This should wrap up my extended "review" of NFSHPLE. Really. Of course, you never know with me.
So, what have I been doing with the game since my last post about it? Playing online with the Autolog system. Without a doubt, playing against other actual people (as opposed to computer racers/cops) makes the game a whole different animal.
Some folks are out to take out anyone and everyone in the race - whether you are on the same "team" or not! The first couple of times I ran across these types, it really threw me for a loop. I though all the cops were supposed to work together to bust the racers. Evidently, some players didn't get that part of the memo.
The Autolog system allows players to find and join friends online or the player can be assigned to a random race with other players who just want to get in there and have at it. Adding new "friends" is easily done by either typing the name a known racer (I knew no one) or by checking out the other players in the lobby while a race is being built. I have many friends in-game now, and those were added from the different events I've taken part in. I generally prefer the "Hot Pursuit" games, though there are also "Interceptor" and "Race" modes as well.
In "Hot Pursuit," players are divided into teams based on the number of players and the Bounty Level of the players. Up to eight people can compete at a time in each race area. The races are further divided by the class of car one chooses. I prefer the "Sports" cars (Porsche Roadster and Dodge Charger SRT8 being my favorites there), but I have also played in "Performance" (with the likes of Dodge Challenger SRT8, etc) and each of the other modes. When the race starts, each player gets to choose his or her car plus paint job (for racers). The cars start out already in motion, and the contest is on. Each "side" gets various weapons (spikes, EMPs, etc) to use against ANY other car on the road. If you are a racer, your goal is to survive to the end of the course. Cops try to keep that from happening. Sometimes, especially when racing with 'friends,' teamwork really comes into play. It is a lot of fun to have folks you've learned to know play along side you (even if they are on the other team).
In "Interceptor," only two people play - one racer and one cop. I think I have done exactly ONE of these. There is no way anyone is going to wait around in the lobby, hoping some other player happens by. So, in my experience, "Interceptor" is best played when a friend is online. Head into the lobby, select "Invite Friends" and find an online partner to play. It is fun, but not as much fun as full-out Hot Pursuit mode.
In "Race" mode, players choose the class of car then join a race. This is flat-out racing - no weapons, no cops. I've done several rounds of pure racing, but I'd rather be involved with a weapon-based duel. In one recent race, I crashed my car and the other racer (yes, just two of us in this particular one) took off. I could not catch up... Until the very end of the race. Literally, at the finish line, the other racer crashed into a passing non-racer and I did the same. Somehow, I managed to flip my car over the finish line and beat the other guy. Wild stuff!
I enjoy racing against other players with similar Bounty Rankings, but my experience shows that Bounty Level has NOTHING to do with how well (or poorly) the other folks play. I've played against some Level 20's that don't quite seem to understand the controls and I've played against some level 2's that had me busted faster than I could even press the Spike Strip button one time! Whew! By the same token, some of the best events I've taken part in have been with just me (at level 15 and higher) against one other person (level 3 or lower). I especially like playing with folks that have only been online less than a week (one of the stats you can see). I like to try and "help" the player learn the ropes. Basically, I let them play with various weapons, tactics, etc. while they try to outrun me or gun me down (depending on whether they are a racer of a cop). The little voice in my head takes on that of Andre the Giant in "The Princess Bride:" - "I just like you to feel you are doing well..."
The biggest issue, as is the case with any online game, is LAG. The game does a very good job of keeping lagging players from messing things up during the race, but this often results in cars that disappear just when you try to ram them or cars that suddenly appear behind you, ramming your car when the map shows nothing. It makes playing very hard. I can't blame other racers, either. Our DSL is so random that sometimes *I* am the one lagging. In fact, during one race, the game popped up a message reading, "You have been booted because of your lag time." (Or something like that). I will say, though, I have had very few games where lag was an issue.
The games are also pretty quick, with each lasting 3-7 minutes at most. My main complaint is the amount of time it takes for the game to move from the "Locked" stage in the lobby to the racing stage. The system gives the lobby a maximum of 60 seconds to get folks into the game. That's not the bad part. The problem is that sometimes it takes 3-5 minutes just to start the countdown. I don't know when ticks behind the scenes, but surely there would be a way to take care of that delay. With the delay in full effect, each race can easily last 20 minutes total, even though the actual RACING part is usually under 5 minutes. The lobby has no way to chat, though. It would be fun to be able to talk to the other players before or after a race. Oh well. A small price to pay for some online racing fun.
Well, if you happen to grab a copy of the game, look me up: DavidInArk. I'm sure I'll be crashing into some random guardrail somewhere!