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Out of all the Need for Speed games, Hot Pursuit 2 is the one I’ve wanted to play for a long time and that’s because it’s the successor to Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, the game that got me into the series and the racing genre in general. The funny thing is I’ve acquired copies for multiple systems over the years but was never in the mood to play them. Developed by EA Black Box and published by EA, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 was released for the PlayStation 2 in October, 2002. The PC, Xbox, and GameCube versions were developed by EA Seattle and released that same month. There are significant differences between the PlayStation 2 version and the other versions and from what I’ve researched, the consensus seems to be that the PS2 version is the best so that’s the one I played for this review.
The main draw of Hot Pursuit 2 is all the police stuff and if you’ve played some of the previous games like III or High Stakes, you should be somewhat familiar with how the mechanics work. You can be a racer or cop and drive different vehicles. You can accelerate and brake and when selecting your vehicle, you can choose the color, transmission type, and handling type. When driving a cop vehicle, you must activate your siren to target a racer. You can activate a boost to help you catch-up to racers and you can call for roadblocks and helicopters. You’ll get to drive vehicles from different manufacturers including Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche among others. There is a nice selection to choose from but most need to be unlocked by winning certain events in certain game modes and by accumulating enough NFS Points.
There’s two primary game modes. World Racing and Hot Pursuit. Each come with their own sub-modes. The Championship is the meat of World Racing and Ultimate Racer is the meat of Hot Pursuit. Both consist of a series of events to complete. You’ll earn NFS Points for participating in events and completing certain ones unlocks additional events, vehicles, and tracks. You’ll participate in standard races, tournaments, knockouts, and time trials. World Racing is all about racing. There are no cops. Hot Pursuit is about racing, evading police, and arresting racers. Both World Racing and Hot Pursuit come with a Challenge sub-mode where you can set up a race or event. You can set the skill level, amount of traffic, enable or disable catch up and visible damage, and even select the time of day and/or weather conditions when choosing the track. Unique to Hot Pursuit is the You’re The Cop sub-mode where you can choose any unlocked police vehicle and arrest racers.
There is definitely rubberbanding. If you’re being pursued by police, cop cars are usually always up your ass and opponents are usually not too far behind you. I found that the faster vehicles make it easier to get ahead and outrun police. The cops are aggressive and will call for roadblocks, spike strips, and helicopters. I found evading roadblocks and spike strips to be pretty easy but the helicopters can be a bitch. They drop bombs all over the road and even fire missiles. As awesome as that is, your vehicle will never be destroyed but will show visible damage. Driving into a bomb or getting hit with a missile only slows you down. Police vehicles will try to block you and run you off the road. However, they can be immobilized which will temporarily give you some peace. They will go after opponents as well which can sometimes make it easier to get ahead during events.
The events do get more challenging as you progress but I do think the game leans more towards the easy side. I think the biggest challenge is evading the police because they are usually right on your tail until they crash or stop you. If you can’t shake them they will knock your vehicle around the road which can be a nuisance. But that’s it. They’re more of a nuisance than anything else. One of the reasons it’s easy to avoid roadblocks and spike strips is because you can see them on your minimap. Even if a police vehicle is directly in your path, you can drive into it, basically shoving it out of the way. If the police manage to stop you three times, you will be arrested. If you’re the cop, arresting opponents is not that difficult in my experience. I found it easy to stop them and rarely had to rely on roadblocks or helicopters. The biggest challenge is stopping an opponent within the time limit. You have a certain amount of time to stop each racer and racers are not as aggressive as the police.
Hot Pursuit 2 should keep you occupied for a while. There’s thirty events to complete in both Championship and Ultimate Racer. That said, I do wish there were more tracks available because you will race on the same tracks often and some events consist of multiple races on the same track which can get old fast. You’ll race through desert, woodland, alpine, and tropical areas and if traffic is enabled, traffic vehicles will populate the roads and act as obstacles. You’ll drive on highways, off-road, off ramps, and through tunnels. One of the best things about the tracks is the shortcuts. Every track has multiple shortcuts you can take which can help you get ahead.
For its time, I think Hot Pursuit 2 looked excellent. The vehicle models in particular look fantastic. When they slam into each other or crash, you’ll see sparks fly, and they do show visible damage. You’ll see broken windshields, deformities, and they’ll even emit smoke. The tracks look good and contain some neat details like fireftrucks putting out a fire and you’ll sometimes have to drive through smoke and dust clouds. You may notice some pop-in from time to time but, overall, the visual presentation is great. From what I read, Hot Pursuit 2 is the first game in the series to include an EA Trax soundtrack which means licensed music. A lot of rock and techno. You’ll hear the typical bangs and clangs when vehicles crash and you’ll get to hear police chatter in any Hot Pursuit mode or event. On the technical side, I did notice the frame rate dip here and there like if things got busy or if I was driving through smoke or a dust cloud but most of the time it was smooth.
As I was playing Hot Pursuit 2, I became more and more curious about the PC version despite its differences. I would love to see what mods are out there. I don’t know how the difficulty compares but the PS2 version does lean towards the easy side which is my biggest issue with the game. The Championship and Ultimate Racer modes get more challenging as you progress through them but you can easily win the first half of events in each. And because it leans towards the easy side, some of the longer events like tournaments and race knockouts end up feeling boring and it doesn’t help that you’ll often race on the same tracks over and over again. There is a nice selection of vehicles and each one handles differently which is very noticeable when you choose the extreme handling option and they convey a nice sense of weight. I found being pursued by the police to be more enjoyable than chasing down racers but it is cool being able to call for roadblocks and helicopters. I just didn’t feel like I ever had to utilize them. The tracks feel very open in a sense because shortcuts and alternate paths are seemingly everywhere. It’s kind of like the game is encouraging you to explore. Overall, it’s a fun game.
I would recommend Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 to fans of the series and genre. Ultimately, it’s a solid racing game that should keep you occupied for a while. There’s plenty of vehicles to unlock, a nice variety of events or race types to compete in, and the game does support local multiplayer. You can find the PS2 version for pretty cheap as of this review so if you’re looking to evade police, arrest racers, or just want good arcade-styled racing, definitely check out Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2.