NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Introduction
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is the sixth in a long line of Need for Speed games which put you behind the wheel of a damn fast car of your choice and let you carve up a variety of scenic and challenging tracks. This latest NFS game has incredible graphics and what I think is a nice balance between arcade and racing simulation gameplay.
That's not to say the game hasn't given a few people problems in the performance department, but perhaps a bit of tweaking and a few links to the right tools might help you enjoy this game a little more. In this guide I go through all the in-game performance settings, and the main tweaks and tips I've uncovered so far, so follow along and let's see if we can't get NFSHP2 performing at maximum speed.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - The Essentials
You might be surprised to know that the biggest performance improvement for NFSHP2 on most systems will come from general system optimization. That means if you suffer from "stuttering" in particular, or graphical glitches, crashes to desktop, freezes and so forth then it's more than 99% likely that it's your system that's at fault and not the game. Trust me...I'm a PC Doctor! The following information is very important for making sure that you get the most out of NFSHP2.
Note: The following system optimization information and links may be out of date. For the latest version of this information see my System Optimization Guide which is always kept up to date.
I highly recommend that if you run Windows XP (Home or Pro), without further ado you jump over to my comprehensive WinXP Tweak Guide and follow it from start to finish. Windows 98/ME users should hit Google and hunt around as unfortunately I don't have a specific guide to refer you to. There are many, many Win98/ME guides around, so take your pick.
Make sure you have the right BIOS settings. The most reliable BIOS guide available is Rojak Pot's Definitive BIOS Guide. If that link is not working, try this one. Note that you can download the whole guide in PDF format if needed. If in doubt, don't mess around with the BIOS as a bad setting there will cause a lot of grief. Set everything to their defaults unless you know better.
The latest device drivers are very important. In particular I'm referring to graphics card, motherboard, and sound card drivers, as well as the latest DirectX. I provide links to commonly used hardware below, but if I haven't covered your specific configuration, in the first instance check your manufacturer's website, and if you have no joy there, try Google.
To obtain the very latest graphics card drivers, check the following driver download pages for nVidia and ATi. I strongly recommend the latest drivers, even if you have an older card, because these drivers usually have bug fixes and stability and compatibility improvements if not a performance boost also.
To obtain the latest drivers for your motherboard, for Intel-based chipset motherboards check the Intel Support Site. For VIA-based chipset motherboards check the VIA Support Site. The VIA 4-in-1s in particular can be a bit confusing, so check our handy VIA Driver Guide/FAQ for all your VIA needs. For nVidia-based chipset motherboards (the nForce), refer to the nVidia drivers page link provided above. Also, make sure to check your motherboard manufacturer's website for any recent BIOS updates and install them as instructed. These may help a great deal, especially if you have an older motherboard with newer components or vice versa.
For sound card drivers, once again the latest is always the best, if only because you can be assured that you have the latest bug fixes and game compatibility incorporated into the drivers. For Creative SoundBlaster sound cards (including the Audigy), check the SoundBlaster Support Site. For Turtle Beach sound cards, check the Turtle Beach Support Site.
Updating other device drivers, such as optical mouse drivers and the like is recommended, but if you're running WinXP you'll find there is basic support for most any current peripheral.
If you find your controller is not supported for NFSHP2 (e.g. you're not getting force feedback on your FF steering wheel), then first try installing your device-specific drivers, and if that fails try the latest patch (see Patch section) which may add support for your device.
Overclocking is of critical relevance to most games. If your system is overclocked, even by a small amount, then please be aware that some games are sensitive to it. If you're experiencing bluescreens (BSODs), crashes to desktop, sudden reboots or frozen screens, then I guarantee that in the majority of cases it is due to a system component being overclocked too far. Even if your system is rock steady in other games/applications, the latest games like NFSHP2 will put a lot of pressure on the system and this will eventually show in the form of a crash. The solution is to reduce your overclock, or even go back to default. As painful as this might be, it will resolve many problems. A PC which crashes during the middle of a game is a lot more annoying than one running slightly slower than you'd like.
Ok, that's the basics. Thanks for bearing with me so far, but it's important to note that if you've followed the above advice, then you are likely to have a problem-free experience with NFSHP2 as well as most every other game. Now it's time to get down to some specific tweaks.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Installation and Patches
To make sure you install NFSHP2 correctly, follow the instructions below:
- Don't install NFSHP2 while your PC is dangerously overclocked. If your machine has to be overclocked, set it to an overclock you know is completely stable and in particular make sure your CPU is not at its absolute limits. Data corruption can often occur from CPU/RAM that is pushed too far and this can ruin your installation in subtle ways which may not become obvious until much later.
