A new era: NfS-Series in comparison

From Need for Speed Underground to Hot Pursuit: Graphical Comparison of the NfS-Series

Need for speed is approaching the finishing line: On November 18th EA's racing game will hit the shelves. Nearly each year the fans are presented a new title - not always are they pleased. PC Games Hardware dares look back at the ganeration of NfS Games starting with Underground.

Since one decade EA has been releasing another Need for Speed title each year, beginning with Underground. Consequently, there's always little room for technical and graphical innovation. Furthermore gaming consoles set limits in that field. There have been several developers behind the NfS titles. Black Box Studios was behind Underground, Underground 2, Most Wanted, Carbon, Pro Street and Undercover. But after Undercover got rally bad ratings, EA decided that Shift should be made by Slightly Mad Studios. While they are still working on Shift 2, Burnout Paradise creator Criterion Games is about to finish Hot Pursuit.

From the technical point of view, most titles since Underground have been able to make a good impression. The first part of the NfS-Series excelled at night, the second one had detailed imported cars and good lighting effects. Most Wanted not only brought back the Police into the game, but also raised the bar: Bloom effects at the end of tunnels fill your eyes with tears. Tracks and vehicles are appealing. Carbon was set at night again, but especially the canyon tracks weren't graphically convincing. In Pro Street, the quality gap between cars and tracks was even wider. Undercover marked the all-time low. Even Most Wanted made a better impression.

In Shift, not only the gameplay but also the graphics rehabilitated the series: The engine used an FP16-HDR-pipeline with tone mapping as well as parllax occlusion mapping, soft shadows, ambient occlusion and post effects like depth of field and heat haze. Beside motion blur in fast movement there is additional object motion blur which blurs only certain objects. Nvidia's 3D-vision is also supported. The press liked Shift, especially the race cars and the textures pleased the reviewers. Hot Pursuit will be developed by Criterion Games who will use ther own Chameleon engine which consists of parts of Burnout Paradise and new elements. FP16-HDR and adaptive tone mapping well done, great automobiles and a ludicrous feeling for the speed thanks to motin blur and depth of field on the positive side. Due to deferred lighting there is no kind of edge smoothing integrated in the game. Also, the rather rough shadows are a weak point. On the other hand, tha game will run even on weaker machines.

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Author: Marc Sauter (Oct 11, 2010)

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