Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 has some great driving action, and a nice selection of tunes to drive fast to. As with most Electronic Arts (EA) Games, the music in the game is encoded so that it cannot be played without being converted to a recognised format. This is quite obviously to protect the songs, most of which are commercial-quality tracks.
Luckily we can use Game Audio Player, a useful tool in converting almost all EA Games music formats, to convert the 23 modified ASF music tracks found in NFSHP2 into something you can listen to on your favorite software audio player or CD player.
Start up Game Audio Player (GAP) and you'll see a somewhat simple interface. This belies the tricky task of getting the music files recognised and eventually converted. Follow the steps below to do just that:
1. First thing we need to do is set up some key GAP Options. Click the Options button (next to the button with the "i" on it). Click on the Playlist tab and under Playlist type, select the first option "Fixed-size dialog" to make things easier to follow. Next click on the Saving tab and select the Custom option. Click the Browse button and select the directory where you want the output files to be saved. Under the Multiconverting WAV Format, select PCM. This format will only be used if you "multiconvert" (i.e. convert 2 or more files together). Click OK when done.
2. On the main GAP screen, click the red document icon - this will bring up the Playlist dialog box. Click the Scan Directory button, and point GAP to the music directory for NFSHP2 - typically C:\Program Files\EA GAMES\NFSHP2\audio\music.
3. Once GAP has scanned in the 23 music tracks (with titles shown as "unknown") you can play a file by highlighting it and pressing Play. Click the Save List button and save this playlist as NFSHP2, that way you can load it up anytime you start up GAP again without having to rescan the files.
4. To convert a file, in the Playlist window select the file by highlighting it and press the Convert File(s) button. Note if you try to convert multiple files at once, you may get an error. Select the directory where you want the output saved, and select the output format and compression type. Note again that for WAV output, I recommend PCM (not MP3 or other) compression for best quality results, especially for burning to CD later on. The MP3 compression offered by GAP does not seem to be of a sufficiently good quality, so if you wish, convert the WAV output file to MP3 later using one of the other audio conversion programs in this guide.
You now have all the NFSHP2 tracks ready for enjoyment away from the game.
NBA Live 2003
Just like NFSHP2, NBA Live 2003 has a selection of great tracks which suit the game down to the ground. It turns out that it's actually very tricky if you want to extract these tracks and listen to them away from the game. I go through two methods below with differing results.
NBA Live 2003 has 32 music files found in the music directory of the game. There are several intro, tunnel and victory tracks, but the actual game music is in two sets of 12 xmsong and xsong files. As usual, these files cannot be played using a normal software audio player because they're encoded in the proprietary EA Games format.
I tried using the Game Audio Player method detailed in the NFSHP2 example above, but nothing seemed to work. GAP always crashed when I either tried to listen to or convert the song files. It seems the af_eacs.dll (EA Audio) plugin for GAP is not new enough to deal with this most recent of EA games.
So I looked around and eventually discovered a small DOS-based utility called Sndview 0.42 (see Tools section for download link) originally designed for the EA Games NHL series, which will extract the music from NBA Live 2003. The procedure to do so is detailed below:
1. First you need to copy the Sndview.exe file into the same directory as the music files we're going to convert (typically C:\Program Files\EA SPORTS\NBA Live 2003\audio\music). This makes things a lot easier.
2. Now open up an MS-DOS Prompt, as sndview.exe will not run outside of a DOS prompt. Isn't nostalgia wonderful? I bet the younger ones among you don't even know all the DOS commands. DOS is making a comeback baby! Ahem...anyway, to open up a DOS prompt, go to Start>Run and type "CMD" without the quotes.
3. Use the CD command to change directories to where Sndview and the music files reside. For example, type the following (including the quotes):
CD "C:\Program Files\EA SPORTS\NBA Live 2003\audio\music"
If your directory path to the music files is different, substitute it in place of what's in the quotes above.
4. Now, the xsong.asf files will not convert into anything but static, so you can only convert the xmsong.asf files, of which there are 12. For example, to convert xmsong3.asf into a WAV file, type:
at the prompt, and xmsong3.wav will be created in the same directory. Repeat the procedure for the other xmsong.asf tracks as desired.
You can now play these converted WAV files using a normal software audio player like Winamp or Windows Media Player. Note unfortunately that they are converted as mono, not stereo tracks. This is one of the problems with the newest EA Games music formats. Quite obviously the xsong.asf files provide additional information for the corresponding xmsong.asf files to be played in stereo, but as yet I haven't found a decoder/converter which can read them and hence create the right output.
There is one more way in which you can get high quality stereo music from NBA Live 2003. Sadly it is only possible for those with Creative SoundBlaster Live and Audigy series cards, as it uses the Creative Recorder utility which only works with these cards. If you have one of these soundcards but can't find Creative Recorder, firstly look for it on your system using the Windows Search function. The file you're looking to run is CTRec.exe. If you still can't find it, install it from the software CD you received with your sound card. If you can't find your CD, or you have an older version, the link to download the latest Liveware package which includes Creative Recorder is in the Tools section above.
Now to record the music from NBA Live 2003 in all its glory, follow these steps:
1. Start Creative Recorder, and set the Record From field to "What U Hear". When you press the record button the recorder will now record any sounds or music on your system. This may be from any source, such as a DVD, CD, game music, sound effects etc. Literally whatever you hear from your PC speakers will also be recorded by Recorder.
2. Go to the Settings menu (press ALT-SPACEBAR and select Settings). For the Playback and Recording devices select your primary sound card. For the Quality setting pick something suitable, again I recommend 44100Hz 16 Bit Stereo as a minimum.
3. Close any desktop items which may make a background noise, then when you're ready press the Rec button on Recorder. It will now begin recording all sounds.
4. Start NBA Live 2003, and when you get to the main menu screen, click one of the buttons (such as Options or Game Modes). This will stop the game from going into "Demo" mode. Now leave your computer for a good hour or more and the game will play through all the music tracks, and they'll all be captured by Recorder in CD quality WAV format. When you finally exit NBA Live 2003, click on Recorder's Stop button and enter a filename for the new WAV file. The file will now be saved in the Recordings directory under where Recorder sits (e.g. C:\Program Files\Creative\SBAudigy\Recorder\Recordings)
5. To extract the individual tracks manually from this large WAV file, you'll need to open the file in a utility like Creative WaveStudio or Nero Wave Editor. Then patiently cut and paste each individual track to a separate file, saving each as WAV PCM 44.1Khz 16 bit Stereo to ensure good quality audio.
Ok so the above method is a lot more time-consuming, but it's absolutely guaranteed to work, and not just with NBA Live 2003, but with any game. Hey, if it works don't knock it...nobody said this would be easy!
At the moment I'm not aware of any other utilities which record every sound like Creative Recorder does in "What U Hear" mode. If anyone knows of one, let me know and I'll include it here for those without Creative sound cards.
Note: A reader has informed me of a program called Total Recorder which seems to be able to do what Creative Recorder can do for all sound cards. Total Recorder is 1.0MB, however it is not free and the evaluation version will only record 40 seconds of audio. Further feedback from readers has also led me to this page of Sound Recording Software links. There are various types here, and although I haven't tried them personally, give them a try if you don't have a Creative sound card (or don't want to use Creative Recorder). Thanks again to those who've emailed me with about this, in particular Pipi Filipi and Brian Luttrull.