At this current point in time, there have been approximately 21 Need for Speed titles released since its initial debut on the Panasonic 3DO somewhere in the early 17th Century (Okay, I really mean 1994).
While Need for Speed was once the most beloved racing franchise available it slowly slipped deeper and deeper into mediocrity thanks to its descent from exotics racer, to street racer, to goodness knows whatever the heck happened after Most Wanted.
In order to try and return the Need for Speed franchise back to its former glory, EA called in the big guns. Criterion Games were brought in to take a break from making Burnouts to show us that they think they know how to make a real Need for Speed game.
Were they up to the challenge, or is it time for the franchise to finally throw in the towel? Full review after the jump.
Criterion were asked to bring the Need for Speed franchise back to life, and make it the great series that it once was. In order to achieve this herculean task handed to them by EA, they did something so extreme, so outlandish and so plain crazy, that most developers would never even dream of the concept.
Criterion made the conscious choice to not be stupid.
Why is that that even when there are a trillion different websites and forums chock and block full of fans dedicated to telling the world what they want, some developers think that they know better. These are the developers that fail miserably… and they deserve to.
When Criterion sat down to decide on what kind of game to make, they proved their worth there and then, when they decided to make… wait for it people… a Need for Speed game. Not a Gran Forizmo, not a Fast an’ Ferocious… a Need for Speed game.
Why base your game on other franchises, or even genres when the original Need for Speed was one of the very founders of a whole genre of racing games to begin with. With that in mind, Criterion got started.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit not only returns the series back to its Hot Pursuit roots, but the roots of the entire franchise: The Need for Speed.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit throws you into a split career mode that puts you on both sides of the fence. Rather than choose to be either a cop or a racer, you get to be both. You are presented with a map that shows off point-to-point courses plotted out on a large open world. New races and police missions are selected from the map, and more and more unlock as you progress throughout the game.
Even though you play both racer and police officer, there are still a variety of modes within those options. As a racer, you are able to partake in modes that range from straight out races, hot pursuit races where cops are involved, having to lose the cops anyway possible, time trials and so on. As the police you also play different modes that require you to shut bust all the cars in a race, or make sure a single racer doesn’t flee however there is also a mode that is similar to the usual time trial, although you have points deducted heavily for damaging your car in any way, so variety is the name of the game.
If you are looking for realism, then you have come to the wrong place, and in this case I mean it nothing but a good way.
The driving mechanics and physics of NFS: HP sit quite comfortably in the Arcade Racer category. Breaking points, racing lines and car balance are the least of your worries as you blast your cars down highway straights, drifting corners like they were nothing and dodging traffic by millimeters.
Drifting corners, near misses and pretty much anything that is considered risky or awesome generates boost in a fashion that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played the Burnout games.
Hot Pursuit is not so much about driving a car properly as it is entirely about how you interact with everything around you. Because the cars are so heavily based on arcade physics, more of your energy can be spent on finding shortcuts and doing all of the other fun stuff.
As you progress in both your racer and police careers, you unlock more and more sexy vehicles from stables such as Lamborghini, Porsche, Shelby, Dodge, Aston Martin, BMW and many more as well as additional equipment. The equipment gives you abilities that are a limited set of functions that can be performed while in a race, as both a racer or a cop.
Police are able to call in road blocks to slow down racers, drop spike strips in the road, fire EMP bursts and even call in helicopter support. Racers have some of the same abilities such as spike strips and EMP’s but also have jammers to mess with police abilities and radars, as well as an overly exciting turbo boost that goes above and beyond what your normal nitro boosts are capable of.
I think it may very well be a massive understatement to merely say that the races in Hot Pursuit are a bundle of fun. Every race feels like a pure adrenaline shot to the heart. Races begin with incredibly good looking introductions of racers getting picked up by cops, or a police car being called for assistance. From that point onwards its a thrill-enfused high speed rollercoaster ride that feels like its literally blowing your hair back from the beginning to the every end.
When it comes to the gameplay I only had some minor gripes about a few things, most notably the police missions. When chasing down racers, you need to bust them by either stopping them (happens rarely) or by taking them out by emptying their health bars. The problem I found is that the game seems to only register damage to the racers if you hit them with the front of your vehicle pretty directly.
Many instances arose where I pushed a racer into oncoming traffic, or a barrier causing a massive accident, only to have them respawn with no changes to their health meter. The issue also arises in that if a racer is behind you, if he hits you, you risk being taken out instead of the other way around, so slamming breaks in front of a racer is pretty much mission suicide. On the whole it just feels like the police cars should have all been a little beefier and stronger overall. While it may have been done for balancing purposes, it can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments.
To make the races that much better, the game has been graced with drop-dead gorgeous graphics and eardrum-bursting sound design. The cars look absolutely stunning and are complimented even more by the mesmerizing landscapes offered up by the massive world designed by Criterion.
The world itself is possibly one of the best and most interesting fictional racing locations that I have ever had the pleasure to behold. In the space given in the world, the designers have included almost every different type of location ranging from coastal roads and forests, to windy roads on snow tipped mountains or long, straight desert freeways. To make it all even better.
Hot Pursuits world also includes full time of day options, as well as full weather features which means that you at you will be hopping from night races with thunder and lightning but dry roads, to morning races pouring with rain or hot midday sprints.