The Need for Speed
|The Need for Speed|
|Publisher(s)||Electronic Arts |
Electronic Arts Studios (MS-DOS/Windows versions)
|Composer(s)||Jeff van Dyck, Saki Kaskas|
|Series||Need for Speed|
|Platform(s)||3DO, MS-DOS, Windows, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed is a 1994 racing video game, released on the 3DO and ported to MS-DOS, Windows, PlayStation and Sega Saturn. It is the first installment released in the Need for Speed series. The premise of the game involves racing in sport cars, including several exotic models and Japanese imports.
The game was noted for its realism and audio and video commentaries. Electronic Arts teamed up with automotive magazine Road & Track to match vehicle behavior, including the mimicking of the sounds made by the vehicles' gear control levers. The game also contained precise vehicle data with spoken commentary, several "magazine style" images of each car interior and exterior and short video clips highlighting the vehicles set to music.
The Need For Speed was later released in Japan as Over Drivin', with two versions with Nissan as the sponsor and the lineup of cars changed to popular Nissan models. The PS1 version was released as Over Drivin' Skyline Memorial whilst the Saturn version was released as Over Drivin' GT-R. 
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The game featured both closed circuits and three point-to-point tracks, each divided into three stages. The Saturn and PlayStation versions include an additional three tracks. Traffic vehicles appear in races. Police pursuits are also a key gameplay mechanic, with the player ticketed or arrested if a police car succeeds in catching up with them. Players are arrested if they receive a third police ticket (or a second ticket in the Sega Saturn version). Completing the tournaments (or entering a cheat) unlocks the "rally" mode, where car dynamics are changed to make for a faster 'arcade' experience, as well as the "Warrior PTO E/2", a fictional jet-powered sports car.
Except for the aforementioned Warrior, each car in the game came with detailed specifications, history, audio commentaries and real-life videos, which would also be featured in subsequent games in the series, though this was omitted in later games. A replay feature allowed the player to view a saved race. Multiple camera views, playback speed and video navigation were offered.
There are a total of six courses in the game (three in the 3DO version): City, Coastal, Alpine, Rusty Springs, Autumn Valley and Vertigo. Each is a distinctive environment. City, Coastal and Alpine have three sections each, while the others are circuit races.
There is an extra track in the game, named Lost Vegas, which can be unlocked by winning all of the tracks above in tournament mode. A flag in the bottom right corner of the track's image indicates a victory in the menu to help the player keep track of the progress.
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On June 1995, Atari Corporation made a deal with EA in order to bring select titles from their catalog to the Atari Jaguar CD, with The Need for Speed being among the selected titles, however this version was never released due to the commercial and critical failure of the Atari Jaguar platform.
The Need For Speed was met with positive reviews. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly scored the 3DO version an 8.0 average, with two of them giving the game a 9.0 or higher. They praised the game's realistic graphics and sounds, addictive gameplay, and exceptionally clever use of full motion video. GamePro gave it a rave review as well, commenting that the selection of cars "will leave car buffs drooling" and the realistic graphics and handling of each vehicle "infuse the game with taut realism and fascinating variety." They expressed disappointment over the lack of two-player mode, but felt that the exceptionally challenging enemy AI largely makes up for it. Next Generation reviewed the 3DO version of the game, and stated that "while everything is in place for a truly great game, the unfortunate and total need of speed prevents The Need for Speed from ever being more than a pleasant Sunday drive."
British magazine PC Power gave the Windows version a score of 95%, praising car handling, graphics and overall presentation, but criticizing hardware requirements and sound. Jim Varner of GameSpot gave the game a "Great" rating of 8.3/10 citing "With its marvelous attention to detail, exotic course design, and straightforward gameplay, this game is a true winner. Simply put, The Need for Speed is the next best thing to owning a $200,000 sports car!". The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly applauded the PlayStation version for its fast racing and excellent controls. Air Hendrix argued in GamePro that "With all these improvements, [the PlayStation version] is practically a sequel to the 3DO game, and it plays like one." He made particular mention of the additional courses, the handbrake, the improved displays, and the faster speed of the game. A Next Generation critic likewise found it faster and more responsive than the 3DO version, and held it to be one of the PlayStation's best racing games to date. Other magazines were more critical, with PSM criticising the "obtrusive graphics", and saying that it "isn't an immediately enjoyable game - the idiosyncracies only serve to annoy." Maximum complained that the driving lacks intensity and that cars are too resistant to crashes, though they acknowledged that the graphics are moderately impressive.
Air Hendrix rated the Saturn version as "comparable with - and occasionally better than - the impressive PlayStation version", highlighting the controls in particular as superior to previous versions of the game. He concluded, "The gameplay demands both precision driving and cajones, and although mastery takes time to achieve, Need's ultimately more satisfying than Daytona or Sega Rally." Rob Allsetter of Sega Saturn Magazine, however, said that while The Need for Speed is good on its own terms, it looks dated compared to the two games Air Hendrix referenced. He also disliked the game's elements of realism, arguing that racing games are more fun when they indulge in wild fantasy. A Next Generation critic said it was "Certainly as fast, but not as crisp as the PlayStation version", but nonetheless "A better racer than most."
The game reached number 5 in the UK sales chart.
The Need for Speed was a runner-up for Computer Gaming World's 1995 "Action Game of the Year" award, which ultimately went to Crusader: No Remorse. The editors wrote, "The Need for Speed, Electronic Arts' incredibly fast and enthralling driving game, almost caught the checkered flag. Multiple courses with distinctive feels, brilliant SVGA graphics, and some of the hottest iron on the road made this 3DO conversion a worthy entry into the PC action game arena.""
The Need for Speed: Special Edition
In 1996, an edition of The Need for Speed, The Need for Speed: Special Edition, was released only on PC CD-ROM, containing MS-DOS and Windows 95 versions. It includes two new tracks ("Transtropolis" and "Burnt Sienna") and various enhancements to the game engine. The Windows 95 version supports DirectX 2 and IPX networking.
Special Edition is the last game in the Need for Speed series to support MS-DOS, as subsequent releases for the PC only run on Microsoft Windows 95 or above. It can still be run under 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP and later Windows OSes using DOSBox for the MS-DOS version of the game.
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