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  • Road & Track Presents: The Need For Speed Special Edition,

  • or just NFSSE because who has time to say words!

  • As much as I adore and appreciate the original 3DO game from 1994, NFSSE from 1996 for the

  • PC holds an irreplaceably special spot in my mind.

  • It was not only the first retail PC game I bought completely on my own at eleven years

  • old, but it was my first CD-ROM game period.

  • And I didn’t even have a computer that could play it yet, I was just that excited.

  • At the time all I had was this Packard Bell Legend 486, with a 66MHz 486 CPU, 4 megs of

  • RAM, a couple floppy drives, and no sound beyond the internal PC speaker.

  • But dang it, I knew one day we would have to get a new PC with a CD-ROM drive.

  • And one of the biggest reasons I wanted one was for games like The Need For Speed SE,

  • which I lusted after every time I went to the local Software Etc store.

  • So I just jumped the gun and bought it when this cheaper CD-ROM Classics re-release showed

  • up in spring of 1997.

  • I’d stare at the back of the box over and over, imagining what it’d be like to play.

  • I’d stare at the disc emblazoned with my name in Sharpie ink and wonder how cool it’d

  • be to plop it into a CD drive.

  • Finally, for Christmas of 1997, this brand new computer showed up under the tree and

  • augh, the excitement!

  • Say hello to the Acer Aspire model 1280, with a 233MHz AMD-K6, 32 megs of RAM, and most

  • exciting to me: a 24x CD-ROM drive.

  • And naturally, the first thing I installed that Christmas afternoon?

  • The Need For Speed Special Edition.

  • I’d had it for months just sitting there in my closet, waiting to be installed.

  • And dude, the first time seeing this sound and video test brought tears to my eyes...

  • *tear-inducing sounds play*

  • But beyond regurgitating some happy, nostalgic memories, I want to explore NFSSE in a way

  • I haven’t done before on LGR.

  • While I covered the original game and its various spin-offs years ago, I don’t feel

  • that I provided SE the spotlight it deserves.

  • And let’s be honest, the video quality left a bit to be desired...

  • So I’m ready to give a proper look at The Need For Speed Special Edition for DOS and

  • Windows PCs, developed by the Pioneer Productions team within EA Canada in 1996.

  • There are six things were gonna touch on that I find important for evaluating NFS games,

  • and really racing games in general: vehicles, locations, visuals, sound, driving, and community.

  • What these entail can change with each game, but overall I think these categories bring

  • together what I feel makes each title in the series stand out -- for better or worse.

  • Let’s start with the vehicles, which in the case of NFSSE is a

  • goldmine of mid-90s greatness.

  • Eight purebred exotics,” states the back of the box, with each of them only being available

  • in one color: the black Lamborghini Diablo VT, the polo green Corvette ZR-1, the dark teal Porsche

  • 911 Carrera, Rosso Corsa Ferrari 512TR, silver Acura NSX, yellow Mazda RX-7, red Toyota Supra

  • Turbo, and the entire reason I bought this: the blue Dodge Viper RT/10.

  • I’ve always been a bit of a car nut, but as a kid my whole automotive world revolved

  • around the Viper.

  • And The Need For Speed was the only game at the time that had a Viper in there officially,

  • so it was a must-have.

  • Plus, being a tie-in to Road & Track magazine meant they included interactive showcases

  • for the Viper and every other car.

  • It wasn’t the first game to do this, with 1992’s Car & Driver being another magazine-based

  • PC game that proudly displayed detailed car stats, but NFSSE was

  • certainly the more technically impressive example.

  • They went all out with the multimedia aspect, including voiced descriptions of each car’s

  • specs and history, as well as their own radical music videos.

  • *radical music videos play*

  • *still playing, still radical*

  • And finally, if you happened to win in Tournament Mode you unlocked the fictional Warrior PTO

  • E/2, a 240 MPH bonus car that was new to these later releases of The Need For Speed.

  • It’s jet-powered and purple and absurd and I love it.

  • But what are the cars without somewhere to drive them, and thankfully NFSSE includes

  • a pleasant variety.

  • Starting off the locales are City, Coastal, and Alpine: three open-road tracks divided

  • up into three segments each.

  • *engine revving and tires screeching*

  • Each one provides a point-to-point race and the best two out of three

  • wins the overall course.

  • These were always my favorite tracks in the game, mainly because they included traffic

  • and police vehicles to spice things up.

  • Granted, the police chases were nothing too involved, it’s as simple asif they get

  • past you, youre forced to slow down.”

  • Still, getting ticketed, arrested, and seeing that FMV sequence

  • was more than exciting enough at the time.

  • Cop: "You're just cryin' out for some rehabilitation, aren't you?"

  • *rehabilitation noises commence alongside rock music*

  • Oh yeah, and that Planet of the Apes reference at the end of Coastal 3, that excited me too

  • since I’d only just discovered those movies back then.

  • But while I played those three segments over and over, the bulk of the game’s tracks

  • are closed race courses: Rusty Springs, Autumn Valley, and Vertigo Ridge make a return from

  • the non-SE DOS release, and Burnt Sienna and Transtropolis are new to the special edition.

