In this review, we push the needle in the racing game Road & Track Presents – The Need for Speed. We find out how this series debuted on the Playstation.
This game was released in 1996 and would be a port of the game that started one of the more instantly recognizable game series in the racing genre.
The big selling feature of this game is the fact that you get to race in exotic cars that can go upwards of $200,000.
There are a couple of modes of play in the single player mode. The first notable mode is head-to-head mode which pits you against another opponent. This mode allows you to select almost any track in the game, customize the track settings (quick race, normal, or endurance for lapped races) and even the time (morning, midday, night). It also allows you to pick any car in the game both for yourself and your computer opponent.
One unique feature of this mode is found in the segmented races. If you pick a race that has segments instead of laps, you get to race with not only actual traffic on the road, but also police officers. The officers can be evaded for the most part as long as you are driving fast, but do know that it is possible for the police to pull you over. All they have to do is get ahead of you. When you can see your car slowing down for no reason, that’s when you know you’ve been caught. If you get caught, then you’ll get a ticket before being allowed to continue on with the race. If you get caught a second time, you’ll get arrested and the race will be over. For a mode that is so small and contained in only three races, this was actually one of the more interesting modes in the game. With the exception of the cops, it’s basically like Cruis’n USA, really.
While the outcome of these races have no bearing on your overall progress, it does give you the opportunity to get a feel for the track, car, and controls as well as a computer opponent. You can give yourself a major advantage in the process so you can make the game as easy or as hard as you want it to be.
The second mode is single race. Like head to head, you can select track laps, conditions, your car, and even your opponents. The difference is that you can take on a full grid of opponents. Again, the results you get from races in this mode have no baring on your overall progress in the game.
The third mode of note is time trial. This mode allows you to race against the clock which shows the top race time on the track. It even shows you the “split” via invisible checkpoints throughout the track so you can tell if you are running ahead or behind for a vast majority of the race.
The final single player mode is tournament. This mode is the most restrictive, but is also the only mode where you can make any “progress” in the game. You get to choose the track, but what vehicle you get to race is restricted to a small set of cars. For lapped tracks, there’s also a set number of laps as well. If you manage to win any of these races, you’ll get an overlay of a checkered flag on top of the course picture in the track selection. If I’m not mistaken, winning all races mean you get to unlock one additional track. This mode can be particularly challenging.
There are six tracks immediately available. They are split between two different types. The first type is the lapped races which has a start/finish line and a required number of laps to complete the race. The other type is the segmented races which has a start and a finish line. Basically, you have to make it from point “a” to point “b”. If you complete one segment, you get to race the next segment which is basically an entirely different track. Compete all three segments to complete the course. In all but time trial mode, the winner is decided based on cumulative time for all three segments. So, losing a segment doesn’t mean you lose the race, it just means that you have more deficit to work with in the next race. All races start with the standard grid and if you are, overall, in 4th place, you start the next segment in 4th place. You start the races in dead last.
Generally speaking, I found the more difficult courses to be most forgiving in tournament mode. In the Rusty spring track, I found that it was possible to have a flawless race without touching the dirt and still find yourself in 4th place. Meanwhile, in Coastal, I could end up plowing into a guard rail and still finish the race in 2nd without too much hassle.
Generally speaking, this game has great things going for it, but a few things I think need improvement. One thing it has going for it is the amount of content. While it is barely half a dozen tracks, some of these tracks are quite long. Because of this, there is actually plenty to experience in this game.
Another positive is the ability to tweak the course settings in small ways. The customizability of the tracks, however small, did add a bit to the overall gameplay.
In addition, the controls were fairly realistic. This is definitely an added bonus in this game.
The downside is that there is a bit of a lack any sort of progression throughout the game. Almost every car and every track is available from the get-go. The additional track can be unlocked, but the secret car can be unlocked via cheat code only. So, once you’ve played through all the races, the game suddenly has almost nothing else to offer. Because of this, I found the replay value to be suffering a bit in this game.
Another downside of this game is that the difficulty in some of the tournament tracks is quite high. Only after racing for a substantial number of hours on these tracks do you ever find yourself having a hope at even placing top 3 let alone the top spot on some tracks. This can be a bit of a turn off for newer players to the game.
One complaint I heard about this game is that the opponents are too immune to crashes. This actually depends on the crash. Sometimes, a collision barely registers while others can go so far as to flipping the opponent. So, I found that it depends on the crash and not a huge factor.
So, this game does have strengths and weaknesses, but I can definitely see the potential in this game after some tweaking.
Graphically speaking, this game is fairly decent for it’s time. Unfortunately, a lot of the quality is lost once you change the time of day. Once you race in the evening, all the textures look ugly and the textures on the cars just look like a mess. As long as you stick to midday racing, the graphics are actually quite decent. What would have been great to see in this game is some special effects such as dust clouds, sparks, and lights. Unfortunately, the special effects are just too few and far between. The insides of the cars were not bad.
The audio was pretty good. The sound effects were pretty decent. The voice talent was pretty good. Some of the music found in this game was actually bright spot for me in this game. One memorable track was the bizarrely labelled “Aaeeyyaaeeyyaa” which worked quite well in this game. The other music was pretty decent too.
Overall, this game has its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include some of the more well realized tracks, the small amounts of customization, and even some of the music. The weaknesses include the almost complete lack of unlockable content, the graphics on any condition other that midday, the lack of special effects, and the difficulty of the championship mode. While I can see a sequel of this game being made that is great, I don’t see this game as being that game that makes me say it’s fantastic. So, great potential, but it’s not there yet in this iteration.
Furthest point in game: Beat City in championship and finished anywhere between 2nd and 4th on the other tracks.
General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 6/10
Overall rating: 66%