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Review: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

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  • Developer: Criterion Games
  • Publisher: EA
  • Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC, Wii

Need for Speed has suffered a somewhat troublesome past – with some rather mediocre offerings in the mid 2000’s. You simply have to look at MetaCritic to see how the franchise suffered near the beginning of the console generation. Need for Speed: Shift revived the series back in 2009 but as someone who isn’t particularly interested in racing simulators I was still sat there waiting for the triumphant return of the series.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is that triumphant return I’ve been waiting for.

Hot Putsuit feels very much like a sequel to 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted – a game that had you and a gang of other street racers well, racing. But the twist was that you had to avoid being taken in by the police, who got harder and more faster cars as the game progressed, and I had long considered it to be one of my favourite racing games I’d ever played.

Hot Pursuit is similar to that sans the obnoxious douchebags and excessive green-screening. Hot Pursuit ditches the bloat and simply gives you what you want: a cheap excuse to drive expensive cars really fast. Though this time you get to play as the police as well as street racers – offering a different angle on gameplay by providing you with more objective based gameplay over traditional point a to point b racing.

Hot Pursuit doesn’t make too much of a fuss over any kind of plot or story – all you need to know is that you’re in the fictional racing wonderland of Seacrest County – a huge, open world area ideal for high speed racing – there are moments where it takes itself too seriously or is just flat out strange (why would a car manufacturer want to give a notorious, illegal speed racer a car to test drive?) but it’s never enough to spoil the game. Much of the “plot” is just told through mission briefings in the menus so you don’t even have to pay attention to it.

Playing as a street racer is effectively the same as it was in Most Wanted but with a few improvements. As you progress through the game and level up you gain access to power ups like deployable spike strips, a jammer to put a halt to enemy attacks, an EMP that stuns other drivers and an epic turbo boost should you want to fly ahead of the competition.

The Police get some toys to play with as well – along side the exotic cars that the street racers get, EMP and deployable spike strips the cops also get to call in a road block or a Helicopter to try and put a stop to these street racing mavericks. It adds some depth and strategy to an otherwise excellent and finely tuned arcade racer. Of course – racers can avoid these with precision driving or by taking advantage of the numerous off road shortcuts to avoid any potential hazards.

Controls are responsive and easy to grasp – making Hot Putsuit a great entry point in to the series. The AI of other cars remains challenging throughout the game but never really gets unfair. Usually if you fail to win a race or an event you know that if you just try a little bit harder next time that you can do it better. Of course if you’re not doing so great in the main events of the game then you can always do a free roam of Seacrest County to try and hone your skills.

Or if you’d like you can take things online – all of the progress that you make online and offline is the same – meaning that you can still unlock new cars and power ups by playing with your buddies if going solo isn’t your kind of thing – though it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need EA’s online pass to play, so keep that in mind if you plan on getting Hot Pursuit used.

Hot Pursuit looks beautiful – as you can no doubt tell by the screenshots and video in this article. The game runs at a silky smooth frame rate and the environments look gorgeous – though some times the world around you looks a little lacklustre when you stop to look around while taking a sreenshot – though I suppose that’s something to be expected when you’re blazing past scenery at 200 miles per hour.

Something that I feel is missing from Hot Pursuit is the customisation options that were available back in th’ day. You can change the colour of your car but that’s about it – while Hot Pursuit gets the racing part right there’s a part of me that yearns to be able to do more with what you get – it’d be great to share your creations with your friends online too.

As a whole package Hot Pursuit is a great game – the single player will keep you occupied for weeks or even months and the online suite only adds to that – Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is simply the best Need for Speed that I’ve played in years.

What the game looks like

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit in action

The verdict

Good: Huge open world to race in, beautiful graphics, solid and refined controls, challenging AI

Bad: Requires online pass for multi player, little car customisation, environments look a little bland in photo mode


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