  • You could also change the time of day settings before playing, although it doesn’t do much

  • beyond apply a filter on top of the gameplay that doesn’t look very appealing in my opinion,

  • especially if you race in the cockpit view where it really clashes.

  • And yeah, I’m not a huge fan of circuit racing, in this or any other racer where you

  • also have the option to race through traffic.

  • I don’t know, it’s just that boyhood fantasy of being able to drive an exotic car on the

  • wrong side of the road and skirt danger that appeals to me.

  • At least the circuits all look distinct here, with environments and layouts that stand out

  • more than the modern day tradition of recreating true-to-life raceways

  • that all kinda blend together in my mind.

  • Theyre also charmingly mid-90s, with a mix of 2D and 3D elements that really tickle

  • my fancy at the moment.

  • Heck, you can’t even turn around and drive the other way due to the limitations of the

  • engine, itll just show an overhead view of the front of your car.

  • And then once again, if you beat the tournament mode you unlock a bonus track: Lost Vegas.

  • This was absolutely a favorite of mine, especially paired with the Warrior car.

  • Not only does it look nothing like the other tracks in the game, but its design is absolutely

  • absurd with dangerously high embankments and jumps that have no place in reality.

  • But enough about racetracks, how about that soundtrack?

  • *NFSSE rock soundtrack plays*

  • While the original 3DO game lacked music while racing, NFSSE more than made up for it by

  • including both a techno and a rock soundtrack you could choose between in the options menu.

  • These were composed by Jeff van Dyck and Saki Kaskas, who were in a band called The Heavy

  • Lounge at the time, which apparently mixed prog rock with jazz, funk, and metal.

  • And it shows in the soundtrack here, with a unique blend of styles going on with each

  • song, all of which only improve the racing.

  • The rock tracks especially stand out to me, which were all existing songs that

  • Kaskas recorded years earlier for a demo tape he described aspretty cheesy stuff.”

  • Well hey bring it on, I love me some cheese...

  • *gloriously cheesy metal soundtrack plays*

  • However, I’m truly sad to say that Mr. Kaskas passed away

  • in late 2016 at just 45 years old.

  • It bums me out, the guy was prolific and talented and I always enjoyed his work, not just here

  • but on the next four NFS titles and dozens of other games.

  • It wasn’t just music either, he also did a bunch of sound design later on too.

  • Not on SE mind you, even though the sound design is on-point here.

  • Each car has its own separate sounds for engine, horn, and even the gear-shifting.

  • That kind of attention to detail was not the norm at the time.

  • *cave ambience plays, followed by car sounds and waterfall noises*

  • And on top of that, I always found the overall sound selection to be quite enjoyable, from

  • the peaceful spray of waterfalls to the crunchy mangling of sheet metal when you crashed.

  • *sheet metal twisting and car crashing noises*

  • The driving also pleased me to no end, specifically due to the physics and handling models implemented.

  • Granted, it wasn’t as grounded in reality as the 3DO original, or even the non-special

  • edition of NFS for DOS.

  • But I didn’t know that back then and it still had a leg up on any other racer I’d

  • experienced to that point.

  • Whether played from an external camera or inside with a view of the dashboard, each

  • car felt like its own beast to be tamed.

  • Although I always found it odd that they removed the company and

  • model branding from the steering wheels.

  • Maybe there’s a technical reason for that but it just looked weird.

  • Still, the fact that these photographed interiors looks so believable and multiple gauges moved

  • made it feel awesomely realistic.

  • Well, realistic to an 11-year-old who’d never driven before could imagine, at least.

  • And even though I was driving using an analog flight stick back then, it truly felt like

  • a simulation rather than the more arcade-y fare I was used to at the time.

  • That is what made The Need For Speed SE stand out to me: cars felt heavy, yet nimble, precise,

  • yet on the verge of spinning out if you apply too much power.

  • Each one had their own characteristics you could feel by driving, like the Diablo’s

  • all-wheel-drive traction and the 911’s weighty read end sliding around corners.

  • And of course, there were the crashes, ahh the crashes.

  • Half the time my friends and I would just play the game to see who could wreck the most

  • spectacularly, ramming traffic head-on and flipping end over end.

  • Extra points to whoever could take advantage of the boxy car physics

  • and land a crash balanced on the front end.

  • We’d especially like to target specific cars and pretend they were people in real

  • life we didn’t like, haha.

  • Like, “oh man, that looks like so-and-so’s car, WRECKEM!”

  • In the days before GTA, this was our adolescent catharsis.

  • We also loved trying to knock down the scenery.

  • Not just road signs, but pretty much everything on the side of the road could be knocked over

  • if you hit it, like these trees holding up the checkpoint banners.

  • NFSSE also had a robust replay editor and highlight reel, which was extra handy for

  • reviewing and saving our best crashes to prove they actually happened how they did.

  • And all that was just screwing around in Head To Head Mode.

  • When you wanted more there were Single Race, Time Trial,

  • and Tournament Modes to choose from.

  • Time Trial was boring to me since it was just racing against the clock, Single Race was

  • like Head To Head but with a full pack of opponents, and Tournament Mode was where it

  • presented groups of cars together to race through every track in the game with the goal

  • of accumulating the most points.

  • I think I did this a grand total of once before going back to Head To Head Mode and crashing