For me the Need for Speed games have always been about the Hot Pursuit side of things ever since I played it on the PSOne and really enjoyed chasing down racers as a cop or trying to get away, avoiding helicopters, road blocks and spike traps. All the other spin-offs haven’t really done it for me so I was excited to play this latest Hot Pursuit title, especially as it’s developed by Criterion, the same people behind the sublime Burnout games.
As you’d expect this game’s less about simulation and more about hurtling around Seacrest County at a frightening pace. If you play Burnout there are obvious similarities – you earn extra nitrous by driving on the wrong side of the road, escaping crashes or drifting round corners and you can perform takedowns on other racers and send them flying in a superb slow-mo scene of twisted metal. The twist of course is most of the time you’ve also got hyper-aggressive police cars trying to ram you off the road as well.
Races come in many different forms. There are time trials where you have to just get to the finish line, earning penalties if you accidentally hit the roadside or other cars, straight races with other cars, one-on-one races and chases as either a racer or a cop and all-out stampedes with loads of police and racers on the road at once. As you play through the game you unlock a wealth of new supercars and upgrades for your equipment. At your disposal are spike traps you can drop out of the back of your car, a helicopter which will drop spikes ahead of you, road blocks to stop traffic in its tracks and an EMP which locks onto your target and makes your opponent lose control temporarily.
At times the game feels a bit like Mario Kart with the equivalent of banana skins and red shells being fired all over the place as you dodge and weave and try to find some cool shortcuts to avoid all the hell that’s breaking loose around you. You’ll be aiming for gold medals all the time when it comes to racing but there’s one other thing that’s far more important – and that’s your mate’s time as recorded by Autolog. Autolog updates you on who’s just beaten your time and recommends races you may like to try again. If you’ve got mates with the game you may get a bit obsessive like I have at shaving split seconds off your time in order to be top of the tree. It’s really addictive – of course the downside being there are no general leaderboards to speak of so if you don’t have competitive friends or know anyone with the game then Autolog’s no use to you really.
Thankfully you can of course jump into multiplayer where you can race away or try to catch up with anyone currently logged into the servers. Playing against real people is always more fun as you can do things like pull a crafty u-turn and take another route to the finish line to bamboozle whoever’s chasing you.
My only criticism is how the damage system works. If you’re chasing someone down and you slam into the front side of their car, opponents take no damage. Once you learn this just be wary you always have to hit the back half of a car to knock down their damage meter. Another annoying thing is if you’re chasing AI cars and they hit a wall, it’s best to slow down and wait for them to pass you again. This slows down the game but is a better alternative to trying to catch up with the car in front that is always way too quick thanks to some aggressive rubber banding that tries its best to keep cars close to each other and keep up the illusion of the chase. Sometimes the guys you’re chasing even respawn if they get stuck resulting in crucial lost seconds as you turn around to get a lock on them again. Surely if they’re stuck they’re busted no?
Despite these minor annoyances, Hot Pursuit is easily my favourite racer of the year so it gets a nitrous-fuelled 9 out of 10.
Get Need for Speed Hot Pursuit now
New: Buy Need for Speed Hot Pursuit from Amazon.com