If you are used to today's Need for Speed, you may have no idea how the franchise started out back in 1994. Those who have played and enjoyed the very first Need for Speed games either have been disappointed with the franchise since "NFS: Underground" or are nostalgic of what NFS used to be before leaning more towards street racing and Hollywood-style action. This was a racing game which brought a lot of a lot of today's racing game tend to lack in establishing connects to the racing and the cars that are included in this game. This blog post takes a look at one of the finest racing game franchises... before it eventually became one of the finest racing game franchises.
NOTE: I will mostly base my review of this game on "The Need for Speed: Special Edition" for DOS/Windows.
--- The Need for Speed at a Glance ---
^ "The Need for Speed: Special Edition" for DOS/Windows. (ORIGINAL PICTURE CREDIT: Electronic Arts, Pioneer Productions
The Need for Speed was fulfilled by many gamers in the mid-1990s with The Need for Speed. What used to be Distinctive Software Incorporated (famous for racing games like "Stunts"/"4D Sports Driving" among many other titles) became Electronic Arts Canada. Pioneer Productions helped also in making The Need for Speed. Before many of the Hollywood-like shenanigans and illegal street racing of future games of the series, Need for Speed started out as a critically-acclaimed arcade style racing game that really showcased the incredible appeal of these cars. This game was quite advanced for its time, because never before has so much detail been put on cars. You could say that this was one of the first racing game series to feature as well as profile each of the cars. It was one of few games to feature actually licensed cars as well as decent profiles on each one of them.
My experience with this game began when I downloaded a demo off of America Online (now AOL) featuring Autumn Valley Speedway as the demo track and the Dodge Viper RT/10 as the demo car. Impressed completely, I went out to a WalMart and bought this game back in 1998 or so. Granted my PC was barely above the minimum requirements, I obviously felt how slow this game was. I still enjoyed the action. This began an affair with the Need for Speed series for me. Prior to this, my only other experience with The Need for Speed was as a PlayStation 1 demo on the City course.
This game also began my appeal for Road and Track magazine. I had a few old magazines from this publication; now, I have at least 20 editions of Road and Track magazine between 1998 and now (including the June 2011 edition I recently picked up according to this blog post). The insight from Road and Track magazine connects gamers to these actual cars. It's not just a racing game- it's a racing game that provides the all-important connect to real-life cars. You are using these automobiles in a fantasy setting, but you are learning about each one through the game. These days, it seems more like "include cars and don't provide much of info on them. Just put the cars in." This is an immense disconnect in most modern racing games.
Music and Sound.There are a number of songs you can listen to in this game. There are six rock songs and six techno songs. You can pick a favorite to or shuffle between all songs or either featured genre. The cars all have great engine noises whether behind the wheel or in an exterior view.
Racing.There are many ways to enjoy racing in this game:
• You can run a Single Race against seven other competitors. You can set the pack to either be against all of the cars in the game or set it to feature a pack of one specific car. For example, you can set the opposition in a Single Race to be against a pack of seven other Corvettes.
• A Head-to-Head race involves a straight one-on-one duel between your car and a rival car.
• Race in a Tournament against other cars. Rack up enough points to win the championship! You can run the races in just about any order you like.
• Compete in a Time Trial to learn each course or to shoot for the lap/race records.
When it comes to records, you can try to score the best times or post the fastest top speed for each track, segment, or race. There's your look at The Need for Speed.
ADVICE: When running a race or after crashing, you must manually upshift to get going, even if you are using an Automatic transmission. You must upshift right when the lights turn green when starting. After a crash, best to upshift immediately once your car is respawned after crashing.
--- The Need for Speed: Cars ---Without cars, you can't race. This game has eight cars to choose from spanning four different countries of origin- United States, Japan, Germany, and Italy. The cars are subdivided further with three different classes of performance. While the car classes aren't apparent until you race in Tournament play, you still have to be aware of what performance levels each car has prior to you racing them. With all of this said, you have eight highly-capable sports cars to use across eight locations spanning multiple environments. Each car has nicely digitized interiors. You actually sense the wheel turning as well as the gauges all working fairly well.
