Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review
Criterion Games gets behind the wheel of the Need for Speed series and brings a incredibly enjoyable racer with super cops and exotic cars.
The Need for Speed games have slowly declined in terms of originality and pure gameplay over the years. Hot Pursuit brings the Need for Speed series back to its roots with cops chasing racers, which made the series popular in previous generations. Criterion Games (creators of the Burnout series) gets behind the wheel and creates a standout arcade racing title that leaves previous Need for Speeds racing for second.
The game is broken down to cops versus racers. You choose where to race on the fictional roads of Seacrest County. The tracks you race on are simply gorgeous. You will race through forests, desert, snowed in areas, and various other weather conditions. The lighting effects that gloss over your car's exterior look very natural and elegant. Each car moves smooth over the dirt and road. The crash effects are well done. But, coming from the Burnout creators I expected more destructive crashes. Most crashes leave your car scratched in a glass shrapnel confetti storm. The crashes aren't as impressive as those in Burnout Paradise, but they are just as cinematic. This is one of the few racing games where I am amazed by the environments. Just by watching one race you can tell just as much time went into designing an appealing racing environment as it did to create great looking automobiles. At times, you may be lost looking into the distance or at the light reflections on the exterior of your car. Simply put, it's a great looking racing game.
The audio in the game helps you feel like you are driving a powerful vehicle. The engine sounds are loud and it gives you the feeling that you are in the presence of a strong car that can take a beating. The soundtrack is also better than I thought it would be. When you are doing racer-only-races the soundtrack is composed of punk and rock music that fits the tone of the race. When you are in pursuit or being pursed the soundtrack changes to dramatic orchestrated music. It evokes a climatic movie chase feeling that adds to the tension of the moment.
Hot Pursuit implements a leveling system where you gain experience when you race, be it in single-player or multi-player. Each race levels up your cop career or your racer career depending on where you drive. As a racer, you are looking to be, the “Most Wanted” racer and as a cop, you are looking to be the “Ultimate Enforcer.” The game grants you rewards for gaining experience through races and performing great racing feats. You will gain experience by using equipment, making clean passes, and placing first in races. Your experience will help you unlock more cars, events, and equipment.
There isn't a story in this Need for Speed. You simply race, which is exactly the best part of the game. The bulk of your races are pursuit races, but you also take part in one-on-one races, time trials, and racer-only-races. While the most fun is trying to out smart cops or racers, the other race modes are fun thanks to the solid racing gameplay.
The entire roster of cars in the game mirror their real life counter parts in appearance. All the cars look great. The reflections and subtle details like sparks from the carbon breaks really create a stunning image. I can’t say whether they handle like their real life versions, but each car feels unique. Lambos are a powerhouse of speed and torque, while the Dodge Charger feels heavy with tight precise controls. Picking a car based on the route you are racing on will help you place better in the end.
It feels like a lot of care went into the car handling and each car hits that sweet spot where it feels like you need to really be aware of each turn, when to throttle, and drift through a turn. It never feels cheap which is something that plenty of arcade racers happen to feel like. At the same time it never becomes too much of a simulation where the slightest bump or skid could be disastrous. Hot Pursuit’s car handling takes some time to master it, but it’s simple enough for you and a group of friends to take turns evading the police without getting too serious.
The equipment is essentially your power-ups. As a racer, you can choose from spike strips, EMP blasts, EMP jammers, and a turbo boost. Cops have spike strips, EMP blasts, roadblocks, and helicopter support. Don’t worry though, it never feels like you are going over into the realm of Mario Kart. The equipment adds a hint of strategy to each race. Baiting a racer to drive a little closer to you so you can drop a spike strip or saving your jammers to prevent an EMP blast are all moments that you will run it when racing.