Yes, I agree - this column has seen more than its fair share of racing simulations over the past few weeks. But I couldn't wait any longer - I just had to try out the new "Need For Speed" title, which had been sitting on my desk for the last couple of weeks. And I'm happy to report that EA's supremacy in the sports car sweepstakes is likely to remain unchallenged for a while longer...
First of all, this latest addition to the NFS family differs from previous versions in one important respect: while previous titles allowed you to pick from a cornucopia of luxury sports cars (including BMW, Mercedes and Ferrari automobiles), this one only allows you to drive equipment from Porsche AG, Germany. Don't start blubbing, though - these are gorgeous cars, with more than enough oomph to get your ticker beating a little faster.
First, though, the game modes. As always, "Porsche 2000" offers a couple of get-out-there-and-drive modes for the impatient - there's a Quick Race mode and a Quick Knockout mode, both of which allow you to pick a car and take it out for a spin immediately. For those of you in for the long haul, "Porsche 2000" also offers two new game modes - a Factory Driver mode, which starts you off as a Porsche test driver who has to complete different assignments in order to progress through the corporate ranks, and an Evolution mode, a single-player mode which "allows you to experience Porsche up close and personal" by driving different versions of Porsche automobiles over a fifty-year period.
Of the two game modes, Factory Driver mode is a little tedious - how much time can you spend driving around safety cones on a training course? Evolution mode, however, is quite interesting - it starts you off in the 1950s with a Porsche and about $11,000 in your pocket, and pushes you to compete in (and win) races in order to earn enough cash to upgrade and repair your car. As you progress through the years, your car becomes more and more advanced, until you're finally sitting in a Porsche 911 in the year 2000; you can also modify car characteristics, study your competition, and buy spare parts for your car.
"Porsche 2000" includes nine different tracks, and, this time, they're not all competitive race tracks - many of them are exquisitely-detailed replicas of roads and locations in France, Switzerland and Germany. This makes the game perfect for players who aren't really that interested in the Evolution/Factory Driver modes - there's something very seductive about picking out a black Boxster, popping your favourite CD into the CD-ROM drive ("Porsche 2000" allows you to play your own audio CDs during the game) and taking a leisurely drive through the French countryside.
Graphics are wonderful - the landscapes are lush and intricate, and the cars are simply gorgeous - and there are a number of lighting effects which add to the realism of the game, like flickering lighthouses, fog and mist effects, and the like. Sound effects are also of high quality - there's something very primal about the low rumble of a Porsche 911 on a cold winter night - and the physics model is sufficiently advanced to force you to keep your eyes on the road. As always, you have the option to customize each and every car in the showcase (colours, license plates, accessories) and also alter handling characteristics (brakes, damage, transmission).
With over eighty different Porsche models available (plus an interactive tour through Porsche history), this is one game that will keep you hooked - at least until you earn enough of the green stuff to go out and buy the real thing. Just one thing, though...don't drink and drive!This article was first published on 03 Jan 2001.