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Like its predecessor, Need For Speed II allows players to race exotic cars, either against computer-controlled opponents or human opponents via a LAN, modem or serial connection. There are three distinct gameplay modes. Single Race is largely carried over from the previous game, in which a player simply chooses a car and a course and completes a single race. The player can customize both the number and type of opponents as well as the number of laps to be completed. Tournament is also carried over from The Need For Speed, in which the player must complete a series of races successfully to unlock a bonus car. Knockout is a new type of tournament to the series. It consists of a series of 2-lap races with 8 opponents; the one in last place at the end of each race is eliminated from the competition. Successfully completing an entire Knockout (being the last surviving racer) unlocks a bonus track. Unlike The Need For Speed, which featured a mix of both point-to-point and circuit courses, Need for Speed II features circuit courses only. Each track's scenery is inspired by real-life locations around the world. A Jaguar XJ220 racing on the Mystic Peaks track unlike the previous game's tracks, which were realistically rendered generic locales, Need For Speed II's tracks mix real-world landmarks with elements of fantasy, in a somewhat similar fashion to the Cruis'n series of arcade games. For example, the Outback course has the player racing from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House to the rural Australian Outback and back again in a matter of minutes. Need For Speed II also introduced several new elements to the game. For the first time, players could customize the color of each car; additionally, a basic tuner allowed players to adjust each car's performance elements, including gear ratios, tires, and spoilers. Unlike The Need For Speed, however, Need For Speed II did not feature any police chases.
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