As a Millenial, my generation of car enthusiasts have been influenced not just by car magazines, but also the digital motoring world. We may not ever have the money to rag a Diablo VT around an idyllic island paradise or a fully-modded Supra through dark inner-city streets, but digitally, we can do so without fear of clutch wear, or where to find the next tank of super unleaded.
This is part of the reason why the Need for Speed franchise has proved so enduringly popular, as it has faithfully mirrored the car trends of the day. From Eurolite neons to Liberty Walk bodykits, each player has been able to tap into the diverse subcultures that make being a car enthusiast great.
Recently, though, the fun and simplicity of the earliest games – built around the simple formula of progressively unlocking faster cars to outrun faster cops – has been lost in favour of unnecessary power-ups and woeful scripting.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t yet played Need for Speed on any of the current consoles, but from the reviews I’ve seen, I doubt I will be any time soon. This is coming from a serial buyer of every title since 2002.
Put simply, Need for Speed needs to go back to the days of Hot Pursuit 2 – and not the 2010 reboot. The earlier game, which I spent countless hours in front of on my PlayStation 2, saw players drive everything from the Vauxhall VX220 all the way up to the mighty McLaren F1 and Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR. There were no modifications and no purchasing system; only by winning races and busting racers did you unlock faster machines.
Licensed cars and fictitious tracks coupled with an early-2000s rocky soundtrack were your options, but what really made the game monumental for me was the difficulty level. In Hot Pursuit 2, you couldn’t hide behind nitrous or EMP. If you were a sloppy driver or failed to memorise the best shortcuts scattered around a track, you’d get busted. Simple.
This game’s AI is brutal on its hardest levels – even Crown Victoria cops will mercilessly batter your Holden or lard-spec Mercedes CL55 AMG off the road if you get too close. This, though, made for addictive racing, with no rubber-banding like in the newest titles.
As a cop in Hot Pursuit mode, you did have access to helicopters and roadblocks, while as a racer, you could use a 360-degree view camera and, er, a flamey thing which let you see a little ahead of yourself further down the road for said roadblocks. Other than that, though, it was a game with mercifully few embellishments.
Best of all, you didn’t have to tolerate an inane cutscene while some young unnamed male protagonist was repeatedly challenged to ‘prove himself’ for respect and money.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be sliding a Police-spec E39 M5 around Tropical Circuit.
These were the days where you could slide a Ferrari 360 Spyder with impunity.