As its name implies, Hot Pursuit II largely focuses on the art of outrunning the law. Actually, Hot Pursuit II is like two games in one. Unlike other racing games, this one has two equally large championship modes, only one of which involves the police. Called “hot pursuit,” this career mode is composed of 33 individual racing events that force you to beat a number of opponents, while contending withthe police, through a handful of different race types. In contrast, World Championship mode is laid out in a branching manner, and in this mode, you’re required to successfully finish one race before unlocking the next. As you’d expect, your opponents will get tougher, your goals harder to achieve, andthe police less forgiving as you progress through this tree. The police will come after you if you break the speed limit, and since you must cross the finish line before your opponents do, you’ll be breaking that limit constantly. At first, the cops will just send a couple of Crown Victorias after you, but if you refuse to pull over, they’ll pull out all the stops to bust you. Much like in Grand Theft Auto III, the number of cops that are thrown at you is measured by the number of stars in the center of the screen. When this meter is full,the police will place barricades and spike strips on the roads, they’ll chase you with faster cars, and they’ll even call in a helicopter that drops, of all things, explosive barrels in front of you. Ifthe police manage to pull you over just once in a given race (you get three strikes in the PS2 version), you’ll have to start all over.
However, that sounds more foreboding than it really is. Hot Pursuit II starts off relatively easy: You’ll be driving “low-end” cars like the Lotus Elise and Opel Speedster, as will your competition, and the cops will go easy on you for the most part. As you work your way through the 33 missions, the competition will gradually get stiffer, but never to the point of being frustrating. The other cars are ruthless–they’ll take every opportunity to give your rear bumper a not-so-friendly tap, though they themselves are by no means perfect. You’ll often see other racers plow into oncoming traffic or miscalculate a turn and ricochet off a wall or guardrail. You’ll do that too, especially with some of the faster cars. While the physics in the game are by no means realistic, the cars’ performances are still reflective of their real-world counterparts, although in a much exaggerated manner. The Ferrari F50, for instance, has a loose back end, making it harder to control around corners than the tamer BMW M5. Still, you can pretty much go through every race without ever taking your thumb off the gas button, though judicious use of your hand brake makes cornering a lot easier.
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