Written by Phil Bruton Tuesday, 23 November 2010 09:40
I feel the need... the need... for speed!
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is the newest game from developer Criterion games, well known for their work on the Burnout series. Their influence on Need for Speed is easy to notice throughout the game. Criterion decided to go away from the past Need for Speed games, removing any semblance of a story. Instead, you're either on one side or the other of the law. Cops vs. Racers is the name of the game this time.
[Ed. Note: There's a link to the Image Gallery at the end of the article.]
During the career of either the Cops or Racers, you're after the same thing: Bounty. Bounty is what you gain throughout the game to level up your Racer or Cop. You get this from winning races, performing actions within the races (drifting, evasion) and from takedowns. As you complete a race, the game will give you a tally of your bounty gained, along with any rewards that you may have earned. At certain points in your career, you will unlock new cars, new race modes and new weaponry. Yes, I said weaponry. You aren't coming to this party empty handed!
The Cops and Racers don't just bump into each other on the track this time around. As a Racer you are outfitted with spike strips, turbo boost, an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse, it acts almost like a missile) and a jammer. Cops come prepared with the ability to call in roadblocks, call down a helicopter to drop a spike strip, an EMP and their own Spike Strips as well. The more you use these items, the faster you will upgrade them, each weapon has three levels. Spike strips, for example, go from a simple short strip to almost road width; you get double spike strips at level three. These don't take away from the gameplay what so ever, as this isn't treated like a kart racer. You are given a certain amount of "charges" for each race and once they're gone, that's it! This is definitely an interesting aspect of your racing, as you need to know when and where to deploy your carnage.
The Racer career gives you a few different game types. You have your races, which puts you against up to seven other racers in a sprint to the finish. Then, there are duels where it's just you and another racer, mano a mano. There are time trials as well. The main part of the racer career though, is it's namesake, Hot Pursuit. In this mode you are tasked with getting to the finish before the cops blow you off the road. When your car is totaled, that's it, you're busted! These were by far my favorite races in the game as they are a crash a minute, very fast and intense. The cops are unrelenting, calling down hellfire on you whenever you give them a chance.
The Cop career isn't as varied (or as long) as the racers, but it's just as satisfying. There aren't races as you would find on the other side, but the race types that are here still have the same rush. Hot Pursuit races are here as well, with you being on the chase this time around. The time trials for the cops are called "rapid response" and they are very punishing. They stress accuracy along with speed, penalizing you for any time you tap a guardrail or traffic. One of my favorite race types for the cops is "interceptor." This puts you on the hunt for only one racer, but they are very cunning. They won't hesitate to whip a 180 on you and head in the opposite direction or even bump you into oncoming traffic so that they can escape.
This plays in to my next point, the AI. The AI is very aggressive, this is most prevalent when you're playing through the racer career. Other racers will knock you all over the road, which slows you down but doesn't seem to effect them one bit. I personally was beaten many, many times by the almost game-breaking rubberbanding of the opposing racers. I had, at times been 10 seconds or more ahead of 2nd place (The game tells you at points through the race where you stand), only to have them BLOW past me 2 seconds later. I can understand trying to keep the game fair and balanced, but I did feel as though I was never completely in control in any of my races. Strangely enough, it made winning that much better.
Graphically, this game is gorgeous. Each of the cars are perfectly rendered in HD and they all have numerous paint schemes. Each of the Cop cars look amazing decked out with police lights and colors. Seacrest County (In which this game takes place, fictional), is a complete joy to drive through and check out the sights. There are snow-capped mountains in the north and an ocean along the coast. Each of these different racing areas are distinct from one another and Criterion has done a good job with them. The sound in the game is done well also, the police chatter keeps you up to date on the happenings during the race. Each car has it's own sounds as well. Crashes and ambient sounds are done well also. The soundtrack to the game is a little shallow, but thankfully they've added the ability to play with your own music!
New to Need for Speed as well is the Autolog. This can almost be considered the "Facebook" of the game. You log into your Autolog when you start up the game and here you can see your friends and their progress. You can upload in-game pictures onto your wall, along with being able to see pictures and races that your friends have accomplished. This is where a big part of the game takes place, as you complete races your scores are posted onto your Autolog and they are uploaded onto your friend's leaderboards. When they beat a time of yours, you are notified by Autolog and you're given the opportunity to beat their time. This adds another dimension to the game and adds infinitely to the replay. Trying to beat your friend's times is a good way as well to level up your Racer or Cop. It's very fluid and it fits in very well with a racing game.
Multiplayer isn't left out in the cold either! You choose what race type you'd like to participate in and you're matched with other racers in quick order. You gain bounty from these races as well, so you aren't just biding time when doing these. Each race type is represented here, from straight up races to hot pursuit. If you choose to play in either hot pursuit or interceptor, the computer chooses which side you're on. So be sure to level up both careers! This directly correlates into what cars you can use with multiplayer.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit does many things right. With two careers to play through, Autolog and multiplayer provide more than enough to keep you playing for a very long time. This isn't just an arcade racing game, you're going to need to build your skills as you play through. Thankfully, the game ramps up in such a way that this is possible. I cannot recommend this game highly enough, for both fans of simulation and arcade style racing. This bridges the gap between the two and does it with such style and grace that you'll appreciate all it's subtle nuances. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is easily a contender for Game of the Year honors and rightfully so. This is one you don't want to miss.
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