Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Zoom, zoom, zoom. I’ve gone and got that Mazda advert stuck in my head. It’s probably because that’s all I’ve been doing for the last few days. Zooming around, in fast cars. Being a badass.

I’ve never really been a fan of car racers. Because, well, if I wanted to drive a car I would just go steal my parents 1996 Hyundai Lantra. But deep down I was intrigued by those die-hard racing fans who really get into the numerous racers on the silver screen. And one of the gaming franchises they really loved was Need for Speed.

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After sitting down and putting Criterion Games’ (the team behind Burnout) latest iteration to the test, I can safely say that I’m no longer out in the cold. I’m pretty sure I now get racers and their dangerous appeal.

This game is all about the cars. There’s not much of a plot to speak of. As in, there is no plot. Unless you consider levelling yourself up to different cars or unlocking new toys a storyline – which I, err, don’t. But there is a setting, somewhere (I assume on the American western coast, probably sunny California). A little place called Seacrest County has come into a veritable goldmine of cash (the only way to explain this game’s premise is if Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei had a cash baby) and they decided to spend it on some really well designed and maintained roads.

But, like moths to a flame, this enticed racers with the latest and most powerful speedsters to hit the accelerator and race each other around the whole district. Not wanting to be outdone by these hoodlums (and not wanting to waste the roads they so heavily invested in), Seacrest County fought fire with fire. They bought a boat load of low slung exotics, muscles and imports, whacked some police lights on them and set up the most expensive and overblown traffic police in the history of car racing.

And then they set about trying to smash all the speedsters and supercars off the road.

That’s the single player game in a nut shell. You choose to either play as a racer or as a cop, and you zoom around the countryside crashing or being crashed. The better you do, the more points you gain; the more points you gain, the more cars and items you can unlock. If you’re a cop your aim is to be promoted to the rank of “Ultimate Enforcer”. As a racer, you’re going for the “Most Wanted” tag. The games as simple as those names are. And it’s actually pretty damn fun.

Because we’ve played this game before. Actually we’ve played two games like this before. The first was Criterion’s Burnout – a very well received title that combined the twin obsessions of speed and destruction. The second was Mario Kart, which unlocked every gamer’s vicious competitive streak. In Need for Speed: Pursuit these three elements have been combined. This is a game that lets you go as fast as you can, crash as hard as you can, and try and force your opponent into crashtastic submission whenever you can. If you’re a cop, throw down spike strips, call in road blocks, radio for helicopters or blast exotics with an EMP. If you’re a racer just try to outrun everyone – but if you’re cruel, you too can knock people off the road.

Although the cops vs racers premise is ridiculously absurd, when combined with the primal joy of breaking expensive things it just adds to this title’s sense of fun. It doesn’t really matter that there is no narrative to speak of – people were never going to be looking to the NFS franchise to get a Shakespearean perspective anyway. This title doesn’t need to rely on a gripping story to keep you entertained. The ability to unlock newer and faster cars (and there are a great many of them), combined with slowly escalating 'missions', creates enough re-playability to keep even the most indifferent racing fan occupied for a decent amount of time.

The cars and environments are great to look at. I know absolutely nothing about supercars, so I always choose which one to drive based on how sexy it looks – my aesthetic eye was not left wanting. All of the cars are nicely rendered and when racing them around at upwards of 170 miles per hour (273 kilometres per hour), there was virtually no graphical lag. There are nice motion blur effects and minor details like foliage are full realised. Even the gaseous blues of your nitrous boosts look and feel great. It’s a quality job all round. Drifting screeches your tires, your engines purr or sputter at the right moments and the crash scenes were accompanied by some glass-smashingly great audio. Even though some of the crashes did graphically look a bit naff, Criterion still haven’t loss their Burnout touch. The action was intense and destructive enough to get a hoot or a holler out of anyone watching.

But there are a few criticisms that can be made. After playing for forty or so minutes, you’ve really done all you can do, aside from collecting and unlocking new cars. It doesn’t take very long to unlock all the game modes and when you have, they don’t really develop themselves beyond adding an extra racer or cop car to the mix. This is a tad disappointing but it’s hard to see where the title really could have taken you.

Secondly, it was a little difficult to discern much of a differentiation between the handling of the standard racers that you were unlocking. This wasn’t a problem with the top of the line Lamborghinis, Jaguars or Bugattis – but aside from their top speeds the handling of your entry level Dodge, Evolution X or WRX was a little “same old, same old”.

But where Need for Speed: Pursuit’s re-playability does shine is in its multiplayer. This is where its Mario-Kart sensibilities come to the fore. Knocking reasonably clever bots off the road is all well and good, but having the knowledge that on the other end of the internet is a human being (screaming in a blind rage because you just EMP’d his car into a tree) is always unbeatable. Additionally, by adding friends to your friends list, Pursuit gives you the option to use the new Autolog feature. This automatically connects you to your friend’s games, letting you share content, photos and war stories. Its major draw card is that it ranks your progress and events alongside your friends – so if you’re into the whole social-media meets gaming shtick this will certainly appeal.

Need for Speed: Pursuit is a ridiculous game. It’s totally absurd. A part of me was mortified at a title that seemed to revel in the simulated wanton destruction of millions upon millions of dollars of racing hardware. But they were the muted whispers of the minute angel on my shoulder. On the other was a very large devil holding a steering wheel and shouting in my ear about how great it all was.

Supermen traffic police versus the world's most elite racers with Mario-Kart attacks and Burnout-like crashes thrown in is totally, and utterly stupid.

And it’s stupidly fun.

"Totally absurd, and absurdly fun. "
- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments Comments (8)

Posted by Mirkillion
On Monday 15 Nov 2010 9:25 AM
Nice review, definitely gonna pick this up
Posted by nimrod76
On Monday 15 Nov 2010 12:37 PM
Another good review :) Looking forward to Friday night.
Posted by Ubercuber
On Monday 15 Nov 2010 3:21 PM
Can't wait for this...
Posted by Oliver
On Monday 15 Nov 2010 9:00 PM
Nice review Conrad. Thought you said you were more into the PC side of things! I guess you gotta do what the boss says!

I didn't take you for a car guy at all, but still you pulled off a good review regardless. :)

Pretty excited about this one even if I might only play it a week before Gran Turismo 5 hits. No matter, I'm practically getting it free anyway (really old EB trade-in credit) so no loss if it gathers dust! Haha it will probably get played more than that though.
Posted by monkeyfiedcheez
On Tuesday 16 Nov 2010 6:35 PM
my game of the year and i havent even picked it up yet sounds sooo good and i put soo many hours into burnout paradise its not funny i can see myself playing this one for ages
Posted by Veetzs
On Friday 19 Nov 2010 4:49 PM
Looks like an awesome new NFS game. I think it was great that EA decided to put the Burnout guys (Criterion) onto making this game, since they know speed and cars well..
Posted by Kegz
On Monday 22 Nov 2010 10:47 PM
Loving this game, I was thinking about 8.5 so I agree.
Great game but doesn't make it any higher simply because (like with any racer game really) there's only so much to do.
Posted by brettz0r
On Saturday 23 Apr 2011 10:35 PM
Its a great game.
The single player does get a little bit boring after a while but Multi is heaps fun!
Getting pretty bored of black ops and this is filling the gap nicely, get the feeling I will be over this soon enough tho and Im just going to have to finish the last 2% of GT5 and get through F1:2010 on Hard for that trophy...
especially since PSN has been down for two days!