- Uninstall the NFSHP2 Demo if you have it installed. Do this through Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs. Then manually go into Windows Explorer and delete the demo directory and all its contents.
- Disable any antivirus programs you have running in the background, such as Norton Antivirus. These are notorious for causing install problems. If in doubt, check my WinXP Tweak Guide for details on how to disable programs that load at startup like Norton. In general, the fewer programs that are running in the background while installing (and playing) NFSHP2, the better.
- If things get so messy that you need to reinstall NFSHP2, uninstall it through Control Panel>Add/Remove programs first and then manually delete the program directory. Then use Regcleaner (download link and instructions in my WinXP Guide) to completely clean out your registry. Then reboot and reinstall as per above instructions.
Once you've installed the game, I recommend you run defrag. This may or may not take a long time to complete, but it's very necessary if you want smooth gameplay. Again, see my WinXP Guide for more details.
Official Patches and No-CD Patch
At the moment there are no official patches for NFSHP2. The current (and original release) version is 240. When a new patch is released, I will update this guide with the link to it, and any changes that the patch makes. In the meantime, EA Games has released a Beta Version 242 Patch which can be downloaded from here. There is a readme document that comes with the patch outlining the changes, but essentially the beta patch resolves controller issues and some multiplayer issues. Remember that a beta patch, although released by EA Games, may well cause more problems than it resolves. The first official patch is yet to be released, but keep checking back here and the Official Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 Website for more information.
It's important that if you've installed a No-CD patch, you need to delete the No-CD NFSHP2.exe file and replace it with your original NFSHP2.exe before applying an official patch (see below for more details).
When you first install NFSHP2 it will insist on keeping the game CD in the drive and will load various things (such as the intro movie) from CD every time you run the game. This is very annoying, but luckily there is a way around it that makes life easier and speeds up loading times. Remember, TweakTown in no way condones software piracy - NFSHP2 is well worth buying.
The first step is to go to a site such as GameCopyWorld or MegaGames and head to the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 section (this direct link to the NFSHP2 section may not always work, in which case go through one of the main site entrances).
Once there, I recommend you download the No-CD patch by "gimpsRus" - although you can try any of the others to see if they work. Once you've downloaded the file, follow the instructions below to get the No-CD patch to work correctly:
1. Extract the NFSHP2.exe file from the archive using either WinRar or WinAce
2. Go to the directory where you installed NFSHP2 (typically C:\Program Files\EA GAMES\NFSHP2\)
3. Rename the existing NFSHP2.exe file to something else (e.g. NFSHP2.Real_exe). Don't delete or overwrite it, you'll need to keep it for future upgrades through official patches.
4. Copy the No-CD patched NFSHP2.exe file into the same directory as the existing (but renamed) NFSHP2.exe.
5. Copy across the following directories (and all their contents and subdirectories) from your NFSHP2 CD to sit under the NFSHP2 directory on your hard drive:
Now remove your original CD from the drive and put it safely away. The next time you run NFSHP2 it won't check the CD drive and you'll load up a bit faster.
Some things to note are that each No-CD patch will only work with the version indicated. At the moment, the available No-CDs for NFSHP2 will only work with the original release version ("v1.0" which is the same as version 240). That is, if you apply the beta patch version 242, the initial No-CD patches will probably not work.
Also remember that as patches are released for the game, you'll need to delete the existing No-CD patched NFSHP2.exe file. Then rename the original NFSHP2.exe back to NFSHP2.exe. Download and apply the patch as usual, then check back at one of the links in the No-CD Patches section above to get the latest No-CD fixed .exe file to match your new program version and go through steps 1-4 above again. Attempting to apply a patch over the No-CD version of NFSHP2.exe may result in errors and will usually fail.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - In-Game Settings
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.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Advanced Tweaking
In addition to the many changes you can make within the NFSHP2 Options screens, you can also make some important changes through editing the .ini files spread throughout the various directories of the game. You can use any text editor (such as Windows Notepad) to edit these files and make the appropriate changes. Before you make any changes though, make sure you make a backup of each file you're going to change (copy it and rename the original) so that if things go wrong or you want to go back to the original settings, you won't be stuck.
Below are the main tweaks I currently know of, and more will follow as I update this guide. I don't cover settings which can be changed in-game, as it's recommended that you make such changes there and not manually in the .ini files.
This file can be typically found under your My Documents\EA Games\Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2 directory.
Setting this to 0 will mean that NFSHP2 will start in windowed mode. This is generally not recommended and you should run the game in fullscreen mode.
