I had two big concerns when I heard Criterion was developing the next Need for Speed game. My first was that this game would end up being Burnout (which would not be a bad thing) with a Need for Speed label. Secondly I was worried that the Need for Speed label which has been all over the board in recent years would really take away from the experience. Well the time has come and Need for Speed has reached the starting gates. Does EA and Criterion finally have a Need for Speed game worth talking about? Read our full review to find out.
The Need for Speed brand has been all over the board. We saw last year a “Shift” to simulation racing, and in years past we have seen a ton of variations of arcade racers. For the first time developer Criterion most known for their amazing work on the Burnout franchise is having their hand at the Need for Speed brand in an old fashion cops vs. racer experience. So does Criterion have the right stuff to make an old fashion Need for Speed racing experience that doesn’t make us roll our eyes? You better believe it!
Although I believe the majority of Need for Speed fans has been enjoying the previous games offline more then online, Hot Pursuit is extremely competent at both. You open up the single player with a large map and you can literally just go through and start right away in some races. So the basic underlying premise of the game is to level up both as a racer and a cop and a racer. One of the best decisions the developers made was to allow you to literally take whatever path you want. For me I got really into the cop missions and focused on those for a while and then moved back to the racer events.
Both sides of the coin have weapons that you can use throughout the events. Cops can use things like spikes and roadblocks where racers can use things like turbo (even faster then boost) and jammer which stops cops weapons. The weapons might not sound all that exciting but combine that with stellar locations and driving and they really add to what ends up being some of the most exciting racing I have played in quite some time.
Another interesting addition to the single player is the auto log functionality which quite nicely shows how you compare to people on your friends list. In fact it actually proves to be a rather ingenious idea that takes leaderboards (which for me I always ignore) and makes them matter. Before each race you can see the times that your friends have put up and find out how you stack up in the mix. The feature is actually quite deep and provides a “game within a game” sort of speak that if you and your friends really get into the experience will offer up an even deeper amount of replay value then what initially meets the eye.
This alone so far could be the means for a great game but I haven’t even begun to discuss the stellar online play in Hot Pursuit. You can jump into eight player races where you split into two sides racers and cops and try to duke it out. Although on paper this sounds like a cookie cutter online mode it actually turns out to be just as entertaining as the offline experience. There is a deep level of strategy involved in these games and if you manage to get some friends on board to play some of these games it can really make for some competitive games.
Right away you will see that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a gorgeous game. The car designs are top notch, the locals are stellar, and the feel of the game is really quite impressive. Having played so many of the past Need for Speed games I have to say that the visuals in Hot Pursuit far outmatch any of the past games. This is a far more focused and fully developed visual experience. To go along with the stellar visuals there is also amazing audio (car sounds are incredible) that makes the whole visual experience come to life.
I have to admit I have become extremely disheartened by many of the past Need for Speed games. They have all been so narrow focused and have lacked that killer punch that is needed for an arcade racing game. Criterion seems to just have that magic touch with racing games and continues that with Hot Pursuit. The concept of racers vs. cops has been done before, but never to this level. For an arcade racing game Hot Pursuit has a surprising amount of depth that is sure to be admired by all racing fans.
It’s without question that Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is one of the, if not the most enjoyable racing games of 2010. When you look at just the quality of the experience and match that up with how much replay value Hot Pursuit has this is a no brainer purchase for any arcade racing fan out there. Like with Burnout Paradise, this once again makes me excited for whatever else is up Criterion’s sleeve.