Start Your Engines!

by Alan Zisman (c) 1998. First published in Computer Player, May 1998

Need for Speed II SE
Electronic Arts

Test Drive 4
Accolade, Inc.

If you?re unlikely to experience the thrills of driving expensive cars through exotic scenery far faster than any speed limits in real life, you may be prepared to settle for the digitally-simulated version. Along with our test panel of Grade-8 boys, Joey and Kevin, we tested two ways to fulfill this fantasy: Electronic Arts? Need for Speed II SE and Accolade?s Test Drive 4.

The two games offer many similarities. Both offer versions for Windows 95 and Sony PlayStation?we looked at the PC versions. Each offers the user a range of high-end cars, and an international range of scenery. Each presents its best face on systems equipped with 3Dfx video-accelerator add-on cards (about $300), but both will run on systems with more standard video set-ups. While both games claim a Pentium-90 as usable hardware, both benefit from more power. Each costs about $60-70, and installs the Windows 95 DriectX 5.0 add-in if required.

We tested the games on a Pentium-166 with 32 megs of RAM and an ATI Rage-Pro video card (but without the 3Dfx video needed for the best graphics).

Need for Speed II SE is an enhanced version of the earlier Need for Speed II? it adds support for the 3Dfx hardware along with four new cars, for a total of twelve: car names like Ferrari, Jaguar, Mustang, Lotus.  Each car features a different cockpit, and offers different driving characteristics. When you start the game, there are seven tracks, ranging the world from the BC Coast?s Pacific Spirit, to a sultry Meditarraneo, realistic jungle, Mexican desert, or Himalayan mountains. A hidden eighth track appears if you beat the computer players through a Knockout Mode series of races (or by typing HOLLYWOOD at the main screen).

The game offers a range of competition modes, including competing with computer-drivers in Tournament and Knockout Modes, or racing against other players over a null-model serial cable, a modem, or across an IPX network, where up to 8 players can compete at once. As well, the game supports split-screen playing, allowing two players to compete using a single computer. The company offers a downloadable demo on its website (, but note that racing wannabes lacking 3Dfx hardware need to download the demo for the original Need for Speed II version (16 megs?featuring the BC Pacific Spirit location), not the SE-version demo.

On our test system, the game failed to recognize the gamepad, forcing the boys to play it using the keyboard as a controller.

Accolade?s Test Drive 4 requires more hard drive space (a minimum of 120 megs compared to NFS?s 10-80 megs). Its stable of cars includes a mix of current favorites like Corvettes and Jaguars, and classics of the 60s and 70s like a Camaro and a Shelby Cobra?10 cars in all. Unfortunately, no matter which car you pick, you get the same interior and performance. 6 international locations range from Bern in the Swiss Alps to Kyoto, Munich, and San Francisco. Each location features two tracks.

Like NFS2, TD4 offers a variety of racing modes ranging from single races through Challenge, Championship, and Masters Cup. There?s also a straight-out, pedal to the metal mile drag race mode. Multiple players are again supported via null-modem cable, modem, and IPX network, but on a single computer, two players are limited to Duel mode, where they take turns racing on the same track. Again, a demo version, in this case, featuring the Keswick, England locale, is available as a 13 meg download from

Kevin was particularly impressed with Test Drive 4; he liked the mix of new and old cars, and the traffic on the road?he enjoyed being able to run into the other cars or run them off the road. As well, he liked being chased by the police after colliding with the other traffic. Joey was pleased that the speeds felt fast but realistic, but found the graphics ?scratchy??more blocky than in Need for Speed II, which Joey felt had ?wicked? graphics, even without the 3Dfx enhancements.

In picking a favorite, the panel was divided. Kevin found the ability to interact with Test Drive 4?s traffic, pedestrians, and police gave the game a ?bigger fun factor?. Joey, on the other hand, preferred Need for Speed II, citing its superior graph

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan