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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Electronic Arts

Ups: Several great game modes; nice graphics; cool edutainment slant. 

Downs:  Just a bunch of different Porsches; no vehicle customization.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

1-01.jpg (4298 bytes)The title pretty much says it all—this game is a new Need For Speed installment, and it features the Porsche license. As with any game this specific (I hesitate to use the word "gimmicky" because it honestly is a deep and enjoyable experience), the narrow subject material comes with its share of both positives and negatives. On the obvious negative side, if you don’t happen to be a huge Porsche fan, you will have to force yourself a little bit to care much about the subtle differences in the various Porsche lines. For the first few days of play, I was really hard pressed to see that every 911 isn’t just a 911, but a fairly unique version of that model. Still, ultimately the cars just weren’t different enough to satisfy me. On the positive side, the depth of the game and the fact that it does almost make a single license enjoyable, go a long way to indicating how well-designed the game is.

2-01.jpg (3585 bytes)As good as it is, this game isn’t Need For Speed: High Stakes. The frantic, occasionally insane speed and arcade sensibility really aren’t there in this version, and the Pursuit mode isn’t anywhere near as fun as it was last time. Part of this game’s comparatively slow feel is due to one of its major modes, the Evolution mode, in which you play through three eras of Porsche racing, starting with the first 956 to recent GT cars. Although the rockabilly music is pretty enjoyable (and strange to find in a racing game) the cars of the first few decades are pretty darned slow. At first it will just irritate you that you can’t even top 100 mph, but soon it will dawn on you that you are also spending an incredible amount of time on every race because it takes you so long to get around the track. Still, by the time you have completed your interactive tutorial on the history of Porsche racing, you do come out knowing an awful lot about the subject. Besides the actual hands-on experience of using the cars, the mode also comes equipped with some fairly decent story elements.

3-01.jpg (2951 bytes)As far as the sort of car modification that racing fans have become accustomed to (thanks primarily to a little game called Gran Turismo), Porsche Unleashed is fairly inflexible. Most of your hardware changes come through the purchase of new cars, rather than the modification of old ones—which is too bad because the old ones become pretty worthless as the game advances, and since (for some reason) they don’t appreciate in value as time goes on, you just end up with a bunch of cool cars to admire from a distance. Speaking of value though, your cars do go down in resale worth through use and abuse. At the end of every race, your car’s vital statistics will more than likely have decreased, necessitating costly repairs. While this does add a lot to the challenge of the game, it can occasionally be an enormous pain in the ass if you are having a hard time with a particular track, and bankrupting yourself just to get your car in shape to go back out there and lose again. I recommend quitting the race every time it looks like you are about to lose, but of course, only if your fiscal resources are particularly tight.

4-01.jpg (4169 bytes)This is the first game I’ve ever played where the training mode was actually more fun than the game itself. Factory Driver puts you in the position of, well, a driver for the Porsche factory. Through 12 different assignments ranging from pretty easy to aggravatingly difficult, you learn how to handle a range of Porsches as effectively as possible. Early levels have you simply navigating slalom courses and running time trials, while later tests have you fulfilling story-oriented objectives such as delivering cars to clients on time, and so on. The tests in this game are nowhere near as demanding (or extensive) as those in Gran Turismo 2, but for some reason they’re just a hell of a lot of fun to play. I think the crisp graphics, the responsive handling, and the clever level design have a lot to do with it, but maybe I just like to take tests. I don’t know. Anyway, the Factory Driver mode is a fully fledged game of its own, and for whatever reason has a lot of replay value.

5-01.jpg (3046 bytes)The Pursuit mode is basically the same as in the past, except that it’s inexplicably boring. The cop has the decided advantage, as he only has to tap his opponent in order to win. A slow Porsche has absolutely no chance. Matchup problems also interfere to some extent with the other Versus modes, but the major problems in that areas are the old ones of mediocrity. There aren’t any huge clipping problems, or too much pop in. There aren’t enormous collision detection issues. There aren’t major flaws in the tracks. It’s just, for some reason, totally unfun to play this game against someone, and not much more fun to play it against three other people, although a four player option is certainly welcome.

6-01.jpg (3357 bytes)Basically, if you like racing games at all, and the Need For Speed series in particular, you will find this game enjoyable enough. It won’t change your life; it won’t make you a better person; but it will give you a number of hours of really solid and enjoyable gameplay. The game will occasionally frustrate and/or irritate you, but only in the way that most racing games do. With a long wait ahead of us for the PS2 set of racers, as well as the wait for the next anticipated PSX titles, Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed is a pretty good stop gap piece of gameplay. While I don’t highly highly recommend it, I solemnly attest that it is an entertaining enough game to make you happy, and only suffers from some minor problems or redundancy.

--Brandon Hall