The Need for Speed franchise truly is a thing of legend. Since its debut back in 1994, the series has spawned a whopping 16 titles across just about every gaming platform known to man. Through the years, the Need for Speed formula has undergone some radical changes, mixing in simulator-like racing and track-based events to the original gameplay. However their latest outing, Hot Pursuit goes right back to its high-octane arcade roots.
This is mainly thanks to Criterion being behind the wheel this time around. The same crowd that worked on the blistering carnage of the Burnout franchise have managed to inject a whole new feel. But at the end of my hands on session at EA Play last week, I was left thinking that I had just played Burnout: Hot Pursuit. Any remnants of a Need for Speed game have been completely overrun by Criterion’s retina-burning visuals and game design.
Is this a bad thing? Definitely not for Burnout fans and those who felt that the Shift and Nitro titles in the Need for Speed series took themselves too seriously. Hot Pursuit is all about lightning quick reflexes, breakneck speed and ruthless car chases. The only aspect that remains, of course, is the concept of the police versus exotic-sports-car formula that the Hot Pursuit series introduced back in the late 90’s.
Hot Pursuit lets you play through a full career mode as either a cop trying to uphold the law or as a street racer trying to make a name for themselves. The relationship between the cops and racers has been described as "a dog chasing down a rabbit" with the cops having faster and more robust cars than their targets. Both sides will have tricks up their sleeve, such as radio jammers and road-spikes, but in the end, the better driver will prevail. The game takes place in a fictional location called Seacrest County (an entirely open world) and features over 160 km of open road. Seacrest is four times larger than Paradise City; the location of Criterion’s previous Burnout game.
With this in mind, the responsive controls and heart-thumping gameplay are almost identical to Burnout: Paradise. The early code we had at EA Play was limited, with a few audio glitches and a lack of two-player action, an area that Hot Pursuit obviously favours with the 1 on 1 chase mode. The graphics are looking stunning, with a solid frame rate despite reaching near warp-speeds in your Porsche 918 Spyder. With a lot of the racing happening at night, the lighting effects play a huge part and seeing the flashing red and blue lights of the ‘poll-lease’ coming up behind you are a joy to witness before putting your foot down to evade.
It is clear that this game is a whole new direction for the Need for Speed franchise. My main concern now is, what will happen to the Burnout series? Does this game mark the merging of two of the biggest racing titles in recent memory and will the end result maintain their integrity? NZGamer.com will bring you all of the rubber-burning detail when the game lands this November.