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Game Over Online ~ Need for Speed: High Stakes

GameOver Game Reviews - Need for Speed: High Stakes (c) EA Sports, Reviewed by - Landore

Game & Publisher Need for Speed: High Stakes (c) EA Sports
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32 MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 77%
Date Published Wednesday, June 2nd, 1999 at 07:11 PM

Divider Left By: Landore Divider Right

I’m sure everyone has heard of this series of games before from EA, some have been better than others. I personally really have loved this series of games from its origins with, The Need for Speed right up to Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit - as released last year. Without doubt, my favorite game of the series has to be, Need for Speed II Special Edition. This game was great! It had some cool features such as dead insects that squash on your windshield and amazing graphics, which did not to slow when the pace got frantic unlike in Hot Pursuit.

Electronic Arts has tried to devise an original angle on the usual arcade racing game formula. Now in High Stake's you are able to enter a Career mode, this gives the game a new dimension as you have an initial $25,000 to buy your car. You then have to race around winning championships to gain extra cash to boost your cars performance or to buy a totally new car.

There are many different races that you are able to enter some require an entrance fee, others are free to enter. The High Stakes course allows you to put your boosted car up as the entrance fee to the circuit, if you lose the race, you lose your car, but if you win you gain your opponents car and thus extra money. You are not allowed to enter the course with only one car, so you must race and win enough money to own two cars to be able to enter the High Stakes race.

To a certain extent there are some managerial aspects to the game, decisions need to be taken as to whether you should upgrade your car now, or sell it and use the money with your winnings to buy a new more powerful car. You must try to maintain a balance by having enough money to enter races yet have a fast enough car to win those races. I also found I was a lot more careful when driving as accidents cause damage to your car then the repair bills can run to hundreds, and often thousands if you totally screw up. This gives the game a longer term appeal for players than just having a bunch of tracks together you race around, because it gives you a goal to aim for by winning the championships.

Electronic Arts has always been known for great game graphics and high quality releases. High Stakes does not disappoint on that front, the graphics in the game I would say are the best I have seen in any racing game. I love the little effects that EA have put into the game to try to make it a bit more special. Effects like smoking rising from houses chimneys, sunlight shining through the branches of trees and a hot air balloon rising over the mountain, I could name literally hundreds of small things that you notice the tenth time you go around the track you never noticed before.

I tested the game in all resolutions from 640 x 480 to 1024 x 768 on a PII450 with Velocity 4400 and duel 12 Meg Voodoo 2 cards. I found that the game did slow down quite considerably when at highest resolution and highest graphic settings. The Velocity 4400 was choppy but the duel voodoo 2 was really smooth and VERY cool! This graphic slowdown usually happened when there was a lot on the screen at the same time. This disappointed me as racing games do relay heavily on their graphics to portray a sense of reality to the games player, and to be forced to turn the resolution and graphics settings down just to make the game playable on slower systems is not on.

High Stakes has got some real neat things that sets it well apart from other racing games on the market. One of these would be that a helicopter gets called out when you are racing from the police in hot pursuit mode. The helicopter is used to relay your position to the other police cars in pursuit; this is especially effective at night, because the helicopter has a searchlight that follows your car from the air, which gives your position away to the police on the ground trying to catch you.

All the weather effects there such as rain, thunder, lightening, snow and fog are amazing, the best I have yet to encounter in any driving game.

Electronic Art's attention to detail on sound effects as well as their graphics is impressive. The environmental audio effects are put to best effect when driving into tunnels, for example, when the police are chasing you the sound of their sirens change pitch because of the tunnel walls. The best effect though is when a helicopter joins the chase; it can be heard going overhead from the left to right and behind your head. Other nice touches are wolves howling when driving at night, ducks quacking, bells ringing and music coming from a pub in Germany, all of which adds to the realism.

The music in the game is the usual rave racing type tunes, they are ok but nothing special, although you are able to put your own CD’s into your drive to play your own choice of music which is nice. Playing on-line with the game is real good fun, especially racing against friends. You really do get a sense of satisfaction from going as fast as possible and beating them or running them off the road, The level design in High Stakes is excellent, there are many different and varied locations to drive, each of which are highly detailed and have there own individual identities.

Electronic Arts seem to have been very sneaky though, they advertise 18 tracks what there really is in the game, are 7 new tracks which are cool, 3 raceway circuits and 8 tracks and the bonus Empire City track. All of these 8 tracks have been dug up from their previous release Hot Pursuit. So in seeing this I decided to dig out my CD of hot pursuit to see exactly what EA have ported over from their last release, as it turns out a surprising amount from Hot Pursuit has appeared in this game.

I just couldn’t get away from the nagging feeling that this "new" game High Stakes is what Hot Pursuit should have been. Instead EA seems to be to have decided to keep back the extra tracks and career mode and then wait six months and release it as a totally new game. Bad move guys. I think it would have been better for EA to of released this game as a add-on CD to Hot pursuit.

The game is good, very good, but using tracks from a previous game seems either very slack or a double bonus depending if you bought the last game or not. To me it that’s just an insult to the people who bought Hot Pursuit. Maybe EA should do some sort of trade-in deal for those people with Hot Pursuit... eh? I think not.

My final word for Need for Speed: High Stakes is that it’s a highly polished and very playable racing game, if you have a meaty enough PC to cope with the kickass graphics and DON’T have Hot pursuit then this game is a must have purchase. IF you bought Hot Pursuit then I wouldn’t recommend shelling out another $40 for this game, there is just not enough here from their previous game to warrant a FULL price game this time around.


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