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
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
Playing on-line with the game is real good fun, especially racing
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.