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Review: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

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This isn’t the first Need for Speed with the title Hot Pursuit. Looking for help rebooting the franchise, EA turned to Burnout developer Criterion to produce this latest entry in the series. Drawing heavily from their experience with Burnout, Criterion has brought a lot more bang to a series which already had the speed.


The majority of the single player game is progressed though what’s called the “autolog”. You choose events either as a racer or a cop and you rank up from playing events. As you rank up, you unlock new vehicles and weapons. There are plenty of events to do although there aren’t enough race types. It seems like there could be other types of cops and robbers events other than just hot pursuit and time trials. A mode where you try to bust as many racers as possible in a set time would be neat. Also a more open world mode as a cop where you have to track down and bust racers would be cool. It seems as if the game has a lot of unseen potential for more race types. You’re pretty much going to see the same four types of races over and over again.

As an action-racing game, NFS:HP plays pretty fast and frantic. It’s not a total arcade racer though, and still feels more natural than a full action-racer like Burnout. It’s a game that is easy to pick up but can be still be challenging once you get to the fastest cars. The only problem with the control is that some vehicles tend to be a bit floaty and that can make it difficult to make minor course corrections for things like avoiding oncoming traffic. The class system is pretty much straight out of Burnout 3, with cars separated depending on their speed; while events are based around these as well as the manufacturers and nationalities. There is some rubber band action behind the scenes keeping the racers close in single and multiplayer games but it’s not overly obvious most of the time and it makes the game feel exciting but not cheap. It would have been helpful to have more information on the cars beyond their top speed. If some cars have more of a drift nature than others and some cars are good for offroad it would have been good to include that information in the description.

The game takes place in the fictional Seacrest County. It’s a seamless game world as opposed to individual tracks. Overall, it appears to be a bit of a compromise between the tracks of Burnout and the open world of Burnout Paradise. It’s probably most comparable to NFS Underground. You won’t openly explore the world except for in the interceptor missions where it’s a one-on-one match between a cop and a racer. Other than that, you’ll be racing in straight line routes which are clearly defined. There are shortcuts in the game which allow you to cut corners on longer turns but sometimes they don’t make for faster routes and are only really good when trying to lose the cops. Supposedly some cars are better suited for off-road than others but the game isn’t very clear on which cars those are so it’s a bit of trial and error figuring that out. All in all, Seacrest County is a vast and enjoyable landscape and the predefined paths are well suited to the action-style racing.

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The majority of the races involve running from the cops or pursuing racers. Both sides come with their own choice of weapons and abilities. Cops can call in road blocks, helicopters, drop spike strips or target racers with EMPs. Racers also have spike strips and EMPs as well as the ability to jam cop weapons and make use of powerful one-shot turbo boosts to escape danger. The whole system gives the game an air of Mario Kart but with a much more mature theme. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. The online modes include regular racing, one-on-one “interceptor” matches and hot pursuit modes. Hot Pursuit is my favorite. It is a ton of fun and it’s fairly well balanced. The one problem is that currently I keep getting logged out of EA’s servers and can’t log back in for an hour or so. It happened several times over the course of my playing. Additionally, there’s no split screen mode. If you want to play with your friends, tell them to stay home.

Graphically, NFS:HP is very impressive. It compares well with even the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza, albeit with a smaller selection of cars. The crashes are beautiful and the world is vast and scenic. NFS:HP boasts a fair number of licensed cars, which is pretty surprising considering how reticent car manufacturers are to license their works of art for a game which glamorizes crashing. The sound is great and there is something very satisfying about listening to the shards of broken windshield ping off the asphalt after a particularly long pursuit.

The one downside to the solo missions were the Cop “rapid response” missions. These are little more than a time trial. I’m not sure why it’s fun to speed to the scene of a race just to find the racers already busted when you get there. Additionally, during these “rapid response” missions you are heavily penalized for touching walls or oncoming traffic. It’s not a very fun mode to begin with but it becomes a practice in frustration. It seems as if the game needed a few more modes besides just “Hot Pursuit” and” Race” because, as such, it seems these “rapid response” missions were dumped in to help pad the game out a bit. EA has also done their fair share of adding value to this game. Several cars are only available through DLC as of launch and the game requires an “online pass” so if you buy it used you’re gonna have to pay EA for the privilege of playing it online.

Criterion set out to both rejuvinate the Need for Speed franchise while leaving their own mark on it, and they have done just that. Pick up this game and have a blast. Make your friends get it too.

Developer: Criterion
Genre: Action Racing
Time: Single Player 12-15 Hours
Gripes: Online keeps kicking me off because EA can’t keep their servers up. Too many frustrating “rapid response” missions.
Get it for the: awesome and exciting Hot Pursuits.

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