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Review by: Shawn Quigley
Published: November 11, 1997
Just like the original Need for Speed from Electronic Arts, there is a new version out now that includes “SE” in its title. The SE, or special edition, contains enhancements to different areas of the game, while maintaining the basic formula for what the original version contained. Most important is the included support for 3D acceleration using the 3Dfx chipset. The visuals and detail enhancements that the 3Dfx version offers have to been seen.
There have been many changes since the last version in the Need For Speed series and since Need for Speed II, with the majority of these changes centering around the look and feel of the game. Need For Speed II SE has an advanced 3D engine that brings the feel and excitement of driving these supercars around detailed landscapes. The eight cars that were part of Need For Speed II are back: the McLaren F1, Ferrari F50, Ford GT90, Jaguar XJ220, Lotus GT1 and Lotus Esprit V8, Italdesign Cala, and the Isdera Commendatore 112i and there are 4 new ones that come with the “SE” edition: Ferrari 355 F1, Ford Mustang Mach III, Italdesign Nazca C2, and the Ford Indigo. There also are bonus cars that are hidden within the game. All of these cars are replicas of their live counterparts and can be custom configured to your liking in the game. There are options not only for changing the color of your car, but there are more advanced options for changing physical characteristics such as the front downforce, rear downforce, brake bias and gear ratios. What these physical changes allow you to do is really tune the car for a particular track. If you don’t want the tail of your car to slide while turning, then you would adjust the braking bias to be more towards the front of the car, allowing the car to slide less around turns from the rear end. These characteristics take some time to learn, but can be invaluable in your ability to win on one of the difficult courses.
Need For Speed II came with six different tracks that are scattered around the world. This new version now has another track located along the Mexican Coast and there is also a hidden track along with the ability to play the tracks in mirrored and reverse mode. Each track represents a different driving scenario and different driving techniques need to be used to master them. The tracks that are placed around the world are: Mediterraneo, Mystic Peaks, Proving Grounds, Outback, North Country, Pacific Spirit, and Mexican Coastal. The Proving Grounds is a basic track that you can use to put the petal to the floor to see how fast these cars really can go. All the other tracks offer different challenges and different landscapes. Some of the ones that take place over mountainous terrain really test your ability to drive downhill around sharp turns. There are different towns that you will drive through, all with a different characteristics. One noticeable feature of Need For Speed II SE is the live items on tracks. For example, you will pass by windmills that are actually turning. With the wide variety of scenery and different challenges these courses give, Need For Speed II SE gives a good overall driving experience.
Along with the awesome cars and the wide variety in tracks come different modes of play. The first is the Tournament Mode. The Tournament Mode puts you up against 12 other racers on all the different tracks. After each race you earn points for the place you finished in. If you have the highest points after racing around the six tracks, then you can unlock the bonus car. The other mode of racing is the Knockout Mode. In Knockout mode, you race in a series of two lap races with the winner of the race progressing onto the next race. If you win all the races through the sixth race, you get to race on the final track, which is the bonus track. If you win on the bonus track then the bonus track will always be available to race on. These two modes add a degree of challenge and entertainment to the Need For Speed series, especially if you are always racing alone. The intelligence of the other racers has been updated to provide a more realistic racing game. Cars will no longer just let you always blow by them and they will try and knock you out while going by.
There are a number of settings that can be adjusted in different parts of the game. You have the ability to choose the style of simulation that you are going to race in, basically allowing you to set your skill level. If you elect to race in simulation mode, then the car you are driving will act like that particular car, but, if you were to race in arcade mode, it is easier to control the car since it “sticks” to the road better. There is also an option to set “Catch Up” mode on, allowing those who fall behind a chance to actually be in the race when it gets near the end. After each race there are a number of statistics that are shown to allow you to see how well you performed. You also can look at different track records to give yourself an idea as to how fast you need to go to be the king of the track!
Where the excitement really comes into play with Need For Speed II SE is in multiplayer mode. There are different options for playing in multiplayer mode. You can play via a split screen format, connect through a serial cable, connect over a modem, or over a network. The best implementation of the multiplayer mode is over a network. By connecting over an IPX network, up to eight players can go head on for a real speed rush. There are plenty of options that can be set while in a network game and they range from the type of race (either a tournament or a knockout race) to the number of laps that you want. Every player is not required to have his or her own CD since you can have remote installs of the game! During races you have the ability to taunt your opponents by sending them messages, always a nice feature.
By taking the solid foundation that was formed with the Need for Speed II release, Electronic Arts has enhanced more than enough options in the game to make it a worthy upgrade. The 3Dfx acceleration support brings the visuals to a whole new level, and the introduction of environmental enhancements such as rain make the game visually stunning. The four new cars could have warrented this being a solid product, but the overall enhancement to the AI in the game is something that is nice to see. Need for Speed II SE is more of an arcade racing game with thrills around every corner, and that is how you need to approach it when you are playing it. Go out and lay some rubber!
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