Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

Sometimes, less is more.

By Degtyarev, Posted 25 Sep 2011

While I had been a fan of the Need For Speed series for most of my childhood, I never saw the racing games as anything special. After all, it was a pretty basic concept: get inside a car you will never be able to afford in real life and take it for a ride through exotic landscapes at three times the speed limit. It wasn't until the Need For Speed series started taking a nose dive with the release of Underground in 2003, that I realised there was nothing out there quite like the old Need For Speed games. Desperately searching for an alternative to the crashed and burned NFS series, the closest I came to replacing it was Burnout.

Need for Speed, Hot Pursuit, Review NFS

Notice how there are no tasteless tribal stickers on this car.

Coincidentally, it's Criterion, the very studio behind the Burnout series, that was responsible for the development of the latest installment in the Need For Speed series, Hot Pursuit. And while the Burnout influence is certainly there, Hot Pursuit is, above all, a true homage to the old Need For Speed games. The game abandons the world of tuning, street racing and abysmal stories (some of the very features that were responsible for ruining the series in the first place), puts us back in our expensive, exotic cars, and sends us through deserts, forests and mountains. The moral of the story? Sometimes, less is more.

Like in some of the classic Need For Speed games, you get to play as either a racer or a cop in Hot Pursuit. What's new, though, is that both roles now have their own respective career mode. Each campaign has its own series of events (60 for racers, 48 for cops), most of which have to be unlocked by completing other events. The events are divided into several categories. If you choose to play as a racer, you will of course have to do normal races against AI opponents, but also time trials, duels, and the titular Hot Pursuits, which are the same as normal races, but with an angry horde of cops chasing you as an added adrenaline bonus. If you choose to play as a cop, you will have to do Hot Pursuits from the law enforcer's perspective, as well as quick response races (time trials with a few twists) and interceptor events (Hot Pursuits against one opponent). Completing an event earns you a medal, the colour of which is decided by how fast you managed to accomplish your mission or finish the race.

Need for Speed, Hot Pursuit, Review NFS

Enforcing the law, enforcing the law!

No matter which side you choose to play as, the driving mechanics are as smooth as you could possibly wish for from a top quality arcade racer. The sense of speed does justice to the series' name, and the cornering is smooth and easy to learn, while still leaving room for skill. Like in Burnout, you can also build up a nitro boost by driving dangerously. There's a wide range of cars to choose from, all of which have been divided into five different classes, ranging from fast to incredibly fast. Apart from different paint jobs, the cars of the cops and the racers are largely the same, although the cop cars have a slightly better performance for gameplay reasons.

After finishing both single player careers, something which can easily be accomplished within 15 hours, you will probably want to try your luck in some online races. The race types from the campaign also appear in the online mode, and offer the same amount of fun and challenge as they do in the offline races, if not more. Especially the online version of the Hot Pursuit mode is great fun. Before every match, the players are divided among the two teams, and they either have to avoid being wrecked before they reach the finish line, or arrest all racers as quickly as possible. Like in single player, both sides are armed with some useful gadgets. The cops have access to EMPs, road blocks, helicopters and spike strips, while racers can also resort to a bunch of spike strips and EMPs to defend themselves with. This often makes for hectic, tactical races that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat right to the very end.

Need for Speed, Hot Pursuit, Review NFS

Trust me, this game looks better when the images aren't downsized.

The online mode of Hot Pursuit isn't limited to online races, though: as you progress through one of the campaigns, the all-new Autolog function will inform you whenever someone on your friend list beats your record on one of the events, and offers you the option to go to that event right away, so that you can immediately try and regain your honour by toppling his record. Additionally, you will get to see where your time ranks in comparison to your buddies after each race. This function encourages competition among friends, which, in turn, greatly boosts the replay value for those that are reluctant to testing their skills in the online arena.

No matter how Hot Pursuit is played, though, the game looks quite nice. The car models are detailed, and the environments are varied and often make for breathtaking sights. Even the road itself looks stunning, with especially wet surfaces looking near photorealistic at times. One setback is the lack of antialiasing, which somewhat reduces the amount of eye candy in the more industrial zones in particular. Still, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit generally is a joy to look at.

Unfortunately, the ears don't receive the same treatment as the eyes in Hot Pursuit. While the sound design is solid due to the energetic sound effects (oh, the engines!), the music is anything but. I don't know who's responsible for selecting the music at Criterion, but he or she must be pretty damn sadistic for putting us up with craptastic autotune songs and tasteless hiphop. I realise that not everyone has the same taste in music as me, but seeing as I only found 4 out of the approximately 20 songs to be even bearable, I can't be the only one with this sentiment. PC users can of course turn off the in-game music and instead play their own songs in the background, so it's not that big a problem. But it still would have been nice to see a great in-game soundtrack like the one in Hot Pursuit 2 (2002).

Need for Speed, Hot Pursuit, Review NFS

...And get wrecked.

That being said, the fact that all of my complaints are of a rather minor nature, only confirms the quality of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. Because, apart from the shameless in-game advertising by means of some misplaced billboards, there aren't many more things to complain about in Hot Pursuit. It's an exemplary arcade racer with excellent visuals, addictive, versatile gameplay, tight controls and an online component that is as simple as it is brilliant. The return of the traditional Need For Speed vibe only adds to the enjoyment, and it instantly washes away most of the foul taste left by games such as Underground and ProStreet. Start your engines!

Jesse Dolman, NoobFeed.

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  • @Degtyarev Loved the review. You should really put a link of this review here or mention somewhere at the top.

    Posted Oct 01, 2011

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General Information

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

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