Need for Speed: High Stakes

a game by Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, Playstation, PSX
Editor Rating: 7.1/10, based on 4 reviews
User Rating: 7.3/10 - 6 votes
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See also: Need For Speed Series
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Need for Speed: High Stakes

One new concept for the Need For Speed series, as the title alludes to, is consequence. What kind? The worst, of course: dollars. High Stakes has a monetary system set up so you can earn money to buy cars and their parts--one area where Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit fell short in comparison with its main competitor, Gran Turismo. Although perhaps inspired by GT, High Stakes takes the system a step further with realistic damage and the need to pay to repair it.

After an unscheduled meeting with a wall, the cars show visual damage. While this might be neat looking, it's not so cool when you see how much it costs to repair it--which has to be done since the damage not only is visual but also affects the car's physics. When using the Dual Shock controller, for example, repeated trips into the wall will cause your car to pull to one side, an act that forces you to hold the stick a bit to one side to compensate. This economic structure along with the car damage really gives you a strong sense of ownership. This makes High Stakes' Pink Slip Mode extremely powerful. This mode lets two players compete against each other using their earned cars in a race where the winner literally takes the loser's car. After the race, the loser's car appears on the winner's memory card. (And no, you can't yank your card out early, because both are pulled out at the race's outset.)

But when you're not racing for slips or trying to amass a fortune you can still have fun outrunning the cops in Hot Pursuit Mode, as in Need For Speed III, although in High Stakes you can also play as a cop and chase down perps. The challenge here lies in beating the clock that counts down with each fleeing suspect. If the clock runs out before you force him off the road, it's over.

Visually, High Stakes looks incredibly promising. Most noticeable at this stage are the cars' transparent windows, which allow you to see the interior and driver. And on the audio side, the chatter on the police scanner is for more than effect. Now the radio transmissions clue you in to police activities. If you're playing as one of the cops, the radio is a tool that you can use to call for backup, a spike drop or the almighty roadblock.

While Need For Speed: High Stakes looks like it's on track to being a worthy sequel, we'll have to wait to see how the final version of the game comes together this March.

Download Need for Speed: High Stakes

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Playstation

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

PSX

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Gran Turismo may lead the pack as far as sheer quantity of cars and cups goes, but Need for Speed: High Stakes sets a new standard for style in PlayStation racing. With such slick handling, eye-catching graphics, and addictive gameplay, Need ranks as one of the spring's must-drive racing games.

Gentlemen, Start Your Sirens

High Stakes' coolest new feature is the ability to play as the cops in Hot Pursuit mode, nailing speeders by calling for backup, setting up roadblocks, and putting down spike belts via a pop-up menu. Of course, you can still play as the perp and try to dust the cops, while a two-player splitscreen option lets you and a bud battle on both sides of the law.

If turning on the red light ain't your thang. High Stakes delivers an engaging Turismo-style tournament where you race through an exhila rating series of cups and special events. Of course, wins earn you the cash for repairs, upgrades, and new rides. The gameplay s more arcade-like than Turismo's Sim mode, but its hardly accelerate-all-the-way action; instead it delivers just the right balance of realistic handling and fun action. Through it all. High Stakes' controls handle sharply, improving on Need III's by focusing much less on powersliding.

Stylish Speed

As always. High Stakes rolls out the glamour cars, including Porsches, Ferraris. Lamborghinis, McLarens, Corvettes, and many more. If you're the betting sort. High Stakes lives up to its name by letting you put your hard-earned car on the line in a two-player race where the winner takes both cars (the losers car is wiped from their memory card... makes a DexDrive sound handy, eh?).

The stylish vehicles are treated right by killer graphics that sizzle with rich, detailed cars and tracks. Although the one-player frame rate's definitely zippy enough, it's not as breathtakingly fast as Turismo's, and unfortunately the two-player frame rate chugs a little too much. The sounds score big. though, with exciting engine sounds and. in Hot Pursuit mode, great radio chatter between the cops and their dispatch.

Checkered Flag

High Stakes' absorbing variety of ways to play and overall polish position it as one of the PlayStation s race leaders. Sure, Gran Turismo 2 is everybody's favorite pick for 1999 s racing champ, but that's not due till late summer, and Needs such a cool game that no one should pass it up.

ProTips:

  • Don't just stay on the road-look for places where you can cut corners by ducking off-road...and often past your opponent.
  • Roadblocks aren't static obstades-as you zip past, the cops involved will try to ram you. Be ready to swerve.
  • Cut through gentle turns by lust briefly laying off the gas untU your car has a solid line through the turn.
  • When you're chasing speeders as a cop, the most effective way to stop the perp is to ram the side of their car, making a "T" shape.
  • When you hear approaching engines, press and hold L2 to look behind you and try to box out your opponent so they can't get past.

Graphics

While the sensation of speed isn't as gonzo as it could be, its plenty fast, while everything else is visually dazzling. The gorgeous tracks and car models are loaded with lush color and detail, and the awesome lighting brings everything to life.

Sound

Phenomenal radio chatter between the cops and dispatch adds tons of excitement to Hot Pursuit mode, while the energetic tunes and fantastic sound effects for the engines flat-out rock The announcers a little too happy, though.

Control

High Stakes' steering is so. beautifully tuned for dual-analog controllers that its a damn shame you can't use one suck to steer and the other for gas and brake. Still, that's not a major flaw, and EA nailed the sweet spot between realism and fun with these slickly handling rides.

Fun Factor

High Stakes does a great job of responding to Gran Turismos popularity without becoming just another clone. Between the hot cars and tracks, in-depth Tournament mode, and thrilling cop chases, this excellent racers got depth and style to spare. Its worth every cent.

It's half past four on a stiffing Friday afternoon, and you're sitting in heavy traffic. You've adjusted your pose so the blonde in the neighbouring lane gets your conk from its most flattering angle. You've watched the fat-head in the Mercedes laugh theatrically down a mobile phone. Now you're trying to ignore the blimp in the Transit who's dredging his ears with a McDonald's straw. As he plunges the plastic tube back into his milkshake, you feel an overwhelming desire to sell the car, abandon the urban sprawl and retire to a small cottage in Shropshire.

Electronic Arts' Need For Speed series has always been about getting away from the drudgery of real-world motoring. Ever since its initial release on the ill-fated 3D0, countless wannabe racers have gone damp at the thought of thrashing and crashing cars they couldn't afford to hire, let alone own. They've stepped into the game's hi-res virtual showroom, browsed the catalogue of exotic supercars, and then howled into town in the fastest, reddest Ferrari they could find.

What'll It Do, Mister?

The original NFS focused on head-to-head racing with a computer-controlled lunatic called Mr X, Need For Speed II followed on with split-screen arcade racing and less of the realism, and Need For Speed III improved things no end with 3D-accelerated graphics, more cars, and the chance of playing cops and robbers. Now there's Road Challenge to make you feel a necessity for velocity. Old hands will notice straight away that Electronic Arts have added prize money, meaning you can save up for a faster model or upgrade the one you already have. In single-player Career mode, everything revolves around cash: the game kicks off with $25,000 in the bank and no car.

At this early stage there's only one vehicle you can buy - the desperately unexciting BMW Z3. So after drooling over outlandish rocket ships like the McLaren FI GTR and Lamborghini Diablo SV, like us you'll be forced to settle for the base model Beerier. If you really can't hack the German hairdryer, try arcade mode, which gives you unrestricted access.

Tracks are grouped together in different locations, each with a core theme and staggering attention to detail. In Europe, British roads are marked with white dashes and policed by officers with Home County accents; in heartland America, the roads are snaked with double yellow lines, and the gunslinger cops drive Jeeps. You can even elect to drive the roads back to front and/or mirrored, giving a huge variation of available circuits, and with a 3D accelerator everything glides into view with silken ease.

Driven By You

The Z3 is certainly the easiest to drive. It doesn't wag its tail on every corner and, if you manage to squeeze anything more than 120mph out of it, it's when going downhill on a long straight. The brakes, however, are on the effeminate side, and as tyres shriek in protest you notice long threads of black rubber curling away behind you. Strange, because every car in the line-up has ABS fitted as standard; most boast traction control as well. There are other curiosities, such as the way you can hear birdsong over the sound of a V12, or the pitter-patter of rain when you're caning a Porsche. We'll just put it down to EA's artistic licence.

As for other cars, none are as user-friendly as the 13. At the top of the Shop, the McLaren FI GTR is monstrously difficult to drive, reaching 10Omph in around six seconds and the nearest lamppost two seconds after that. The car was built for the Mulsanne straight, and not for Milton Keynes, so it's hopelessly impractical on almost every track. Considering the whole game revolves around your aspirations to buy the fastest car possible, this presents something of a dilemma.

Opponents are tough and always on the case. The pack is balanced by boosting the speed of trailing cars, meaning you're always fighting off a last-second lunge for the line. Our only real complaint with the AI is that it's often too aggressive. The game includes an all-new damage model, meaning you have to pay for what you break, and psychotic rivals who smash into you at every opportunity are more than mildly aggrieving.

Need For Speed: Road Challenge gets its name from one of the features of the single-player game where you take part in a win-or-bust contest with another driver: lose the race, lose your car. But that's not all. The game also retains its predecessor's Hot Pursuit mode, where you get to play the part of a cop or robber. Classic mode puts you in the seat of a police car or as one of two racers trying to make their escape, Getaway lets you keep going until you're caught or do the catching, and in Time Trap you must complete a set number of laps in a preset time period. Become successful as both cop and robber and you unlock bonus cars.

The Chequered Fug

Despite a number of new options, new cars and stunning surroundings, Road Challenge still feels like a mild revision of its predecessor, and many of the unique features which set the game apart from its rivals are now missing. For example, oncoming traffic. The first instalment had you weaving in and out of other cars, looking for overtaking spaces and yelling at the screen when a Volvo had the audacity to honk at you. This latest game does away with other vehicles, leaving you racing along empty roads and through ghost towns. Hot Pursuit mode spices things up with the odd motorist, but for the most part it feels like the Weed For Speed world is stuck at five o'clock on a Sunday morning.

We also found it impossible to control the cars with a wheel or I joystick. We're not sure exactly why, but we had to resort to If the keyboard just to get around in one piece. There are also a few areas where this game - make that every damn driving game - screws up, most obviously in terms of engine noises, which are never anything like the real thing. Pipe the sound of a Porsche through a decent stereo and, instead of the glorious cacophony of six cylinders in boxer formation, all you hear is an irate bluebottle.

If you like the Need For Speed series, consider adding Road Challenged your library. If you don't, consider Breakneck or wait for Driver instead.

Overview

Racing enthusiasts, take note. The Need for Speed series is back, with improved gameplay and graphics that are sure to keep you glued behind the wheel with Electronic Arts’ latest version: High Stakes. You can choose between test drives, tournaments, special events, the hot pursuit mode or the risky high stakes mode.

This game brings improved realism to video game racing with some of the most sought after high-performance sports cars ever built. You compete to win money that is used to upgrade your car, and later purchase more expensive and better performing machines. You should be careful, though, because crashing your car will now have serious consequences with your bank account, especially when you are driving an exotic supercar such as the Mclaren F1, the Lamborghini Diablo SV, or one of 17 other hot cars you can collect and customize. Electronic Arts has added "Tru-Hazard"™ real-life incidents and real car damage to make your experience as true-to-life as possible.

Gameplay

You begin the game with 20,000 "Need for Speed dollars," which is just enough to purchase a BMW Z3 Roadster or a Mercedes Benz SLK 230 to compete in a tournament against similar cars. You cannot start out in any of the other races right away, since the other cars are more expensive and out of reach. You are limited to one tournament to race in, or you can play the Hot Pursuit mode or the test drive mode until you win enough races and earn enough money to buy the better cars and race in the other races.

You will want to spend some of your money to upgrade your car and make it fast enough to compete against the others, which will greatly improve how it performs, especially when you progress to the supercar level. The stock versions of these cars are really no match for the others on the track. There are three car upgrade options that will get your car running at its peak performance. Upgrade level 1 lowers your car’s suspension and upgrades your tires for improved road grip and handling. Level 2 tunes the engine for improved acceleration and top speed. It also upgrades your car’s brakes to reduce stopping distance. Level 3 improves aerodynamics to provide better handling and reduces weight for quicker acceleration. Each of these upgrades will have a different price, depending on the car you are attempting to upgrade.

In the Hot Pursuit mode, you have the choice of playing either the police or the law-breaking racer who is trying to outrun them. This is a fun part of the game and quite different from most racing games. As you run from the police, you can hear their radio transmissions as they send out reinforcements to get you. You can try to get away, but they will call in others that have as much or more horsepower than you do. I found it very challenging and difficult to get away from them. When they give chase you can pull over immediately, and they will issue a warning. If they take you by force, you are busted. Getting caught causes you to lose valuable time. If they catch you too many times, you will be placed under arrest and the game will be over. If you decide to play as the police, you can call in for backup, set up roadblocks, and even use spike strips to stop those pesky speed demons. One thing that I found wrong with the Hot Pursuit mode is the computer-controlled police giving chase and arresting you when you are driving within the speed limit, or even when you are sitting still. Other than that, it is a lot of fun to play.

