The designers of Need for Speed: High Stakes learned much from Gran Turismo, as seen from a number of elements in this new game. One could say that High Stakes has gone a little further, in fact. Not in actual realism (physics in particular), an aspect that has actually improved in High Stakes, but in other areas, such as car damage, aerial stunts, and in pursuing a particular license, that of the lovely Porsche.
After a number of improvements, High Stakes has reached a new high in the series. With last year's excellent graphic and special effects makeover, as well as a better-developed Cop AI, EA focused less on overall graphics and more on driving specialties. Sporting at least five modes, Test Drive, Single Race, Hot Pursuit, Tournaments, and Special Events, the gameplay varies greatly. The first three are self-explanatory, though Hot Pursuit needs a little explanation. This year there are three levels of difficulty, and duel races; each with increased cop car AI and physical smashing force. In order to pull you over cops will ram into you head on, cleverly pick at your backside, and doggedly thrust you into walls, fences, cliffs and roadblocks. All driver cars are upgraded with a scanner type radio, so now you can overhear what the cops are saying to one another, thus enabling you to foresee upcoming roadblocks and tack strips. And yes, the macho super cop with the bitchin' sports car is back for more in each race.
Tournament and Special Events are where the game has changed significantly. By entering these, you'll compete in several increasingly difficult races in which money is earned and medals won. You'll also earn the chance to sell old cars and buy new ones, or even upgrade current cars by at least three levels. Each time you win a tournament, you earn cash and the right to enter another, much more difficult challenge. New courses open up and old ones are mirrored, altered with weather conditions, or as in the open races, civilian cars will sprawl across the roads in oncoming and same-side traffic.
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