Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (X360) Review
With petrol heads and console freaks around the world anticipating the release of the long awaited Gran Turismo 5 people could be forgiven for forgetting all about the latest title in the Need For Speed series, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. After all, the past few years have proven rather difficult for the NFS name following release of a number of disappointing follow-ups to the much loved Need For Speed: Underground. The bad run of form saw a turnaround last year with the release of NFS: Shift and Electronic Arts are keen to show the world that it wasn't a one off.
In order to do that they turned to world renowned UK studio Criterion Games. They are the developers are behind one of EA's previous driving series, Burnout. The most recent title in that franchise "Burnout Paradise" is one of the most easily accessible arcade racing games and includes some of the best crashes ever depicted in virtual form so it will be interesting to see what they bring to the latest Need for Speed.
The action is played out in the beautiful fictitious city of Seacrest, a place where the petrol seems laced with NOS and every drivers brake pedal is broken, the perfect place to begin a street racing career. As with any NFS title players will begin at the bottom of the pile and, through a series of races and challenges, begin to work their way up the ranks in order to become the ultimate street racer - or race buster. Don't be fooled though, even the "slowest" of cars in the game pack an almighty punch meaning players are instantly thrust into the action at piston blowing pace.
The career mode is a standard affair where players will race against the clock in time trials, against opponents in a sprint, or against the cops in order to gain more all-important "Bounty". The more bounty on a players head the bigger their street cred which means unlocking more tracks, races, cars and equipment along the way. Of course if being the boy racer isn't quite the players style there's always the option to race it out as one of the boys in blue.
In order to combat the serious street racing problem in the county the Seacrest PD have a number of high powered vehicles at their disposal, each packing enough horses to fill the grand national ten times over. As with on the street the same rules apply to the police officer as players will begin as a mere "Level 1 cadet" and, through hard work and high profile busts will work their way up the chain of command before finally getting their hands on the crème de la crème of law enforcement vehicles.
All of this is fun in the early stages but it isn't until we get behind the wheel of a Lamborghini or McLaren that players begin to appreciate just how much work has gone into Hot Pursuit. The game just feels supercharged, especially when being chased down by Seacrest County's finest and as players twist and turn through the tight streets or hurtle down the wide open freeways they will be left white knuckled and panting for breath at the heart stopping pace at which things happen. The measure between out-running the police and obliterating the car into a million pieces is literally millimetres which makes the game supremely exciting to play. One second we can be all clear with nothing but tarmac in front of us before, out of nowhere, we're heading straight for a 4x4 without time to brake. When players do inevitably crash they are greeted by the brilliantly done slow-mo of the carnage which is reminiscent of the Burnout series. The same effects take over when destroying an opponent's car or, of course, one of the police cruisers. Thankfully when the slow-mo ends players are eased back into the action as the game takes control to allow a smooth transition, meaning we aren't punished for our success.
As with previous versions of the game players are given the option to free roam and explore the beautifully realised city of Seacrest whilst perhaps looking to scout out some shortcuts for when they inevitably come across that section of the map in a race. It won't take long to realise how important the shortcuts can be when on the run from the police or looking to gain some ground on the opponent as the extra couple of seconds could prove vital. On top of the well placed shortcuts there are a number of upgrades players can unlock which will help keep them away from the cells, be it an EMP or Spike Strip the street racers of Seacrest are always well equipped to out-run the PD. Yet the Police to come equally as well rigged out and will even call in the help of the chopper in desperate times.
All good so far then with the single player game so what about multi-player? Well, that may be the best aspect of this game. Thanks to a number of customisable race options up to eight players will have the chance to pit their wits against one another either in a straight race or as cops-vs-bad guys, the latter of which is brilliant fun as it gives players the chance to work both with and against one another as they attempt to out-run both each other and the police.
There is also the inclusion of the brilliant "Autolog", a feature which combines social networking with livingroom gaming. It will take the best times from a player and his friends list and post it on their "Wall", almost taunting other players to compete and beat the time. Much like in the not so popular title "Blur" it adds a whole new dynamic to the multiplayer game, allowing for competition even if not everyone is online at the same time.
Really the only thing missing from the game is the fact that there is no way to customise the vehicles, something that used to be what NFS was all about. Regardless of that the game is still brilliantly addictive and crazy fun, especially when competing against friends online.
Past Need For Speed titles have always been brilliantly realised and with the Burnout series we came to love the exquisite backdrops and brilliant looking cars. Good then that Criterion Games have kept the same standards when it comes to making Hot Pursuit game look pretty. Despite travelling at almost supersonic speeds, leaving little time for sight-seeing, the world is beautifully rendered and in full HD looks stunning. The same can be said of the card that players can choose from, each looking like an exact clone of the real thing.
The true challenge that Criterion faced was making the game look and feel like it was turbo charged and they have passed with flying colours. A simple tap of the A button will unleash the Nitrous Oxide and soon have players entering what looks like warp speed 9 as the screen begins to blur and bend. Normally this ends in disaster but watching our car crash at 180 MPH was just as much fun as driving it in the first place thanks to the slow-mo cam and brilliant effects ripped straight from Burnout.
For any red blooded male there isn't much that sounds better than listening to the symphony of four sports cars tearing across the tarmac of an inner city highway. The 3D sound effects are excellent and give players a truly immersive feel as they find themselves surrounded by police cars, enter a tunnel and it takes it to a new level of realism that - if wearing a headset - could easily be mistaken for the real thing.
Every fast paced racer needs an energy filled soundtrack to boot and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit delivers with various house tracks from the likes of Deadmau5 and Benny Bennassi - two of the world's biggest DJ's. The soundtrack isn't merely dance tracks however and with some energetic and lively rock songs there is enough variation to keep all music fans happy.
It's taken a hell of a long time for EA to pair Criterion Games with the NFS franchise but after playing Hot Pursuit for a few days it's clear that it was worth the wait. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is a brilliantly fun racing sim which offers almost everything that past titles did and more.
The excellent career mode which lets you play as both a street racer and a police officer offers plenty of depth and hours of driving fun whilst unlocking new cars, tracks and upgrades will keep players hooked. When the single player becomes tiresome, it could do with a drag race mode for example; players can begin their assault on their friend's scores online thanks to the brilliant new Autolog feature.
Although it's disappointing not to see more customisation NFS: Hot Pursuit offers hours and hours of pick up and play fun for anyone who has ever been a fan of the series.
||Despite not being the most realistic of racing sims NFS: Hot Pursuit is one of the most fun to hit the shelves in recent times. And when out-running the cops or chasing down the bad guys becomes tedious the many multiplayer modes will soon have players back in the driving seat.
||As beautiful as anything that's been released by Criterion Games with stunning surroundings and perfectly realised cars. With the physics and mind bending NOS boosts racing has never felt, or looked, so fast.
||The fast paced and energetic music compliments the game perfectly and mixed with the stunning sounding engine of a Bugatti Veyron and you have every petrol heads ideal soundtrack.
||Hours and hours of fun is followed up by days of direct competition with friends online thanks to the Autolog feature. It's well worth the money.
(Not an Average)
||After the promising Burnout Paradise Criterion Games was the ideal studio to develop the next NFS and they have completely delivered. A hugely impressive and fun racer.