There are numerous tracks to race on in the tournament mode, but you must place in the top three to unlock newer ones. If you compete in a race without damaging your car, you will be awarded a safe driving record bonus. If you damage your car, you will get stuck with the repair bill at the end of the race. You will find that this is especially more important as you drive the more expensive cars that cost a lot of money to fix. The "real car damage" is fairly realistic, and can make your car lose some power and handling performance if it is damaged. If you take a really bad spill that sends your car spinning through the air, you’ll often find that your car’s frame will get damaged enough to cause sparks to fly when you round a corner, as parts of the body that get mangled will scrape the pavement.

One thing I found that was not realistic was the fact that you could totally thrash a car in a manner that would undoubtedly total it and make it undrivable in real life, but the BMW Z3 Roadster which I put through a punishment test kept on driving with only minor performance losses and dents. The repair bill was quite a bit higher than if I had just scraped a few cars on the course, but was much less than if I had actually crashed it as I did. While this game is much more realistic than others, it still is not totally realistic. I am sure that a race car driver would not try this in real life anyway, but I just wanted to try to see what would happen if you put one of the cars through a torture test such as this. This should not prevent you from buying this game, because it in no way detracts from the quality of the rest of it. There were only a few minor things that I did not like about this game, which I will discuss later.

As far as the actual racing goes, this game has excellent car handling feel and realism that is further enhanced with the PlayStation’s vibration function, simulating the feel of driving and crashing. It will vibrate as you take sharp corners, the wheels lose traction, and when your car runs into another car or hits an obstacle. I feel that the cars react very realistically when you take a sharp corner and the car starts to skid. You can turn the car harder which will increase the skidding, or even put on the emergency brake which will cause the car to spin out.

This game has a lot of tracks to race on. They are quite varied, detailed and interesting. Each one has its own characteristics and theme. Some wind through the countryside, and others will weave through towns and urban areas. With a wide variety of tracks, you will surely find this game challenging and interesting for quite a long time.

In the High Stakes mode, two people who have customized their own supercars can compete head to head, with the winner taking the other player’s car as their prize. The loser’s car goes onto the winner’s memory card. One way around this would be to have an extra memory card to copy your cars on. If you were to lose one in the high stakes mode, you would still have it "cloned" on your other memory card. I guess that would be cheating, and would take away from the excitement of actually putting your car on the line.

There are many options to further challenge your racing ability. You can add traffic, weather and night driving to add a bit of realism and difficulty. You’ll need to have a memory card in order to save your progress, cars purchased, and money earned. The game only requires one block of memory.

There are only two things that I did not really like about the game, but neither one should prevent you from buying it. The game has random music tracks playing in the background of the races, and a few of the tracks are downright annoying and corny. Some of them are all right, but I was by no means impressed. The nice thing about the music is that you have the option of changing the song being played at any time, and can even turn the music off when you want. I would suggest putting on your own favorite music if you like to listen to tunes while you race. The other thing that I didn’t like was the fact that any time you go into a tight turn or come close to another car or object, the car’s horn will automatically sound. Again, this is not a big deal and I actually got used to it, but I still wish it wasn’t there.

Graphics

The graphics on this game were some of the best I’ve seen on the Sony PlayStation for a racing game. The cars, racetracks and scenery are very good. You’ll see all sorts of background details, and even get a few visits by some passing trains and hot air balloons. I’ve only gotten through about six of the racetracks in the few weeks I’ve had this game, so I’m sure that there are plenty of other cool things to see. There are some minor limitations at times when your car is cruising at top speed with blocky road graphics, but this is very minor and probably not noticeable to most people. They really did a great job here.

Bottom Line

I would have to say that if you enjoy racing games that you will not be disappointed with this one. It is very well done. The overall graphics, gameplay and realism are as good as any racing game I have seen for the Sony PlayStation, and it’s a lot of fun too. Electronic Arts has also done a great job of adding plenty of different racetracks and options to keep the game fresh for quite a long time.

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The Need for Speed
Do you feel the need for speed? Electronic Arts' highly successful PC and 3DO game is making its way onto the PlayStation, and not a moment too soon.