When you hear that EA are teaming up with Criterion Games for a Need for Speed title, it’s time to get excited. Criterion are of course the guys and gals behind the multi-platform “Burnout” games, including “Burnout”, “Burnout 2: Point of Impact”, “Burnout 3: Taken”, “Burnout Revenge” and “Burnout: Paradise”. Now Criterion bring us the latest game in the “Need for Speed” franchise, that of “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit”.
If the name sounds familiar you’re clearly a veteran gamer with a game titled “Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit” releasing way back in September 1998. Criterion have taken the franchise back to its roots in more than name only, with more exotic cars and of course awesome police chases.
“Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” takes place in Seacrest County, an open world with a single player mode of around 14 hours length. Needless to say, most of the gameplay is based around the cat-and-mouse shenanigans of police chases, some of which you are the cat (chasing the mouse) and some vice versa. “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” features some of the sweetest vehicles you’re likely to see in a racing title, tricked out police cars with EMP pulse weapons and spike strips to make any hoons night more of a nightmare.
Chasing down an assailant in a tricked out cop car is awesome and the detail in the vehicle models is great, right down to the rims. Of course running from the cops in a tricked out sports car is also a lot of fun, both of these ‘careers’ are accessed via a map system in which you choose the next event to take part in. Progression is simple enough, do things in a certain time and it will of course unlock new vehicles and modes of play.
A cool addition to “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” is the “Autolog” which sees your friends times appearing after each race, telling you who of your friends you beat, or if their time was better than yours. This addition was likened to being Facebook for Need for Speed, given it’s essentially a social feature that shows you how your friends are doing on the same events. This means you can compete with your friends without actually ever racing against them online, though that is always an option too with multi-player.
This being a Criterion title there is oodles of replayability. Events you have already done can be revisited at any time and you can try and better the score / medal gained and this will be updated on the Autolog.
Graphics and sound in “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” is superb, the navigation and map system works a treat, though lacking the panache of say “Midnight Club: LA”. The environment of Seacrest County is huge (allegedly 4 times the size of “Burnout Paradise”). Locations feature some truly stunning detail, from the distance vistas, to the forests and coasts, everything is polished to within an inch of its virtual life. Audio too features a 5.1 soundtrack featuring great music and sound effects, with police banter adding to proceedings.
Given this is a racing title, there’s little female input, all the artwork for the game seems to suggest you’re male, as does the ingame cues. However, as this is a racing game, there could be anyone in the hot seat tearing up the road, so it’s really a double edged sword. Given the cars are the playable characters as it were, there’s no point in whining there’s no playable female, anyway aren’t most cars named after women.
Anything negative to add? Well, not much, controls can feel a little skittish until you get used to the art of drifting around bends, it also would have been nice to have the “takedown” feature since sideswiping other vehicles will generally see you lose control as they carry on their merry way as though it were a small nudge. There also isn’t much in the way of vehicle upgrades, so people who enjoy tweaking their cars to the enth degree will probably be disappointed, for me though this didn’t affect the game too much. Overall though “”Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” is a sweet ride and a great example of how to do an arcade racer the right way.
Format reviewed: Xbox 360 (cross format title)