Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

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When Electronic Arts acquired Criterion several years ago, one thing that always rattled my brain was why they never utilised them to re-invigorate the Need for Speed license and raise their games from mediocrity to the truly exceptional. For me, Burnout Paradise taking the free roam avenue wasn’t the best move forward but keeping a structured affair with multiple routes the best form of practice. Well, it appears that Criterion finally got their chance as the NFS series once again took a polar shift from realistic to arcade one fell swoop. Firstly though let me iterate that when I say Arcade I do not mean to the lengths of Outrun or Sega Rally. Hot Pursuit still has plenty of simulated depth in terms of how cars handle from each other, but without the petrol head spectacles and a Haynes manual between your eye balls. Needless to say if you prefer spending your racing hours tinkering with your suspension than actually having fun then this game isn’t for you.

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Need for Speed has the DNA of Burnout Revenge coupled with some of the handling and similarities of Undercover. Its single player progression bares a lot of similarities to Burnout along with the almost identical looking world map that was featured in Burnout 3: Takedown. The unique twist for this re-invention of the memorable Playstation One title is the fact that you can progress through the game playing the law and against it. The experiences are both enjoyable as you use an array of realistic weaponry to outrun or destroy your opponents. Playing as the Police doesn’t mean you get stuck with any rusty rides either. In order to compete with the racing scene in Seacrest County the Police are also equipped with some of the worlds most powerful machines known to man. Hurtling down the variety of landscapes in rare beauties from Maserati and Aston Martin is an experience to behold. The events range from winning races, winning races and outrunning the police at the same time, time trials and take down events which either take place in a group of cars or on a 1vs1 basis. Progress through the game with good results and you’ll unlock a car almost every single race.

The unlock system is very similar to what we already know with previous Criterion games. If you complete events under a certain time band, position and takedowns you’ll get classed into rankings. Better rankings equals a bigger wanted level or respect level within the police force. For completionists it opens up a scope to play the game for longer. The environments are vast and switch between day and night scenarios and these are beautifully represented. One race you are racing up in the mountain peaks on wet asphalt (looks amazing) and the next you’ll be out in the arid desert as dust clouds sweep up in the pack in front of you. It’s a visual experience that never bores. Even the look of the Police car sirens lighting up tunnels are one of the many jaw dropping moments in the game. Needless to say that the crashes are represented in slow-motion jizz-building-magma satisfying kind of way, well you wouldn’t expect anything less from the studio that pull off fender benders with such ferocity?

It’s the weaponry that makes the game work so well, if you are with the Police you’ll get access to spike traps, EMP’s, road blocks and a chopper which will push ahead of the pack and lay down spikes against your racing opponents. With the street racers you’ll get the EMP’s and spikes but also a turbo boost and system jamming equipment. The system jamming equipment doesn’t really have too much of an effect in single-player other than rescuing you from being shot with an EMP but online it is a totally new ball game. Before I brush onto the multiplayer components (which are essentially the same as Single Player but against human opponents) I wanted to talk about Auto-Log. Auto-Log really steps the videogame into the social networking generation. Everything you do with the game online will be represented. Auto-log is the equivalent of an online Facebook just without the embarrassing photos and the ability of being FRAPED. You can upload images to your wall, send challenges to your friends and also receive recommended challenges on the basis of how your friends are competing in the single player and online components of the game. It’s recommendations and utilisation of the social media aspect are nothing short of Zuckerberg genius. The games photo mode serves a real purpose as you can show off all your collection on your wall.

Now for the games real highlight, online. You can play straight out 8 player races, or work co-operatively 4vs4 Police Vs Racers action or play Interceptor. Interceptor is the mark of genius. There are no finish lines, just 1vs1 Police vs Racer action. You have to either destroy your opponent or outrun them and because you are not restricted to where you can go it offers strategy within a racing game unlike any other. When I played online I had to make sure I drafted little behind my opponents to avoid getting hit with spikes, count what weapons my opponent has already used and then when I had to be on the other side of the law my plan of action grew even more intricate. When playing a random BNP sympathiser (BNP was on his PSN ID, sad bastard) I gunned my Zonda down a bearing straight and switched on my system jammer. Not only does the jamming device take out your ability to use weaponry, it also takes out the HUD. This means that your opponent cannot see you on the race map. So with hindsight I used the jamming device to park into one of the shortcuts, let my opponent zoom past me so I could reverse and start turbo boosting down the opposite way to outrun the BNP Cop! This moment was perhaps one of my best and memorable in online gaming, outdoing the wow factor of when I heard voices in my ear on Test Drive Unlimited. What I am trying to say here is that finally, Need for Speed is a game that has real online substance and quite frankly is the best game I have played online all year!

If I was to be critical with the game anywhere, it would be that when unlocking the core amount of cars is extremely easy - that and the achievements and trophies for this game could have used a little more invention. Other than that online play is lag free and the single player is a nice romp that can be enjoyed in long sessions. Forget Gran Turismo 5, forget Split/Second heck even forget Blur. 2010’s best racing game is Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

98/100

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  • Craig Baker

    gt5 is so win!

  • Tomalmeida

    erm mate “2010’s best racing game is Need for Speed: Most Wanted.” i think u mean hot pursuit

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