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Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit


Lobster Dog to Dog Fort, Deploy the Spike Strips
I remember hovering over my computer many years ago watching my brother play the original Hot Pursuit back in 1998. Racing away from the police radar and avoiding spike strips was ridiculously entertaining. As the Need for Speed series has switched through various developers over the years, EA's influence brought narratives and Hollywood voice talent into the various entries like Need for Speed: Most Wanted. However, the developer of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion Games, has abandoned the inclusion of a story and brought the game back to the core elements, evading the fuzz. You can immediately see the influence of the Burnout series on the structure and arcade-infused racing style of Hot Pursuit. The presentation of both games is very similar, specifically the ability to race around the map looking for new challenges. However, it's still incredibly stylistic and typical of other Electronic Arts offerings.

need for speed hot pursuit police car chase

The game turns you loose in Seacrest County, a fictional area that must only teach three professions; street racing, police work and wreck cleanups. Interestingly, you don't have to choose either role exclusively for the career mode. You can enter both criminal and police missions at any time during the free-roaming mode. As you earn experience, both careers are ranked up and you can upgrade equipment as you progress. Seacreast is an extremely large area, thus racing around the county is not as quick as directly cutting to the game's various events. Hot Pursuit is the most entertaining event, putting you on either side of the law and making you escape from or capture the opposite driver. Cops have access to calling in support in the form of choppers, roadblocks and spike traps. Street racers have the ability to jam up the communication channels of the fuzz or lay down an EMP blast to take out the chasing police cars behind them. They also have turbo boost to get away from the cops. While the devices are really fantastic for adding a more frantic element to the gameplay, they can get a bit repetitive over multiple Hot Pursuit events in a row.

Other events include Time Trial and straight up racing, neither of which is as fun as Hot Pursuit, but makes for a great break in the main draw of the title. The majority of the cars are all high-end, sports cars that most can only dream of having (mostly unlocked in the latter stages of the game). Even police cars are designed from these uber-expensive models. The cars all handle very well on the Dualshock, very much reminiscent of Burnout Revenge. However, deep concentration is required when flying down the road at nearly 200mph to avoid the folks actually obeying the speed limits. Weather effects do effect how the cars handle, mostly allowing for fancier power slides during rainy days.

need for speed hot pursuit red car slick

In order to spur the competition between your friends, Criterion has include a statistical comparison system called the Autolog. Brilliantly, they have included it within the menu system, often popping up in places you wouldn't expect. You don't have to go looking for the stats buried in the menu and this creates an automatically competitive feeling. Maybe you will be pissed that you didn't rank well on the last race after seeing 3 of your friends above you on the leaderboard. Maybe you will drop your friends a note gloating about your most recent victory. Criterion has also included "The Wall" *cough*Facebook*cough*. You can share items like your achievements on the wall as well as look at the posts that your friends have shared. It will also alert you when your friends have beaten your times on various tracks. Putting an emphasis on sharing is really a smart way to encourage players to revisit the game over time. For those with trouble making friends, there's also a friend recommended system in place to find players with similar skill and interest in driving.

When you want to take a break from the career mode, you can hop into the eight player multiplayer mode and play around with the variations on chasing down players. You can stack the deck against a single player and assign 7 rookie players as cops to take down a single expert street racer. The game genuinely encourages teamwork between the players on the police team, ideally making teams work together with their traps to take down the opposite side. You can also compete in regular races, but the majority of your time will likely be spent playing cops and robbers. I didn't experience any slowdown or lag issues when playing the multiplayer matches either, even with the full eight players competing. If earning trophies is your type of fun, there are plenty to be had in Hot Pursuit. The vast majority of the achievements are related to completing ranks in the career mode, but there are some tougher tasks in there like getting 2K yards of drifting in a Subara Impreza or winning the Muscle Reflex race with the Transformers influenced yellow Camaro.

need for speed hot pursuit breaking car crash

Graphics

The car models are darn impressive in Hot Pursuit as well as the attention to create a more con vicing crash than something more outlandish from the Burnout series. The animation is smooth and I didn't notice any glaring framerate hiccups, even in the free roaming mode. While I'm betting that GT5 is going to blow us away with their visual engine, Criterion did a fantastic job designing and illustrating the overall environment of Seacrest County and all of its law breaking / abiding / enforcing inhabitants.

Audio

Similar to the original Hot Pursuit, I love the communication chatter between the cops regarding the crook's position on the map and info on how to stop them. All the other sound effects, like the screeching of tires on wet pavement or inevitable crunching of metal during a spectacular crash, are just as exceptional. The only thing about the audio that really bugged me was the lackluster soundtrack. Thank goodness for custom soundtracks. Nothing says escape from the cops like a little Apocalypse Now influenced Ride of the Valkyries.

need for speed hot pursuit police helicopter crash

Conclusion

In the end, Criterion did something that no developer has been able to do with the Need for Speed series in over 10 years; bringing the game back to its roots and making me feel like I'm still at that computer watching my brother. In many ways, the formula has been improved and obviously the visuals have been vastly overhauled since then. The lack of tacked-on, crappy narrative is actually refreshing for a change and the simplicity of the open-world design is absolutely fantastic. I'm impressed that Criterion talked EA into creating a game like this, completely absent of their typical over-produced, bombastic design. Anyway, if you love racing titles and want to see how the Need for Speed series became massively popular in the late nineties, then look no further than Hot Pursuit this holiday season. It's the best arcade driving game I've played in 2010 and easily in my top 5 for the past five years; highly recommended.



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