Setting this to 0 will allow you to choose resolutions above 1280x1024 in the Screen Resolution setting under the Options>Customize Graphics screen within the game menu.
The rest of the settings in this file are best changed in-game (such as bit depth and resolution).
This file can be typically found under your \NFSHP2\frontend\gui\system directory.
This is the screen resolution at which NFSHP2 starts up and displays the menus. The default is 800x600, but if you've set your resolution higher (or lower), when the game goes to load up a race the display switches resolutions. If this annoys you, you can change this setting to match your "racing" resolution, for example change the 800,600 above to 1280,1024. However, the menu will still display at 800x600 so unfortunately if you raise this resolution you will see a smaller menu screen displayed (as it maintains its 800x600 size). As I said, changing this would mainly be to eliminate annoying screen resolution switches.
This file can be typically found under your \NFSHP2\EAGL\ directory and controls the level of detail (LOD) for graphics. You usually adjust these settings using the in-game detail sliders on the Customize Graphics screen. However, if you want to experiment with certain effects, edit the various settings in this file for the level of detail you've chosen in-game. Instructions on what each setting does are at the end of the .ini file.
There are many other .ini files throughout the NFSHP2 directories which can be edited to alter vehicle dynamics, special effects, track listings, etc. I would strongly recommend that you do not alter these without using the editor, or without knowledge of what you're doing. The simple tweaks provided above and the in-game settings should be more than enough to allow you to customize the major game settings. And of course, as more tweaks come to hand I'll update this guide accordingly.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Console Commands
The following is a listing of console commands that can be used during Multiplayer games only. To open/close the console, you can either press the ~ key (below ESC) or the BACKSPACE key. Typing /? will provide a list of commands. Client commands are commands that anyone playing on a server can use. Server commands only work for the server administrator.
/name [playername] e.g. /name Bob - Requests change to new client name
/voteboot [playername] e.g. /voteboot Bob - adds a vote to boot client, if eligible to vote
/votebootbyid [id] - same as voteboot but using client id for identification.
/votemap [trackname] or /votemap [tracknumber] e.g. /votemap Coastal Parklands - adds a vote to change track, if eligible to vote. Also recognizes Random. Only first 5 chars of track name needed, English only.
/setup - if in setup mode, launches car select dialog
/startrace - attempts to start race immediately, without a countdown.
/boot [playername] - boots player. Player is banned until next setup phase.
/ban [playername] - bans the player permanently. To un-ban, must hand edit ban file.
/bootbyid [id] - same as boot but using client id for identification.
/banbyid [id] - same as ban but using client id for identification.
/send [playername],[message] e.g. /send Bob,hello - sends a directed message to player.
/quit or /exit function - exit directly to desktop.
/disconnect - exit to FE, equivalent to disconnect button.
/challenge or /reset - equivalent to request restart button if client, resets if running server.
/idlist - shows list of connected clients with the server assigned client ID.
Advanced Server Commands
/server finishtimeout [ms] - sets the timeout for race over after the first player finishes a single race. (Default is 90 seconds, 0 is off)
/server laptimeout [ms] - sets lap inactivity timeout. (Default 10 minutes, min 5 minutes, 0=off)
/server maxsetuptime [ms] - sets max setup time after entering setup mode. (Default 0=off, min 15 seconds)
/server heartbeat [ms] - sets heartbeat time before booting unresponsive client. (Min 10 seconds)
/server resultsdisplaytime [ms] - length of time for server to stay in results mode after race finish.
/server countdown [ms] - sets setup time after first car selected. (Default 15 seconds, min 5 seconds)
/server docountdown [1 or 0] - if 0 sets first car selected countdown to off, non 0 = on. (Default on)
/server voting [1 or 0] - if 0 ignores votes for booting and track change. (Default on)
/server numraces [num] - number of races before settings, e.g. random, are reprocessed (Default is 5)
/server laps [num] - alter number of laps for next race, will be processed on next server reset.
/server class [class] - class restriction for next race (1-5 = class, any other number is any class)
/server direction [num] - direction for next race after a reset.
/track [trackname] or /track [tracknumber] - changes next track that server will use after a reset.
/racetype ko or /racetype sr - changes racetype that server will use after a reset.
/servername [NewName] - changes server name.
/password [NewPassword] - changes server password. Maximum of 12 characters.
- The Voting commands /votemap and /voteboot allow settings to be changed on
Servers by Clients. Requesting a restart also uses the voting mechanism.
- Voting is most useful on dedicated servers.
- For most votes, to be eligible to vote you must either be a racer, or the Server must be out of the Racing phase.
