Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

With the release of (insert comment about inevitable comparison) Gran Turismo 5, the racing genre is set for an exciting battle prior to Christmas. Crucially, Polyphony Digital's offering is quite different to Hot Pursuit, favouring track-based driving and realistic handling. Conversely, Hot Pursuit is all about arcade thrills, with ridiculously loud cars, drift handling, flashing sirens, cool music and nitrous boost. If you're concerned about your suspension settings, and pondering the best way to shed another tenth of a second going through the Laguna corkscrew, spending time with GT5 would be as exciting as a romantic evening with the sexy bird or baguette of your choice. However, for anyone who just wants to race, to feel the true sensation of speed while hurtling along mountain trails, across deserts and through forest valleys, evading road blocks or taking down criminals, Hot Pursuit is the best source of fun, in a safe environment.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

The main game is split into two campaigns: racer and cop (the police, see any movie from the US featuring Bruce Willis). As a racer, you build a Wanted level, escaping from the police in increasingly daring situations, in steadily faster cars. Meanwhile, as a cop, you increase your rank by bringing racers to justice (or rather, smashing them to pieces on the freeway - that's the last time you'll do 33 in a 30, criminal). It's not just about speed and driving skill though, since weapons are available to both sides, including EMPs, jammers, spike strips, road blocks, turbo boosts and even an attack helicopter. Learning how and when to use these extra abilities is key to success, though of course it still requires some racing skill underneath to truly achieve everything.

The method of progression is largely at the discretion of the player. Racer and cop careers can be developed together or one at a time, while the various online modes also contribute experience to your rank in each discipline. It's quite rewarding to have a collective rank, similar to the system used in Resistance 2, which combines experience scores from campaign, cooperative and competitive modes. The core of the game does still lie with the single-player experience, with a large map dotted with events to take part in. Developed by Criterion Games, of Burnout fame, a Paradise City setup might have been expected, but fortunately the tracks are all stand-alone experiences, as opposed to events strewn across a city. The latter was fresh and innovative, with plenty of advantages in terms of variety, but the punishment for taking a wrong turn was too high, leading to many abandoned races. In Hot Pursuit, there are diversions to try, some of which may be tricky to master, but highly beneficial, while others are just plain time-consuming. It forces you to learn your favourite routes, ensuring that you maintain awareness of the offshoots that actually help.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

The key ingredient though, which the game never loses sight of, is fun. Everything is geared towards a satisfying feeling of speed, and an accessible style of racing. There's depth to the car handling, but you don't need to sink hours into the game before you understand the basic mechanics. With each weapon introduced one at a time, players are given the opportunity to steadily build their racing skill, while getting used to the new controls required for setting road blocks and other bonuses (each controlled by a single button push on the D Pad). The intro sequences leading into each race set the tone perfectly, playing to the car chase fantasy of high-performance machines chasing eachother across beautiful sweeping roads. You're seamlessly immersed into the racing as the camera pulls around to a chase viewpoint, then you're unleashed into your next event, equipped with your latest weapons.

When new weapons are awarded, or current weapons upgraded, a brief video sequence, equipped with stylish voiceover, introduces the new technology and indicates the potential applications. In addition, a voiceover is provided for each new car added to the player's garage, emphasizing just how incredible the new machine is likely to be. It's nicely presented, and keeps the player connected to the action, while providing a good sense of reward and progression. This is aided by a regular stream of trophies, which are balanced delicately between standard experience collection and a few novelty trophies featuring specific cars in interesting racing situations.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

There's plenty of car choice for each event too, with a nice selection of machinery that makes no attempt to match Gran Turismo's numbers, instead favouring a shiny collection of cars the developers (correctly) worked out we'd love to drive. Instead of wading through masses of rust buckets before getting to the monsters, you're very quickly put behind the wheel of Maseratis, Mitsubishi Evos and Porsche 911s. Perhaps it plays into the instant-satisfaction weakness society is rapidly developing, but it's this much fun, there's hardly time to care, especially when everything looks so good. The cars are the obvious highlight, looking absolutely stunning, with decent damage models that'll give a good indication of how long your vehicle will survive the current assault, but the track surroundings are pretty decent too, with mountain settings, forests, freeways and more. Since there's no traditional race circuits, there's no spectators, but there's also no pedestrians or other small details that make a convincing world. The tracks feature everything needed for racing, but not everything for total immersion and believeability.

The other downside of the tracks created for the game is a slight lack of personality. There's key markers like: it's the one with the desert, or it's one through the forest, but there's very little that makes the courses truly memorable. Where Gran Turismo's real and original tracks feature turns like the Laguna corkscrew, the Trial Mountain hill ascent, the Deep Forest cliffside section, the Grand Valley bridge and many more, Hot Pursuit's slightly generic layouts are simply unimaginative by comparison. It hardly matters that a corner looks very pretty if the corner itself feels just like the last three corners. The tracks need some personality, features that set them apart from the crowd. Currently, those of Hot Pursuit lack this spark. On top of that, the focus on high-performance cars is admirable, but there's something quite loveable about the novelty events in Gran Turismo, for example, featuring VW Campers touring around the Top Gear test track. These things are slightly outside of Hot Pursuit's focus though. The intention wasn't to cater for everything, to be spread to thin, but simply to provide the most exciting, enjoyable, adrenaline pumped cop chases and racer escapes ever seen in a game. On that score, Hot Pursuit succeeds with no doubt whatsoever.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Electronic Arts

Developer:

Criterion Games

Players:

1

Online:

2-8

Release:

2010-11-19

Trophies:

62

Review summary

Gameplay:

Superb, smooth, exciting gameplay - and sirens!

Graphics:

Crisp, colourful visuals and beautiful cars

Sound:

Cool music and stonking effects

Lastability:

Lots of races and an excellent online experience

9.2

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