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Need for Speed 4
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Electronic Arts
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
It's Need for Speed. You've seen it before. You've probably played it. This one is not that much different than its predessesors. Should you get it? If you like arcade racing games, yes. Why? Because it has everything that the previous games have, and more.

On the surface the game is very similar to the 3rd one. There are a nice selection of famous sports cars from which you choose. Then you take you car on the road and race against a bunch of other sports cars through streets of the world. The better you do, the more tracks you get to see. There are also locked and hidden cars and tracks that you will be able to find codes for in the future. What makes this car game special is just the little differences. Example. You can enter your name in the options and it will appear on your license plate. There is a setting for the level of the intensity of th rumble in the Dual Shock. Also, your car will get damaged in accordance with how you crash it. Smack the left side into a tree, there will be a dent on the left door. There are also enough options that the game can be played a number of different ways, each one different.

There is a single race mode and a test drive mode where you can get a feel of the courses and cars. The game really shines in its tournament mode which takes a big step up from NFS 3. Instead of just racing through the courses over and over until you come in first, the game lets you pick from six different tournaments to enter. Each tournament only accepts certain models of cars, so you and your opponents will be pretty evenly matched. The first tournament pits the Mercedes against the BMW to see which is the most pimpin' of automobiles. Then you go to car dealer and buy one of the 2 or 3 cars required for that race. Then you get to race through the entire tournament no matter how poorly you do. After each race you will get a cash prize depending on how well you do which you can use to upgrade your car. You will also get a repairman's fee which will vary depending on how beat up your car was after the race. Do well enough in the whole tournament and you will make enough money to sell you car, buy another, and enter a different tournament. If you sucked, then you will have to keep your car, and race in the tournament again, this time trying to hit less trees.

Another great option is the High Stakes mode from which the game gets its name. After you have suped up your car and memorized the tracks, you can save your car to you memory card, take it over to a friends house, and race him for pinks. (For those of you not hip on the lingo, or who have not seen Grease, pink slips are ownership papers.) If you lose, you really lose. You have no more car. It automatically gets transferred to you friends memory card.

The biggest overall change in the game from its predecessors is the greater simulation that it has. Instead of having an arcade and simulation mode from which you choose, High Stakes is mostly simulation keeping the great sliding and crashing that made the arcade mode so popular. There is also a much better assesment of damage to each car. NFS has taken a que from Gran Tourismo and added money and budgeting into the mix which allows even bad racers to progress even if they make enough dough. Coming in first is no longer essential, but it helps.

Thank God they did not take out the Hot Pursuit mode. That was one of my initial concerns when I heard about the sequel, since it was the best part of NFS 3. They not only left it in the game, but they improved on it. Now, you have a choice of either being the cops or the speeding criminals. All of the voices have been improved and personalized for each race. They will now give a report on the make of the car and its location on the course. There is much less repetition and much more excitement. Instead of just yelling at you, they talk to each other and update the chase, as well as ordering you to "Pull Over." As the cops you have a time limit and have to arrest as many people as you can within that limit. Think of it as quotas. This mode can also be played in two player mode with one player chasing the other, or both players racing against each other and the cops.

As with many of the great games coming out for Playstation these days, the technology is limiting the evolution of the game. I know how this game could look on a great modern machine because I have seen NFS 3 on the PC. However, on the Playstation the game is a little grainy and not very smooth. The backrounds stram pretty well, ut there is still some obvious pop up. There is also svere slow down when there are two many cars on screen at once. Don't get me wrong. For the system, it is a very nice looking game. I have not seen much better, except when I look at PC's and Dreamcast. But, for the Playstation this is graphically a beautiful game. I just cannot wait to play the Need for Speed series on the next generation of machines. But, for now, this satisfies and does it nicely. Whether you want to chase down a criminal, risk you butt in a tournament, or take a nice gingerly ride through the country, Need for Speed: High Stakes has it all.

Chris Shade

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