Super fast cars and gorgeous women, its a geek’s dream. Sure we can’t afford either, but thanks to Electronic Arts we can enjoy part of the experience in the comfort of our own homes (yes the cars bit of the equation you dirty dogs). Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is the kick in the ass the franchise has needed for a long time – fast and furious style car chases with the police in the world’s most exotic cars. If you still haven’t even raised an eyebrow, check you have a pulse.
Criterion are better known for their Burnout Paradise games and this developer house have clearly been brought into the fold to get NFS back into the driving seat. Hardcore racing gamers will notice many ‘parts’ of Burnout being incorporated into Hot Pursuit – not a bad thing I might add. It is all the best bits.
As with most Electronic Arts games, the presentation is top drawer – beautifully designed environments and vehicles are proud and present throughout. The weather effects are also stunning, especially when the climate takes a turn for the worst – skidding around on wet roads, fighting for grip while kicking up a spray of water is stunning, if you have the right hardware.
The game play is very arcade in nature which will appeal to the widest possible audience, rest assured if you are a racing ‘simulation’ devotee then you need to look elsewhere. This is not to say that there is no ‘feel’ to the cars, far from it. Many of the cars exhibit different driving capabilities and handling attributes, meaning everyone will end up with a couple of favourites.
Drifting is a big part of the game, especially on the tighter corners, touching the brakes and pushing sharp on the analogue stick just before entering a bend, causes the car to skid (hopefully under control) around the corner. We used a wired Xbox 360 controller to enjoy the experience, and it worked flawlessly throughout. Bonus points for Electronic Arts.
Boost is handled in a very ‘Burnout’ manner, drive on the wrong side of the highway, within a few inches of incoming traffic and you get rewarded with nitrous. Using this boost on a bend is rather pointless, so save it for the straights, when you need to catch up with the racers ahead.
Hot Pursuit has a very combat driven racing style, which appealed to me dramatically. Takedowns in slow mo look fantastic, especially when you are able to take control of the racing crooks and the cops.
While we arent gifted with rocket launchers and homing missiles, both cops and crooks get spike strips and EMPs to put enemies out of action. The police force is also granted helicopter support which can annoy the first place person with road spike strips and road blocks. Squeezing through a car road block barrier with more cops on your tail is almost as exciting as I would imagine the real thing to be (minus the potential injuries and jail time).
The racers also get a Jammer which can hamper the police air support and a turbo button which is like nitrous, mixed with high octane rocket fuel.
Weaponry obviously adds a huge level of excitment to the proceedings, and quite often I would end my gaming session with my hands soaked in sweat. Not a great way to care for your Xbox controller, but I can’t remember enjoying a racing game quite as much in many years.
The single player campaign is also extremely addictive, and it took all our editor’s strength to wrangle me away from the screen to write this review up for Kitguru.
If I was being utterly subjective, the computer AI can be a little lame at times, especially when you expect it to push you harder. As we had expected, the game gets new legs when your human friends join in the battle. All of the acclaim can’t go to Criterion for this, as they have worked with Autolog. This competitive social networking system is one aspect of the title which is attracting a hard core audience. Autolog records all the times as you play in single player and then offering them up for comparison to your buddies. A simple idea, but one that works wonderfully well in Hot Pursuit.
Autolog is a clever bit of coding as it can suggest events for you that your friends are currently dominating, so you can try and get the edge back. Up to eight players can head online into a direct competition environment racing with any combination of racers and cops they want. Seven cops against the fastest human player as a racer usually worked out the best for my group of friends and ended up being replayed for the majority of a weekend.
Graphically, the game needs a pretty decent modern day gaming system. Our GTX460 SLI system powered through it at 2560×1600, and one was enough to max out the eye candy at 1920×1200. We didn’t run it through a variety of hardware, but a 6850 also proved more than capable at high resolution.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is exactly what EA needed, and to give them credit, they knew it. A fresh look at a long stale franchise. Criterion have delivered in abundance and this is the best Need For Speed I can remember in what feels like decades. Seacrest County has some of the sexiest cop cars in history. Fantastic.