- To carry a restart vote during Racing, All racers must agree to restart. However if there is only one racer, anyone can cause a restart.
- Voting for a new map requires unanimity from racers during the Racing phase. Otherwise half or more of eligible voters must agree.
- Voting to boot requires at least two votes, as well as a clear majority.
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Neat Stuff
Aside from performance tweaking, there are things you can do with NFSHP2 which will generally make your gaming experience more enjoyable, and I've included a few below.
Disable Intro Logo and Movie
As great as the introductory chase sequence between the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Cop is, it gets a little tiresome the 55th time you see it running at startup. You can certainly skip it by pressing any key, but to automatically skip it (and the EA Games logo) every time you start NFSHP2 (and hence get to the Menu faster), do the following:
1. Go to the \Movies directory under your NFSHP2 directory
2. Rename the original movie files to something else. I recommend adding a BAK at the end of each file, e.g. hp2e.madbak. Don't delete these files; you may need them for future patches.
3. Create a new text document in the same directory. Typically you can do this by right-clicking in the directory, selecting New>Text Document. Rename this document to hp2e.mad. Do this for the other two movie files as well, naming them LogoE.mad and LogoS.mad.
Now every time you start NFSHP2, you should go directly to the Startup screen and bypass the logo and startup movie automatically. Note this tweak will only work if you are using the No-CD patch (see Patch section), as otherwise the game will simply load the movies directly from the game CD.
Import New Music
If you're getting tired of hearing the same default NFSHP2 tracks over and over and you just want a bit more variety in the game, try this handy NFS Music Importer from EA Games themselves. It was originally designed for Motor City Online, but can be used with NFSHP2 to convert any music you have in .mp3 .wav or .aiff format into the custom format used by NFS games. Go ahead, break out those Celine Dion tracks you love and start converting them now.
Once you've converted the songs that you want, simply rename them to Track0.asf, Track1.asf and so forth. Then go to the \Audio\Music directory under your NFSHP2 directory, rename the existing tracks in there (e.g. change their extension to .bak), or save them somewhere else, and replace them with your new tracks. Now you'll hear your new tunes while you drive.
Export the Existing Music
If you really like the music in NFSHP2, you may have discovered by now that you can't play them or burn them while they're in the existing (EA modified) .asf format. No matter which utility or standard conversion software you use, it won't recognize the format because it's a proprietary EA Games format. Luckily there is a free utility which can play and convert these files, and it's called Game Audio Player. Once you've downloaded and installed this utility, you can listen to (and convert to .wav) a variety of game music, not just NFSHP2. Make sure you also download the plugins for this utility.
Download New/Modified Vehicles
As with the other NFS games, you can download and import new or modified existing vehicles into NFSHP2. Some are officially released by EA Games, and you should check the Official NFSHP2 Site for those, while the vast majority are made by fellow enthusiasts. For example, you can currently download a range of vehicles from NFSCars and NFSUnlimited. To install these vehicles, do the following:
1. Download the vehicle file (usually in .zip format) and extract all the contents to an empty directory.
2. Typically there is a readme.txt file which comes with the file describing the type of vehicle and how to install.
3. The installation procedure usually involves copying the accompanying folder to sit under your \NFSHP2\Cars\ directory. However, before you do so, check to see if the directory already exists there, and if so backup the existing files in it (copy and rename them in the same folder) in case anything goes wrong.
That's all the neat stuff I know about now...check back for more as I find 'em!
NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 - Conclusion
I hope you've found something useful in this guide, but as you can tell there's not as much "tweakability" in NFSHP2 as in some other games, particularly in the .ini department. Generally speaking, if the game looks fantastic then you can bet it requires a bit of PC grunt to get it running smoothly. There's no "magic performance tweak" for NFSHP2. I want to repeat that if you find the game "stuttering" or slow, particularly at higher resolutions/details, then it's absolutely essential that you optimize your system first. That means the right drivers, the right windows/file cache sizes, correct virtual memory size, making sure your hard drive is operating at its fastest, the right BIOS settings, etc. Sometimes a game brings out system limitations, and it seems the extremely high polygon counts, special effects and texture sizes in NFSHP2 can only be displayed smoothly if you get your system optimized.
Keep coming back to this guide as I update it for new patches and utilities, and in particular new tweaks. If you know of an important or useful tweak for NFSHP2 which I haven't covered here, please email me (click my name above) or post it on our Gaming Forums.
Finally, I want to give a big thanks to the Need For Better Speed Forums where I found some of these tweaks. Check 'em out if you like the Need For Speed series of games.
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