Free Roam in the City
The best part about the game would actually be the Explore mode. This is where you get to travel to any part of the city with your ride.
To my surprise, the city was very well-designed, from the city area to the posh hillside properties, right down to the airport, industrial and harbour areas! It’s everything you can find in a city!
In fact, the city is categorized into various zones, It will take you a while to get to those zones, as they’re not stated in the manual. Neither are they on the map.
It’s kind of annoying at the start since you only have a big map but no indication of the small zones within a particular section of the map.
When someone tells you there’s a race going on at a particular zone, for example the Hotel Plaza; it's up to you to find out where it is. If you know the location, you can head directly for it. Otherwise, you will just have to drive around town and wait for the zone notification announcement to appear on screen. It's a good thing that the developer made the zone announcement really obvious.
During the course of the game, you’ll be able to choose sponsors whose requirements suit your racing preferences. These sponsors will approach you (through Rachel) as you gain popularity in the racing scene. Your sponsors will reward you according to a set of terms and conditions.
For example, Sponsor A may offer you $10,000 to win two drifts, one drag and three URL races with a further reward of $2,000 per race won while Sponsor B may give you $9,000 if you take them up on their challenge to win three drag, two URLs and one circuit with a further reward of $3,000 per race won.
To make the races more interesting, they are scattered all over the map. You can choose to either participate in various events through the menu or you can drive your ride to the location of the race. Some race events are hidden but with a sharp eye and a bit of luck, you’ll bump into quite a few of these races.
One enhancement in NFSU2 is the ability to drift your car in town. You can now drift the car in town, the same way you perform a drift on drift tracks. In the original NFSU, it was impossible to do that when you’re on the circuit.
What’s even better (or worse, for some) is that NFUS2 now requires you to travel to the appropriate shops to get the upgrades you want. For example, performance upgrades are only available at performance upgrade shops. This is more realistic (or tiresome for some) than the original NFSU, where all your upgrades are done with a few mouse-clicks.
So, every time you buy a new car, be prepared to travel quite a bit for your overall upgrade. To make matters more complicated, these shops are not shown on the map. You’ll need to discover them on your own.
Don't worry though. Rachel’s SMS will give you hints on where the shops are. Once you’ve discovered a shop, it will be marked on your map.
In addition, the developers were thoughtful enough to place more than one shop of each type in various zones. Everytime you cruise through a new section, you will discover more shops. This is very convenient, since you won’t need to travel all the way up north just to do some modifications on your car, if you can find one that's much closer.
Are these shops important? Yes, they are. Each new shop discovered will have a new upgrade that you might need to further enhance your car.
SMS? Yep, you read it right. Rachel and a bunch of your friends as well as opponents actually communicate with you via SMS!
Nahhh, don’t worry. You won’t be establishing any communications with them. They contact you. You can’t contact them.
Explore mode is also the mode where you initiate Outrun races. Outrun races start immediately after initiation, which means there are no menu or loading screens. Not even a countdown to start a race. There is no ending time or finish line for these races. It ends when one of the racers lead by 300 meters.
There's also the same "Time Trial" we saw in NFSU. However, unlike NFSU, where "Time Trial" usually rewards you a unique upgrade, NFSU2's Time Trials usually rewards you with just DVD/Magazine covers.
When given the chance to appear on a magazine cover, you will get to decide how you want to publish your car on the magazine cover.
You will be given a set of camera angles to choose from. You will also be able to drive your car to any part of the city to get the background that you think is best. You will also get to show-off the upgraded parts of your car.
It's good that all this can be done according to your whims and fancy. It doesn't matter whether you decide on the location or camera angles first as the session will only conclude once you've confirmed that the ONE shot is THE shot you want.