You can access the In-Game settings by selecting Options on the startup menu, or by pressing ESC during a race. I cover these options in detail below.
A couple of things to note are that to measure your framerate in FPS (frames per second), use Fraps, a small free utility which displays your FPS for almost any game/app. Also, if you want to take screenshots in NFSHP2, the usual method of using the PRINT SCREEN key will not work well. Use HyperSnap instead.
Color Depth - This determines how many different colors can be displayed on screen. The two options are 16-bit and 32-bit, with 32-bit only shown if your graphics card supports it. 32-bit color looks the nicest, with 16-bit color showing more color "banding"; that is, the gradation between colors is more apparent. 32-bit color also resolves a lot of problems with flickering and missing textures, however 32-bit color requires a bit more power than 16-bit, so if you need more FPS, switch to 16-bit.
Screen Resolution - This setting determines your screen resolution during racing (but not the menu resolution which is fixed at 800x600). Obviously, the higher the resolution, the more detailed and clearer the game image, but it takes more graphics card and CPU power and hence you will see less frames per second. The highest resolution available in this list of resolutions is 1280x1024, but you can remove this limitation and reach higher resolutions (see Advanced Tweaking section). The resolution alone will have the biggest impact on your framerate.
Car Detail - The further to the right the slider is set, the more details are added to the car models. The higher the level of detail on the cars, the more your FPS will be reduced (depending on how many cars are displayed on screen). You may find the best balance between image quality and performance by setting this to one notch below the maximum (HIGH). Here are the specific effects:
HIGHEST SETTING: High poly car, car lighting, car damage, real-time reflections.
HIGH SETTING: High poly car, car lighting, car damage, pre-rendered reflections.
MID SETTING: High poly car, car lighting, pre-rendered reflections.
LOW SETTING: Low poly car, car lighting (if video card supported), pre-rendered reflections.
LOWEST SETTING: Low poly car, no reflections, car lighting (if video card supported).
Special Effects - The further to the right the slider is set, the more special effects (such as sparks, tire marks on the road, shadows etc.) will be displayed. These details add to the game's atmosphere, but need graphics card and CPU power to draw and hence the more special effects enabled the lower your FPS will be. You may find the best balance between realistic effects and performance by setting this to the middle (MID). Here are the specific effects:
HIGHEST SETTING: Stencil buffered car shadows, high polygon particle effects, atmospheric fogging effect.
HIGH SETTING: High polygon particle effects, static car shadow.
MID SETTING: Low polygon particle effects, static car shadow.
LOW SETTING: No tire skid marks, low polygon particle effects, static car shadow.
LOWEST SETTING: No tire skid marks, no car shadow, no particles.
World Detail - This slider controls how much detail is shown in the tracks and scenery around you. The further to the right, the lower your graphics performance but the richer the scenery. On older graphics cards (such as GeForce2 or below) you may find the best balance between image quality and performance by setting this to one notch below the maximum (HIGH). Here are the specific effects:
HIGHEST SETTING: High polygon track, anisotropic filtering.
HIGH SETTING: High polygon track, trilinear filtering.
LOW SETTING: Low polygon track, trilinear filtering.
LOWEST SETTING: Low polygon track, reduced detail track and car textures, trilinear filtering.
Brightness - This setting is fairly straightforward. The further right the slider goes the brighter (washed out) the screen will look.
Audio Mode - There are three choices: Mono, Stereo and D3D/EAX. The performance impact of mono is similar to stereo (there's essentially no difference) so the choice is up to you. Obviously stereo sounds much better than mono, so select Stereo unless you are having serious sound problems. If you have the hardware which supports Direct3D (most sound cards) or EAX (Creative Soundcards) then enabling D3D/EAX sound will greatly improve audio quality, but will result in some reduction in overall system performance. Some people may also experience crackling/distortion of sound in D3D/EAX mode, in which case switch back to Stereo.
Volume Controls - There are five volume controls available which allow you to change the individual volume levels for the Menu and In-Race music, the Engine and Sound Effects (in-race) and the Voices. Adjust to taste, with no impact on performance either way.
HUD - The Heads Up Display (HUD) is the area around the screen that displays information such as your speedometer, relative race ranking, etc. Switching the HUD off may give a tiny performance improvement, but generally the information in the HUD is useful and best kept displayed.
Track Map - If on, this displays an overhead view of the current track on the left side of the screen. It can be useful in predicting when turns are coming up, finding shortcuts and seeing where opponents are. Switching it off may give a slight increase in FPS.
Rearview Mirror - Setting this to on will show a virtual rearview mirror that allows you to see directly behind you. It can be quite useful, but it will reduce overall FPS. A better alternative is to use the "B" key (default Behindview key) to glimpse behind you every once in a while.
Speedometer - Set to either Miles Per Hour (MPH) or Kilometres Per Hour (KPH), has no impact on performance.
Jump Camera - If set on, whenever your car clears the ground for more than a second you will see an outside slow motion view of the "jump". This has no effect on performance, however it can be distracting because of the way in which it switches views.
360 Camera - Displays a 360 view of your vehicle during pauses if enabled. Has no effect on performance, similar to Jump Camera above.
Auto Save - If enabled, automatically saves your results at the end of every race to your driver profile. You may want to disabled this option if you want to only save your best results.
This screen allows you to manage driver profiles. Note that sometimes if you make changes to some of the other options (Audio, Graphics etc.) they may not be saved for your driver unless you enter this screen and manually select "Update Driver Profile".
Allows you to configure your controller layout and which keys perform which functions. Note that for detailed instructions on setting up different controllers, see the en-us_readme.txt file in the \ReadMe directory. There are issues with force feedback and non-standard controllers which may also be resolved with the latest patch (See Patch section).
That covers the basic in-game settings. There are several more settings which are not accessible in game and they're covered in the Advanced Tweaking section coming up next.