22nd November 2010 - Remember the good old days of the classic Need for Speed games? Out running coppers in exotic sports cars? Chasing down speed racers in done-up police cruisers? You know, before everything became about making your cars look like spaceships and fancy paint jobs? Chances are, if you remember the joy of playing the classic Need for Speed games, you long for their glory days to return. Well rest peacefully fellow gamers, because with the latest instalment in the critically-acclaimed racing series see’s racing-genre veterans Criterion Games (form Burnout fame) take the series back to its roots. But can it relive the great Need for Speed experience? Read on to find out…
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is primarily an arcade racer. That is, it doesn’t try to give itself a half-assed storyline, it doesn’t rely on customisation to keep you interested, and it focuses all its energy on pure, high-octane racing adrenalin. This is the main point the game makes in returning the old NFS formula, and possibly the best thing about the game. In the game’s career mode, you can play as either the Police or a Racer. Each has a large number of increasingly difficult challenges and races that end up really putting your driving skills to the test, and you can interchange who you want to play as whenever you want through the main career menu.
Being developed by Criterion games, you obviously expect there to be some spectacular crashes. And with good reason to, as Hot Pursuit delivers some of the best looking and most satisfying high-speed car crashes this side of Burnout 3: Takedown. But everything here isn’t as it seems. The games smash and crash mechanics are very reminiscent of the older Burnout titles, however, when coupled with the strong sense of older Need for Speed titles, really doesn’t blend well. It works the same vice versa, too - the game feels too much like Need for Speed for the Burnout at its core to be all that enjoyable. What you are left with the mash-up of two very different racing experiences which fail to complement each other very well at all.
Something Hot Pursuit does manage to pull off wonderfully though, is its online features. Not just the crazy online races though, which are very awesome on their own, but rather the highly anticipated AutoLog feature. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it really, but as you play through the games career mode, you see just how great of an addition it really is. You are given recommendations to try to beat, a steady stream of news, posts and wall comments from all of your Need for Speed-playing friends, whether online or off. It ensures that if you don’t have friends online at the time, you can still get a solid feel of multiplayer through addictive time-trials set by your mates and recommended by the AutoLog. It also recommends friends to add if you lack some more prominent racer-mates. All up, the AutoLog, and the awesome picture-taking Dreamshot mode, topped off with Need for Speed wall and news feed make the best online racing features seen in a long time.
Like all good, and even most bad, racing games - Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is full to the brim of hot Car Porn. Using a decent supply of real-life classic and post-modern racers, Hot Pursuit manages to bring to life some of your more unbelievable, impossible and even dangerous car fantasies through its highly-detailed world and beautifully crafted vehicular racing and crashing. You probably wont mind crashing in this game too, given how wonderful your wallet-burning exotic sports cars look in pieces on the side of the road. No easy feat, mind you - Hot Pursuit is the best looking racing game in years.
The tracks are all made up of specific routes and roads taken from the massive playable area. You can’t just roam around like in Burnout: Paradise though, but that’s not really a bad thing. There are hundreds of different tracks that are made up of all the possible routes and just like any great Need for Speed title, there are further hundreds of cheeky shortcuts that can really give you the edge.
Where this title breaks both Need for Speed and the similar Burnout titles awesome-steak though, is in its soundtrack. If im racing, I want to listen to something that will have me on the edge of my seat. Have me barely in the real world as I fling around corners and smash into fellow racers. Hot Pursuit doesn’t offer that in the slightest. Its soundtrack is complete rubbish, with only a handful of songs all up, let alone the one, if not two, decent songs. And even those aren’t very great. Good job for custom soundtracks anyway.
Music aside though, everything here is spot on mediocre. Its nothing to write home about, but it really doesn’t disappoint. The odd voices here and there are well enough, and the cars sound high and mighty as you’d expect. There isn’t much that can be said about the sound, as its all by the books.
There is only so much fun can be had by yourself in a game like this, and with the extremely disappointing lack of Split-Screen play, you are gonna need a decent amount of online friends to get the most out of this game. But if you have just one or two good racers in your friends list, worry not, because as im sure I mentioned earlier, the AutoLog feature can turn even the smallest amount of playability into some fun. Create rivalries, beat friends, ruin relationships - its all good fun, and comes packaged right in the box with the game as a little feature that you may overlook at first but which really gives the game some longevity and a lot of the base value in total.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit neither hits or misses. Its too much Need for Speed for those wanting Burnout to enjoy, and its too much Burnout for those wanting Need for Speed to enjoy. It’s the best of both worlds, but it each fail to complement the other, resulting in a slightly disappointing, by the books racer that will have you jumping for joy for a little while then sitting, bored out of your mind until your friends beat some more of your psychotically good shortcut-heavy track times. It has some awesome features that fit in well with games main idea, like the great AutoLog and the awesome Dreamshot (which allows you to pause the game and manoeuvre the camera for some dreamy pictures of crashes and car porn), but overall doesn’t have enough to really be the best it can be. If you’re in the market for a arcade racer, Bizarre Creations’ Blur wipes the tarmac with this effort.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ Visually stunning
+ Great online features
+ Fast and furious racing
- Lack of Split-Screen
- Fails to bring back the NFS glory days
- Shoddy soundtrack
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott