Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Criterion takes the wheel of the Need for Speed series and power drifts it back to its roots.

By CallMeLuke, Posted 13 Dec 2010

The Need for Speed is quite possibly one of the oldest racing franchises around dating back to 1995 with its first title.  Back then, it was presented by Road and Track Magazine, and its allure was letting the gamer get behind some of the most exotic sports cars known to man.  It placed these gorgeous vehicles on long stretches of road in beautiful mountain scenery.  The franchise has undergone many changes over the years from underground racing to professional circuits.  Criterion, makers of the Burnout games, brings the series back to its roots with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Review

Seacrest County: the home of steep mountains, lush forests and breathtaking ocean shore views.  It's the perfect backdrop for street racing, but there's one thing Seacrest County has that no other county does: a law enforcement with an endless budget.  Cops don't like speeders, and the only way to stop 200+ mph cars is to build a fleet of supercars themselves.  Not only are the cops just as fast as the racers, they're extremely well equipped to disable their vehicles in a blink of an eye.  Welcome to Seacrest County.  Whether you're breaking the law or enforcing it, you've obviously got a need for speed.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit's single player career mode is split into two different play styles.  You have your Racer, and you have your Cop.  Career development is established by earning Bounty.  The more Bounty you earn, the more cars, equipment and series you can unlock.  Each career has their own separate events, but they also share some similarities.  Racer has basic time trials, while Cop has Rapid Response, which is a time trial that penalizes you for hitting walls or other vehicles.  Both careers have Hot Pursuit, but you're playing on different sides respectively.

The events are spread throughout different locations of Seacrest County, which is actually an uninterrupted loop of highways and backroads.  Each location will have their own series of events, which unlock progressively as you continue to play.  You can select Racer Freedrive at any time to explore every part of Seacrest County at your leisure.  The tracks are loaded with alternate routes and shortcuts, and a few events can only be won by utilizing them so it's best to explore and learn where they are.

If you're familiar with Criterion, then you know they bring forth speed and recklessness to their driving games.  Hot Pursuit is no different.  Driving recklessly, like barreling into oncoming traffic, drifting through hairpin turns, slipstreaming other racers, and narrowly missing traffic builds up your nitrous meter.  During Racer Hot Pursuit events, you'll even be able to smash into other racers and cop cars and earn a full nitrous bar for your efforts.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Review

Criterion also likes to glorify mechanical wreckage.  Every time you do a Takedown on another racer or wreck a cop, the game shifts its camera to capture the action in slow motion.  It also does this whenever you're about to pass a cop car waiting on the side of the road for you.  Although it's pretty cool to watch a car get smashed up and flip into the air, it can also be distracting when you're in the heat of racing.  The game can sometimes slam you back into action in the middle of a sharp turn or even spawn you smack dab into traffic costing  you critical seconds.

The heart of Hot Pursuit is of course the Hot Pursuit events.  As a cop, you'll have access to four different devices to help you take down drivers and shut down races.  You have spike strips that you can lay down behind you, road blocks that you can call ahead of the speeders, EMPs which do long range damage and helicopters that can catch up to far off racers in seconds.  As a racer, you'll have access to your own spike strips and EMPs, but you'll have a jammer that will prevent cops from using their weapons, and you'll have Turbo which makes you exceedingly fast.

The high speed game of cat and mouse is so much fun to play, the other events unfortunately pale in comparison.  You get such a rush from catching up to racers and taking them out one after the other.  The adrenaline kick you get from busting through the cops' blockades or hitting the turbo and whooshing out of range of their EMPs is incomparable.  The events even have special music that makes it feel like you're playing in an action movie.  Honestly, there just aren't enough Hot Pursuit events in the game.

Speaking of other events, the game has a couple of very frustrating ones.  They are Gauntlets and Rapid Responses.  Gauntlet is a Racer time trial, only with the added pressure of pursuing cops.  Sometimes you're given weapons to defend  yourself, other times not.  Rapid Response is a Cop time trial which penalizes you for hitting traffic and walls.  A lot of times traffic is nearly unavoidable, because there's always a car or truck around a curve that you're drifting through.  Both events have rather stringent time requirements, and average driving gamers will find the game too hard to ever get gold.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Review

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit has an all-star cast of automobiles from simple Mustangs and BMWs to incredibly expensive exotics whose names you can't even pronounce.  Bugatti Veyrons, Pagani Zondas, Koenigsegg CCXs; if it looks fast, it's in here.  Each car at its vehicle select screen will have a bit of information read off to you, which is something that was done with the very first Need for Speed.  Not only will you be driving such incredible cars, you'll also be learning about them as well.

A new feature most unique to Hot Pursuit is the Autolog.  The Autolog is an online real time record keeper and leaderboard system that mixes a bit of social networking in with it.  It works by posting any time you set to your Speedwall, which is a leaderboard shared by you and your friends.  If you beat out anyone on the Speedwall, you have the option of notifying them along with posting a note of your own.  You'll also receive notifications when one of your friends beats your time, and then you'll be given the option to instantly jump into that event to attempt to regain your record.  You can also share photos of cars you take in the garage or on the track.

As slick and convenient as the Autolog is, it's not without its fair share of problems.  Because it's a network based feature, its functionality is at the mercy of EA's servers which go down more frequently than wanted.  This means when you're not connected to the Autolog, you can't compare times on your Speedwall.  It's not that big of a deal, but you get bonus Bounty for placing first on the Speedwall and if you're not connected, you get no bonus.  Also, the photo taking mode cannot be used at all when Autolog is down.  Lastly, it becomes pointless if you just don't have any friends playing the game to compare with.

Graphically, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is quite impressive.  It may not be as refined as simulation racers such as Forza 3 or Gran Turismo 5, but it's far from a slacker.  The car models are built and textured very well.  The environments are beautiful, portraying mountains, waterfalls, beaches and deserts.  The special effects are where the graphics really shine.  Tires burning out sending plumes of smoke from the back of the car, metal and glass exploding from collisions, blurring from rushing forward while using turbos; all of it is terrific.  The screen even dims and colors go dark when you enter Critical Damage, heightening the tension to survive until the finish line.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Review

Hot Pursuit sounds absolutely remarkable.  Every vehicle speaks to the car enthusiast through unmistakable engine revving, clutch popping, tire screeching and nitrous igniting sound effects.  Criterion has always been a master of making collisions sound brutally painful, and that's exactly the case here.  Hearing - as well as seeing - a gorgeous Bugatti Veyron smashed to pieces just makes you grit your teeth.  The soundtrack, like the vast majority of EA games, features licensed songs that cover a variety of genres with artists such as M.I.A., Bad Religion, Lupe Fiasco, Chiddy Bang, The Klaxons, and more.  Just about every song is great and is fun to listen to while doing more than 200 mph on the open road.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is not only the best Need for Speed in a long time, it's also one of the best racers of this generation.  It offers so many great things in one package: incredible cars, wonderful tracks, and amazing cop versus racer gameplay.  It also has terrifically balanced AI, always keeping races tight, yet fair, and task forces that act aggressively without being overly ferocious.  Autolog also helps to extend the single player mode by making it easy for competitive players to beat each others' times.  Any lover of fine automobiles and any gamer with the slightest interest in driving games simply cannot go wrong with buying Hot Pursuit.

Lucas Stephens, Noobfeed

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  • The rating seems fair. I have the game but haven't played it yet. I guess I should be starting it. The Autolog system is a good addition to the game. Day by day most games are adding social network features.


    Posted Dec 16, 2010

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WII
Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Developer(s): Criterion Games
Genres: Driving
Themes: Racing
Release Date: 2010-11-16

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