Black Viper
Black Viper
Nov 112002

I became excited to find out that Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 was about to be released. I loved NFS3 and looked forward to an “upgraded” graphics engine. I became happy to discover that Need For Speed: HP2 did do a massive overhaul to, not only game play, but also the whole package. As with everything, though, there is a problem.

I actually was going to do a Quick Rant on NFS: HP2 because I became extremely frustrated at every turn with the controller fiasco dealing with this product.

Big on the “must have” list of qualities with a game is controller support and configuration. If you cannot adjust how you wish the controls should be, it makes for a big problem that any game needs to over come for me to consider a good recommendation.

Installation was no problem and I grabbed my MS Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick and plugged it in. Upon first running the game, I was given a warning about “an unknown controller” installed. What?!? It is not like this is a rare joystick.

I figured, ok, I have an adapter installed on the joystick to convert from “midi” or game port to USB. I unplugged that and the joystick was detected just fine. I then proceeded to configure my controls and eagerly hopped into a game. After about 5 seconds, I realized it was impossible to control the car with the joystick. I am talking about continuous overcorrecting and rapid response to even the slightest movement of the joystick. The options were no help as the only thing that was configurable was “dead zone”. With that, it only delayed the inevitable fishtail action around the first bend.

I then decided to adjust the controller in the Windows Game Panel to reduce the sensitivity. That worked ok, however, upon reboot, the “saved” profile forgot the buttons I had defined. I went through the motions all over again.

In game, it worked out better because I could actually get around the track. I thought of another option.

I threw on the system the faithful Gravis Game Pad Pro. It worked, but again, the game never remembered how I configured it after exiting back to Windows and restarting. I was able to get around the track, but it took extreme effort.

The game looks great and I really wanted to play it! This called for drastic action and a great excuse to finally invest in a wheel controller.

I headed to the local geek store and picked up a MS Sidewinder Force Feedback Wheel, eagerly plugged it in and XP detected it as such. I fired up the game and low and behold, a dialog complaining about not recognizing the new Wheel. I then became mad.

I thought I would go ahead and install the MS 4.0 software for the controller and the new options in the Windows control panel were great! I tested out all the force feedback stuff and got even more excited.

Upon reloading the game, I did not see the warning dialog. Finally, I have done everything correct. Now down to business. I (again) set up the buttons and steering for what I wanted and jumped into a game. First thing I found was that the force feedback DID NOT WORK! I was super mad, now.

I checked for updated patches (none) and wandered around the forums to discover that I was not alone. I then figured that force feedback was not as important as actually getting around the track, so I gave up and started the game again. Sure enough, it forgot the configuration of the wheel.

Even after all of that, I love the game! It has plenty of options and the graphics have great eye-candy! The wheel definitely improved game play, as I played for a few tracks straight. You earn points to unlock cars and tracks and, even if you fail to increase your previous standings, you still earn a few points by completing a lap in first place or avoiding the cops.

Speaking about cops, they are super drivers that love to cause the car you are driving to fishtail out of control. Even though it is not impossible, it makes for a difficult race. Avoiding the cops requires the cat like reflexes to spin THEM out before they do it to you, or travel through many different “short cuts” throughout all of the tracks. The tracks, averaging between 2 and 4 minutes a lap, cause for some headache later on in the race because “way” too much stuff is after you.

I was also intrigued with the “damage” model displayed on the box, of which I never saw until I did a “single” race. I guess the Hot Pursuit mode and Championship mode does not include the destruction of the car code.

Funny thing, though, is the dialogs that pop up between tracks alternate between “pressing any key” that has no mouse support and a “continue” style dialog that requires pressing enter or using the mouse. It did not take too long for me to get out of the game, back to Windows, bind one of the wheel buttons to “enter”, and get back to the game. Of course, I had to do the control configuration again.

I also hopped online with an easy to use interface powered by GameSpy to race a few and, even though I am crippled with a 56k dialup, it seemed to play rather well. Others, however, complained of the car popping around. That did not seem to be much of a bother, though, because I rarely crashed into anyone. Maybe 56k is not that bad, after all!

Even after all the problems with the controller and the annoying aspects of dialog boxes with no standard way of clearing them, I am happy with the game. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 more than makes up for its shortcomings by providing a great experience for any motor head with a computer system. The awesome sense of speed and varied environments coupled with the insane desire for “one more race” goes a long way at satisfying my difficult tastes.

Even though it really makes me angry to “wait for a patch to cure obvious annoyances”, this game is worth the efforts. However, since I put my money down for a retail product, I expect it to pass certain criteria. Thankfully, the flaws should be easy to fix, but the score I offer will suffer accordingly.