The Tournament Class A machines are the fastest and most powerful cars. The Tournament Class C cars are the weakest-powered and slowest cars. In the middle are the Tournament Class B cars. Among the classes, there are only two A-Class cars while the other two classes have three cars.
Here is your look at all of the care featured in this game. There are no options to change the colors of each cars. The parentheses () indicate what class each car is in. This is to indicate what class of car each car belongs to when you do Tournament play. When you do Tournament play, these are the vehicles you can choose from for each class. Each track in the game is restricted to a certain class of car when you run in Tournament mode. So therefore, there are only certain cars you can run for each course in Tournament play. More info on each track in the next section. For now, accustom yourself to each of the cars featured in this game:
Ferrari 512TR (A).Ferrari's 512TR is an Italian Stallion that is the Testarossa' replacement. Even those who know nothing about cars know that a Ferrari is nothing to scoff at, and this one is no different. This $217K US dollar car delivers great handling. It has 421 horsepower and 360 lb. ft. of torque.
Lamborghini Diablo VT (A).Only for the truly elite, the Diablo VT is the rocketship of choice for elite racers in TNFS. It is the only car with four-wheel drive in the game. This mid-engined rocketship is also the most expensive car in the game at $252K US Dollars. It is also the game's heaviest car at a luxury car-like 3865 lbs. Because of its 4WD layout, serious understeer can be experienced when trying to corner. Just take note of this when doing racing with this car. Otherwise, let this V12 beast and its 492 horsepower sing on the road!
Mazda RX-7 (C).The cheapest-priced car in the game and the only Rotary car in the game, the $37K US Dollar RX-7 is a capable Japanese sports car. The car boasts 255 horsepower of 2-rotor, Wankel, twin-turbo goodness with this car. It has the lowest torque at 217 lb.-ft., and it also has the lowest displacement at 654 x 2 cc (or 1308cc) displacement. The RX-7 is the lightest car in the game as it tips the scales at 2850 lbs.
Acura NSX (C).The NSX is the most expensive of the C-Class cars in this game, and it is also the only mid-engined C-Class car. This car delivers some great handling. The V6-powered 270 horsepower car has no problem delivering the goods with its mid-engine layout. Certainly an enjoyable car to say the very least in this game.
Toyota Supra (C)The MKIV Toyota Supra delivers some serious power for its class. It has the tallest spoiler of all the cars in the game. A total of 320 horsepower comes from the 6-banger in this intercooled twin-turbo sports car. The car costs $46K as of this game. It is the heaviest of the C-Class cars with its weight of 3450 lbs.
Porsche 911 Carrera (B).Porsche power is ready to rule in this game with the Porsche 911 Carrera. As the only rear-engined car in the game, it delivers a driving experience different from most of the other cars in the game. It is also the only German car in the game as well as the only Flat-6 powered car in the game. This car costs $60K USD and has 270 horsepower. It certainly won't beat the other two B-Class cars in a drag race, but you can always win with it where racing matters most- in the corners. At 3065 lbs., it is the lightest B-Class car.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 (B).America's sports car is the Corvette. The $66K US Dollar Corvette ZR-1 (C4) here is no weakling among the other cars. It boasts 405 horsepower from its 32-valve V8. It's a real no-nonsense car. It is the heaviest of the B-Class cars with its 3512 lb. weight.
Dodge Viper RT/10 (B).Since its debut in 1992, the Dodge Viper has been quite a unique automobile. The RT/10 is a convertible version of the Viper. And personally, I've never really liked convertible Vipers. This was the car used in the demo version of The Need for Speed. It beast the highest displacement of any car in the game with its 7990cc V10 engine. A total of 400 horsepower and 450 lb. ft. of torque gives this car plenty of get-up-and-go. Use that get-up-and-go from this $59K US Dollar car to win you some races.
