for profit, and keep racing races you easily run, to earn money, and it starts becoming trivial. Some of the factory driver missions take a huge amount of practice, and it can be frustrating trying to do the same spin over and over until the game decides you did it right.
The menus cannot be controlled with the arrow keys, and so you're caught shifting between mouse and keyboard when you pause the game mid-race.
There are a whole ton of 356 and 911 models in the game, but some are entirely missing from the game, like the 928, 924, and 968. Some of the missing cars are downloadable from the EA web/ftp site, but you can't drive them in factory or evolution mode.
The Bottom Line
Porsche fans will naturally eat this game up, as it covers 50 years of Porsche history in pictures, videos, and of course in the game itself. Even though it's in the Need For Speed series, and the newer cars can get quite fast, the game is more about driving than speed, and learning to appreciate the handling of each car... even the cheap little 914. Even after four years, you can still find this game new in the $10 bargain bins, which is a testament to its long-lasting playability and enjoyment.