The game's second career mode is called world championship, and it's structured exactly like hot pursuit in that you have to compete through 33 branching racing events. The difference here is that you won't have to worry about interference from the law--it's just you and the competition. As in hot pursuit, you'll earn a different number of points for getting the gold, silver, or bronze medal, and you can use these points to unlock any car or track that you want, thus making it available to you in the challenge mode.
Hot Pursuit II's physics aren't exactly realistic.
As is to be expected, the cars control in an exaggerated manner compared to their real-world counterparts. It's easy to make the vehicles in the game lose traction, but it's just as easy to get it back by using a little bit of countersteering. It should be noted that Hot Pursuit II lacks the extreme handling setting found in the PS2 version of the game. This exaggerates the handling characteristics of the cars even further and makes for a very visceral racing experience. The PC version also lacks the precise controls of its PlayStation 2 cousin. You'll notice a slight delay between your control inputs and your car's reaction. Additionally, the cars feel floaty, as if they're disconnected from the road--even the light and nimble Lotus Elise will lean over wildly in turns, and heavier cars sway back and forth almost like boats.
Hot Pursuit II gives you four different perspectives to play from--three from the third-person and one from the first--and all of these relay a fair sense of speed, though nowhere near as fast as the PS2 version. The car models also aren't as detailed as those in Hot Pursuit II for the PlayStation 2--they lack the overall polygon count and their lighting isn't as well done, nor do they take any visible signs of damage. What's more, the tracks themselves look a little bit fuzzy, and the textures seem somewhat washed out when compared to the PS2 game. Otherwise, Hot Pursuit II for the PC doesn't look bad at all, especially on the higher resolutions afforded by PC hardware. Scrape a wall, and you'll see bright sparks bounce off your car. Lay into the gas pedal, and you'll leave a pair of thick rubber tracks that will remain on the track surface for the duration of the race. And while you won't see the glare of the sun off the pavement as you would in racing games like F1 2002, the lighting is impressive nonetheless. Water on the track will reflect its surroundings, and localized fog from volcanoes and forest fires is evident throughout the game. However, these effects do come at a price. Hot Pursuit II doesn't run at the same frame rate as its PS2 cousin, and while there's no visible sign of slowdown, the overall frame rate definitely isn't optimal.
Hot Pursuit II's sound is on par with the rest of the game. Each car in the game sounds different from the others, with different engine noises and exhaust notes, though they all seem to be very high pitched and much whinier than you'd expect them to be. The voices for the cops are more subdued than in the PlayStation 2 version, and there's not as much dialogue between police officers and the dispatcher, either. However, the game's soundtrack is very well done. Hot Pursuit II features about a dozen licensed songs that range from the likes of Bush to Uncle Kracker. As eclectic a collection as this is, the songs in the game all have a hard edge to them, and they complement Hot Pursuit II's fast pace nicely. Interestingly, in races that involve cops, the songs that are played in the background are strictly instrumental versions of the originals, so as not to interfere with the chatter of the cops.
It's not as good as the PS2 version, but Hot Pursuit II certainly isn't a bad game.
It's somewhat disappointing and certainly confusing to see such a stark difference between Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II for the PC and the PlayStation 2. The latter game is easily one of the best games in the series, whereas the sluggish controls, floaty cars, and average graphics of the former game make it simply passable. To be clear, Hot Pursuit II for the PC is still a good game with very competent execution of its general gameplay mechanics. In fact, with 66 different missions, a multiplayer mode that features the infamous Need for Speed "pack," and a good selection of licensed cars, Hot Pursuit II is a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in an arcade-style racing game. It's not nearly as impressive as the PlayStation 2 game, but it does mark the return of the Need for Speed series on the PC after a three-year absence, which has to count for something.