Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit review
Need for Speed is one of the longest-running game series and this latest version takes its title from the third game, released in 1998. You can drive as either a racer trying to escape the cops, or as the police, attempting to 'take down' the racers. Graphically, the latest version is a world away from its namesake, and a massive step up from even recent incarnations of the series. Cars and locations are almost photo-realistic, and weather effects are stunning.
Unlike the circuit-based 'Shift' versions of Need for Speed, all the racing - and chasing - in Hot Pursuit is done on the road, albeit in the fictional location of Seacrest County. You'll spend most of your time in the career mode, and you can switch between playing as a cop or a racer at will.
You start off as a rookie in both roles, and have to complete races to gain 'Bounty' to unlock faster cars and better weapons. There are 72 cars in total, from the Bugatti Veyron to the Mercedes SLS and Koenigsegg CCX (Ferrari is absent, though). Almost all are available in both racer and cop modes. A damage model allows cars to get progressively wrecked during a race.
As the game has been developed by Criterion, cars handle like those the developer’s Burnout series. Hot Pursuit feels slightly less like an arcade game than Burnout, but it's far from a simulation, so don't expect too much realism. Learning to drift round corners is your first task - until you master this, you'll find it hard to win races. Unfortunately, most of the cars share the same handling characteristics, so it doesn't matter if you're driving something light and agile like a Zonda or a tank like the Ford Crown Victoria - they all seem to accelerate and corner the same. There's little to be gained from a proper steering wheel – this is a console game that works best on a game pad.
As so much effort has gone into the exterior of the cars, it's a shame there's no interior view. We also found that, no matter whether we selected stereo or surround sound modes, the engine sound was always drowned out by other racers or the weather effects.
As well as normal races, you can race one-on-one or against the clock, but it's a shame that the drag races from Need for Speed: Underground don't feature. It's also disappointing (for purists) that the weapons such as the spike strip don't disable a competitor or the cops permanently. Rather than puncturing their tyres, it merely serves to put them around a second behind you in the race.
One of Hot Pursuit's unique features is Autolog, which can be thought of as Facebook within the game. You can post race results on your (or a friend's) 'wall' and this is supposed to engender competition as you seek to beat your mate's times.
Hot Pursuit left us with mixed feelings. Graphically, it's stunning thanks to day and night races in all weathers. There's nothing to complain about in the selection of cars, either. However, while some will appreciate the arcade feel, others will be frustrated by the lack of precise and rewarding control. With the imminent release of Need for Speed: Shift 2, simulation fans are better off waiting. For fans of arcade racing, and the Burnout series specifically, this is just what you’ve been waiting for.