It has been 16 years since the first Need for Speed series was launched, and I still have very fond memories playing it on an old DOS PC. I thought it would be fitting with the most recent release, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, to take a Sunday drive through the old neighborhood where we grew up before heading back home to where we are at now.
The Need for Speed
1994, where the engine was first started. Can you believe that this was possibly the only serious attempt in the entire series to create a car simulator? The second being Porsche Unleashed.
The clutch is down, we shift into first gear and the series has begun. Released in 1997 the game was more of an arcade style racer – a style that we still see today in the series.
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit
There is no stopping the momentum now. The series has released, possibly, the best N4S game yet. Following on the success of the police chase concept in the prequels, the start of Hot Pursuit (released in 1998) brought more get-away racing action.
Following on from the success of Hot Pursuit, the summer of 1999 saw the release of another edition to the Need for Speed family. Using the brake pedal is for whimps as you race in a new career mode which allows you to win the losers car – also known as High Stakes.
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed
The series pulled up the handbrake and turned 180 – heading back towards the starting line where it had all began. In an attempt to bring back the driving simulation feel; the year 2000 saw the release of Porsche Unleashed and as you may of guessed, it exclusively catered to the Porsche brand of cars. It is considered to be one of the most realistic ( in the driving sense) of the series.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II
The series had been put on cruise control and what seemed like an annual release was halted. 2002 saw N4S go back and draw upon the success of ‘Hot Pursuit’ – the get-away racing action and arcade feel was back. Visually the game had taken off. Unfortunately, it did not compare to the original ‘Hot Pursuit’ and pursuing the perpetrators became an easy affair.
Need for Speed: Underground
After the release of the movie, The Fast and the Furious, the word on the street was imports and tuning. In 2003 the series was lowered, blinged, and tuned. This was the first games in the series to feature a story, and also introduced new racing modes including drag and drifting.
Need for Speed: Underground II
The kids on the street loved the theme of the first Underground game and the following year (2004) saw a sequel promptly released. It took towards a more open world style game, similar to Grand Theft Auto, and in addition to this it showed off more tuning options and races.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
The next in the series borrowed elements from both Underground and Hot Pursuit in 2005. It brought the open world style racing with tuners and also the element of police chases – though customisation of vehicles was simplified. This release had a lot of eye candy and was a fun arcade style racer.
Need for Speed: Carbon
If you hadn’t had enough of the import cars, the 2006 release made sure you did. The theme was similar to Underground with night time racing only and a similar selection of cars. The story continued on from Most Wanted, but the emphasis was more on racing than evading police. A feature known as ‘auto-sculpt’ allowed players to customise the body kits of cars.
Need for Speed: ProStreet
In 2007 the series made an attempt to head back towards realism to directly compete with other racing games released at the time. The game introduced damage modeling, but unfortunately it was regarded as one of the worst Need for Speed titles in the series – don’t be expecting the title ProStreet to be used again in future releases.
Need for Speed: Undercover
Although released in 2008, Undercover received a longer production time than many of the previous titles in the series – this in part was due to the ProStreet selling so poorly. The formula again returned to police chase arcade tuner racing, in other words Most Wanted II.
Need for Speed: Shift
The series finally drove off the street and hit the tracks. Shift provided some intense racing on many of the worlds famous tracks like the Nurburgring. The game difficulty was considerably a step up and this 2009 release received high praise.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Just like some classic muscle cars, the Hot Pursuit series seems to never grow old. This is the latest release (2010) for the Need for Speed series and we have come a long way. The obvious being visual leaps, car modeling looks amazing in comparison to the the old Hot Pursuit. Surprisingly the driving feels the same though – is this a good a thing or a bad thing?
Need for Speed: Shift II
The next game in the series is set to return back to realism. Possibly attempting more of a driving simulator experience than the arcade style. Due for release in 2011 the game looks incredible from early screen shots.
So there you have it – its been a wild ride from the early beginnings and really gives you a perspective on the advancements in gaming over the years. Be sure to check out our upcoming Gameolio Live episode of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.