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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

Review; Mar. 7, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Enjoyable Need for Speed returns

The Need for Speed series has seen a decline in quality and sales since critically- and gamer-acclaimed Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Each iteration of the NFS brand after Most Wanted saw sales decline and reviews drop. Electronic Arts then decided to split the NFS series into a brand with different game types available: realistic racing, arcade racing and MMO racing. Thankfully, this decision has paid off with arcade-style racing getting a big upgrade in quality with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

NFS: HP is a more arcade-style racing game than a realistic game such as Need for Speed: Shift. While previous NFS games centered around a relatively linear storyline that saw you work your way up the racing ranks from the bottom to a climactic finale, NFS: HP gives you access to two career paths: racer and cop. Indeed, folks, you too can be a police offer busting racers in Hot Pursuit.

In order to play Hot Pursuit, all you've got to do is select an event on a map of Seacrest County and play it. There are no cutscenes (as in previous NFS entries) to guide your way. You simply select any event you have access to at your level of play (racer and cop events separately). You'll use the results of these events to move along in your racer and cop careers. You will earn bounty in both career tracks; the more bounty you earn, the more cars and upgrades you'll gain access to in that career track. You'll also additionally receive promotions to higher levels in each career by completing events -- especially if you complete events in a winning fashion.

There are several event types for each career track. Racers have access to racer-only races, in which it's just you and your opponents to the finish line. You can also partake in races that have a police element added, thus making the stakes even higher because you must now contend with a police presence attempting to slow you down. There are also instances in which you've got to shake the cop presence on your own, outside of a race.

Cops naturally have the flip-side when it comes to events. You'll attempt to take down an entire race by yourself in some events, while in others you'll be time trailing to respond as fast as possible to a certain location to help bust a known racer. In a slight variant of this type, you'll also gain access to a higher-end car than you currently have available, in a time trial to a finish line. In each of these time trial events, damage taken to your car will result in a time penalty.

Early in the cop career, some of the previews (driving a high-end car to the finish) are out of balance with the game difficulty for events at that point in your career. You'll get a general feel for how difficult the cop events are, but some of the preview events are much harder by comparison, at least in the early stages. This is frustrating for sure, but you don't have to play those previews right away if you don't want to.

Speaking of the game play -- it's pretty good. The racing is relatively tight, and the controls are responsive. The arcade style is definitely present, and it works well with the environments. You may have trouble drifting as well as the computers do in the early stages, though. This is another drawback to Hot Pursuit -- in the early stages of the game, you're naturally getting used to drifting so you won't be as effective with it later on. The AI you'll compete against, however, does not have this early-game learning curve. It would have been more realistic for the game AI to have mistakes as well.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

There are two other elements of the game play that can also frustrate players. The first is that the AI racers basically know when traffic is coming ahead, even if it's not actually visible. For example, you may be driving uphill, and there is a car directly in your path on the other side of the hill. You cannot see this car and do not know it's there, but the AI players do know this car is there, despite no visual evidence. Realism could have been added here to block the computer AI from knowing that a car exists in the game world up ahead because it wouldn't be visible to someone actually in the car.

The quick in-race shots have problems as well. These show what has happened to the other racers when you've hit them with a weapon. Say you've deployed a spike strip behind your vehicle, and an opponent hits it. The game will cut and show you the hit so you know what's going on. During this shot, the computer will take over driving your car so the race can progress smoothly for the other racers. When you get control of your vehicle back, you may be in a hairpin turn. If so, you can expect to hit the side of the road quickly because the computer will not maintain the turn for you when you regain control. It's frustrating to see your computer-controlled car doing poorly during the shot or to be left in an impossible position once you regain control.

In case you didn't catch it just now, you do have weapons available to you in the game. As you progress in your career, you'll gain access to more and more weaponry. As a police officer, you will be able to call in roadblocks and helicopters, and you'll also be able to deploy spike strips behind your car while moving, and to arm and shoot an EMP burst from the front of your car. As a racer, you will have access to spike strips and EMP as well, coupled with a systems jammer so police cannot use their weapons and a turbo boost that does far and above more than nitrous can do. These weapons almost make Hot Pursuit seem like a grown-up Mario Kart.

Hot Pursuit does come with a multiplayer component as well, with effectively 25 game variants. For each game type, you can choose a particular class of car you want to race with: sports cars, super cars, etc. There are five of these classes. The game shipped with three game types available: one mode of 4 racers and 4 cops battling it out during a race; one mode with a single racer versus a single cop in the open world; and a mode consisting of four racers with no police presence and no weapons.

Two more multiplayer modes were added via downloadable content in February: a mode in which it's still just racers but with weapons to deploy against one another and a mode in which the police are out to stop one particular racer, and the other racers are deployed to protect the target.

The multiplayer plays pretty much like the single player mode. It applies bounty so you can improve your career paths and will automatically level teams and try to give everybody an even distribution of racer games versus cop games.

The presentation of NFS: HP is, as usual, very good. The visuals are nice, and the audio is handled pretty well as well.

All in all, Hot Pursuit is a good return to what made Most Wanted such a good game, without all of the added junk that made previous NFS entries poorer than they should have been. If you haven't acquired this racer yet, then it may be worth a shot, especially if you're looking for that grown-up Mario Kart experience.


Review Score

Everyone 10+

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

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