All cars are supplemented with information and video to help you to understand each car thanks to Road and Track Magazine details and figures. You can learn about the cars in general, learn about their mechanical aspects, read up on their performance figures, and learn about the history of each automobile. All the prices for each car are estimates from 1994 or 1996 for each car.
An extra car (or more?) can be unlocked through progress in the game.
--- The Need for Speed: Tracks ---The game features a total of eight venues. Three of which, feature three stages of racing. The other five are straight up circuit races. All tracks can be raced in Midday conditions. You can race these courses in the morning or in the evening depending on the venue. A bonus track can be unlocked. Here are the eight courses you race on:
• Rusty Springs
• Autumn Valley
• Burnt Siena
• Vertigo Ridge
Each track will be explained further in this section.
These races can be set in two different times of day depending on the track. Each track is run in the Midday by default, but can be run in the Morning or Evening depending on the venue. The three point-to-point courses feature three segments of racing. The other five are closed-circuit tracks. With the exception of one, every track can be raced on for two laps, four laps, or eight laps. Only Rusty Springs is raced on for four laps, eight laps, or sixteen laps.
Tournament play restricts each track to a certain class of vehicle for each. City and Rusty Springs are the only C-Class tracks. You will use the game's weakest cars on some of the easiest courses with C-Class. Coastal, Autumn Valley, and Burnt Siena are all venues restricted to the B-Class. This is where the fairly quick and fairly powerful cars do battle. The A-Class features the game's two powerful cars doing battle at Alpine, Vertigo Ridge, and Transtopolis.
Here is an individual look at each track:
City.This venue that takes place on city highways. This is the easiest of the three point-to-point races. The entire course gets tougher the deeper into the city you go. The second and (especially) third legs of this course will really test you with decisive corners abound. This track is 16 miles long in total. Segment 1 is 5.2 miles long, Segment 2 is 4.7 miles long, and Segment 3 is the longest at 6.1 miles. This track can be raced in Midday or in the Morning. This track is open for C-Class cars in Tournament play.
Coastal.This venue utilizes a highway near a coastline. To win here, you will need to drive smart. The roads are tougher the further you go along. The turns are at their most difficult when heading into the third leg of this course, which includes a loop around the lighthouse. This track totals 15.2 miles in length. It is 5.2 miles in Segment 1 and 5.0 miles in length for both Segment 2 and Segment 3. You can race this course in the Midday or in the Evening. In Tournament play, this track is for B-Class cars.
Alpine.This venue is distinctively European with its winding and difficult roads. It is almost a death wish to try to blast your way around this course. You can get some big jumps by going fast enough from some of the dips in the road. This track is a tough one no what segment of it you race. Of the long courses, this one is the longest, with a total of 18.1 miles in length. Segment 1 is 5.7 miles long, Segment 2 is 6.4 miles long, and 6.0 miles for Segment 3. This track is restricted to A-Class vehicles in Tournament play.
Rusty Springs Raceway.This venue is an old oval race track in a desert setting. The laps will wind by fast as you explore the depths of this old course. This is no traditional oval. You don't have the luxury of banking in the corners to help you clear corners better. If anything, this is more like a road course that thinks it is an oval. Only Turn 4 should be of concern to you. It is 1.5 miles long. This track can be raced in the Midday or in the Evening. It is a track for C-Class vehicles in Tournament play.
Autumn Valley Speedway.This venue is a proper race track with characteristics of an open road course. This track was the track you raced on in the demo version of "The Need for Speed: SE." It is the only course in the game besides Speedway that is not a track that utilizes city streets or country roads. Try to find the best line and consistently find the best line to win. You can race this track either in the Midday or in the Morning. Three miles and eight turns of racing goodness await you here. This is a B-Class track in Tournament play.
Burnt Siena.This venue utilizes a Western environment complete with an old mine. Believe me when I tell you this- this track is NOT easy! A big reason why is because of the dark mine you must race through in your Odyssey around this course. Go all out when you exit the tunnel heading back to the Start/Finish line. You can race this track in the Midday or in the Evening. This 13-turn track is 3.0 miles long. This course is not easy. This is a B-Class track in Tournament play.
Vertigo Ridge.This venue is a coastal drive in a coastal setting that seems to resemble the northeastern United States. It is a great drive as long as you are not doing more sightseeing than racing. The corners can be tricky, so drive smart. This track can be raced in the Midday or in the Evening, and it is 3.0 miles long. In Tournament play, only A-Class vehicles can race this track.
Transtopolis.This venue is an urban nightmare utilizing both an industrial sector and the city's airport. If you want the ultimate test, try this course. Victory will be tough to come by considering the many decisive turns and corners that make this course nightmarish. Lots of perilous turns await you here. Only the truly adept can find victory here. This 16-turn nightmare of a track can be raced in the Midday or in the Evening. Get ready for the most treacherous three miles of your life here. Only thing more nightmarish is that this is a track for A-Class cars in Tournament play.
A hidden track called "Lost Vegas" can be unlocked. I haven't unlocked this myself, so I'll leave it up to you to unlock and learn more about. This track looks like a high-speed thrill ride based on a video I seen for this track. It's three miles long.
--- Overall Review of The Need for Speed ---It is strange to believe that for as many people who know today's Need for Speed, not many realize the roots of NFS. It has gone from a racing game series about some of the fastest and most exclusive sports cars to a game seemingly focused on Hollywood-style theatrics and intense racing. It's really a great shame that not as many people know of this title.
Why should you care about this game? If you are ANY kind of Need for Speed fan, you should play this game to at least see how the series started out. The series did NOT start with "Need for Speed: Underground." This was Need for Speed before the re-imagination of the franchise from casual racing game to casual racing game with Hollywood action and/or illegal street racing. More importantly, this was a racing game that profiled all cars extensively and professionally. The fact you could learn more about each car (and all cars are real) gave you a sense that you can not only enjoy racing these cars, but if you had the money, you could actually buy these cars in real life. Considering this game was made in 1994 with the original and 1996 with the Special Edition, all eight of the featured cars can probably be found on various used car dealer websites.
I'm sorry- the original appeal of the Need for Speed franchise died after "Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed" (because I've never played "Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2" (long story)). Things were transitioning from fun racing to Hollywood theatrics starting with "Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit." That game was still fun. "NFS: High Stakes" extended the Hollywood thrills. It was "Need for Speed: Underground" that really began the different vision of the series long before the Hot Pursuit games came along. But when it comes to a proper link between cars and their real-life counterparts and establishing that proper connection between the two, few games could match what "The Need for Speed" could do. It would be near impossible to feature every car in most modern racing games with the same level of detail on every car in modern racing games, but the insight provided in The Need for Speed is incredible both for its time and for racing games in general.
Video Preview.This is a video preview of the game I just discussed in this blog post:
You like? The insight on cars in this game is provided by Road and Track magazine. To learn more about Road and Track magazine, visit their website at the official Road and Track magazine website at www.roadandtrack.com.
I have mostly discussed this game mostly on the basis of "The Need for Speed: Special Edition" for Win95/Win98. However, it is also playable in DOS. You will need DOSBox for this game if you have a modern (Windows XP or later) and want to play this classic game. You can buy this game on Amazon:
If you don't have DOSBox, you can find a link to DOSBox by reading my DOSBox blog post. Keep up with all things Need for Speed by visiting www.needforspeed.com.
Just so you know, I am planning on reviewing more Need for Speed titles in my blog. So stay tuned for more content from yours truly! Thank you for reading in the meanwhile! :)
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