Any fan of racing is aware of the identify crisis that Need for Speed has battled the past few releases. Going from free roaming in Carbon, to organized racing in Pro Street, then a more simulation-style take in Shift — who knew where NFS would go next? When the new Hot Pursuit was revealed, fans like myself cried for joy because we’ve longed for such a NFS since console generations ago. Word that Burnout developer Criterion was helming things only made the project sound better, and truth be told, the studio did not disappoint.
NFS finally returns to its roots. EA has been trying to pull the original formula again over and over, but the results have not been what feels like a true NFS game. This time, the setup, cars, and courses bring that goal to life. Hot Pursuit is about driving the rarest cars in the world at ridiculous speeds, chasing the checkered flag—or in other cases, escaping the fuzz. This reboot delivers a simplified experience, meaning, you spend more time satisfying that need for speed rather toying with a silly premise or free-roaming nonsense. Although if you love to just blast down the roads wherever, that option is there.
+ You got Burnout in my Need for Speed! Criterion being the game’s developer, it ends up playing much like Burnout, despite the NFS structure. It practically is Burnout with licensed cars and police chases, but who’s complaining? You can perform lengthy drifts at high speeds, earn boosts by driving on the wrong side of the road or just avoiding collisions, and the like, and in some cases you can wreck your opponents off the road—as in Burnout. The cars feel sharp, though the differences between are minor, but there’s not much wrong with the way they handle.
+ It’s great on either side of the law. Playing as a cop or racer offers a rewarding experience and some interesting differences. The game is balanced well between both sides. Racers have countermeasures like spike strips and jammers to defend against cops and boost that lasts longer. On the other hand, police vehicles accelerate faster and lose boost quicker, but are perfect for ramming. Don’t forget their tools either: spike strips, roadblocks, and helicopter support. The sides play uniquely, but are equally intense and exciting.
+ Great online play. Online is one of HP’s best aspects. Hot Pursuit mode is one of my favorites where a team of cops tries to eliminate racers before they can reach the finish. Each side must use everything at its disposal: countermeasures and sheer driving skill. There are also one-on-one events between cops and racers, and pure racing events without the black-and-whites. Also, Autolog is a fun new way to compete with your friends. You can see their best times posted on events and challenge those accomplishments or taunt upon conquering them. You can share times and screenshots, making sure you have extra challenges (as long as you have friends to play with). The only feature Hot Pursuit lacks is traditional online leaderboards.
+ The greatest cars are drivable. Hot Pursuit is not short on supercars, exotics, and hyper cars. There are some common cars in the lower tiers like the Subaru Impreza and muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger. However, there is a dream list of car manufacturers including the likes of Lamborghini, Pagani, Aston Martin, Audi, Koenigsegg and Bugatti. All that’s missing is some Ferrari love. I guess we can’t have everythingl…
± The soundtrack. There are decent songs here, and I acknowledge it’s hard to please everyone with the track list. Frankly, that just isn’t going to happen. You’ll probably prefer a selection of tunes and stick to them. Fortunately, one button push changes tracks, which is nice.
– A.I. can be cheap. A lot of weird A.I. tricks occur in Hot Pursuit. First is the rubber band computer that Burnout is also guilty of, so it’s not shocking. It’s near impossible to gain a large lead on the A.I., or at least maintain it long. This is probably to encourage competition, but you can tell it’s an illusion. Even if you rub them out or the opponent messes up, they’re back on your tail in no time. Also, they’re capable of that which you are not. Engaging a corner just behind an opponent, you’re likely to see them pull away as they magically take said corner better than you.
That sounds bad, but it’s not a deal-breaker. There’s obvious trickery here, but it doesn’t prevent you from winning. Despite the unfortunate attempt to deceive, it keeps the experience intense.
– No splitscreen. This is a staple COE complaint, but with a series rooted in local multiplayer, it’s the one thing this throwback is missing. An option of one player controlling the cop and the other as a racer would have been fine, but alas we are left wanting yet again.
Hot Pursuit is a great racer. It’s pure arcade magic at its best, and Need for Speed in its truest form that we haven’t seen in a long while. NFS fans should be happy. So what if it’s truthfully Burnout with real cars and a new coat of paint? Police chases are great, the best I’ve enjoyed since my favorite of the series: High Stakes. This is pure NFS and definitely worth it. Buy it.