Need For Speed Hot Pursuit

It is no secret that Ready-Up! has a connection with the racing games of Criterion, developer of this latest iteration of the Need for Speed series.  If you don’t know, a few of us set a Guinness world record playing Criterion’s excellent Burnout Paradise for 24 hours.  So it was with eager eyes that I awaited the arrival of this game, after hearing that the series was getting a much needed return to its roots, and by Criterion too!  My hopes were high, along with great many racing fans’ expectations; the Need For Speed series had floundered in recent years and this was maybe a last gasp effort to reel it back in.

By bringing the game back to its roots, I am referring to doing away with all the customisation and street racing aspects of some of the previous games and returning to simple cops and robbers scenarios of earlier games.  Criterion have done a great job with turning a simple concept in to an addictive driving experience, but then we wouldn’t expect anything less, would we?  Hot Pursuit, basically gives you one big game told from two different viewpoints, you can play the game as both racers and police.

As a racer it is your task to get to the end of the race without being apprehended by the police, as the police it is your task to stop the racers before they reach the finish line.  All of this racing and chasing is done across the huge road network of the fictional Seacrest County, the map of which appears before every race.  The map is very reminiscent of Paradise City from Burnout, in both its size and layout, however, it has the advantage of a greater variety of terrain.  You can go from racing in the snow capped mountains down to the desert floor and across to the coastal roads with all that comes in between.  All the landscapes are meticulously detailed with varying weather conditions and scenery, the addition of planes, birds, leaves and other traffic further enhances the feeling of reality.

The game is not about scenery, though, it’s about racing and chasing and it delivers in bundles of rubber burning joy.  At the start of the game you have access to basic sports cars; Porsche, Subaru, Dodge and more.  All of the cars look great and as you choose your vehicle you are given a spoken description of each car’s history, a really nice touch.  The first race sees you in a Porsche attempting to make your way along a coastal road, whilst being pursued by the local police.  As you take control of the car for the first time, you notice that the handling is leaning heavily towards an arcade style of racing, that is, you can go flat out towards a hairpin bend, gently tap the brakes and turn in to start a wonderful drift round the bend.  Controlling the drift is a matter of balancing your steering and acceleration – it’s really easy to do and makes showboating round the tracks a joy to do.  The key in escaping the long arm of the law is consistent driving, as you fulfill certain driving criteria; driving in to oncoming traffic, drifting, etc. and you have a boost gauge that builds up.  A quick press of the boost button propels you forwards with a limited burst of speed, enabling you an advantage over the police.  Make it to the end of the race and you are awarded with bounty points which accumulate as you progress, collect enough points and you will unlock new cars and level up to unlock more exotic vehicles.

The police aspect of the game is played out in much the same manner, with the exception that you are not trying to get to the end of the race but stop it before the end.  In some races you will be after one racer, in others there can be four racers to apprehend.  The trick to catching the racers is brute force, you can either ram them a few times to destroy their cars or you can use the small arsenal at your disposal.  A tap of the D-pad will either deploy a spike strip to take out tyres, an EMP to temporarily disable the car or a helicopter to follow the racers and drop spike strips or a road block to impede the racers’ progress.  As you continue your career these aids level up to offer greater effectiveness, you are limited in the number of times you can use them in game, though.  The racers also have access to some of these aids too although they also get a turbo wich gives a huge surge of power.

The progress in the game is great, as you level up you unlock new cars frequently, which gives a great sense of achievement.  Pagani, McLaren, Jaguar, Bentley and much more become available to drive for both factions.  The liveries on the police cars look particularly cool, with Lamborghinis all decked out in full police stripes and lights.  The basic game of cops and racers is what is offered in the online play, with the maximum of eight players in total.  This is really good fun to play with a group of friends; it’s like reliving all my childhood fantasies of American police television shows, racers racing and sirens blaring.  I have found though that the car choice can greatly affect your chances of success, with the lighter cars taking much less punishment than the larger, sturdier versions, but it’s not a gamebreaker by any means.  It’s through the online play that we are introduced to the newest concept in the game, a really well implemented idea called “Autolog”.

Autolog, for lack of a better description is like having a very specific version of Facebook in a game.  Autolog tracks yours and your friends progress through the game.  You can see how your friends are doing in the game, challenge their times on races or challenge them to beat your times.  You can view and upload photos that you take in game with the built-in photo mode; you can even post comments on anything you or your friends have done.  You are also informed about news relating to the game, with competitions and other stuff to do.  Autolog is, at essence, a glorified leaderboard with bragging rights, but that is what makes it so good. It’s great to see your unbeaten times standing tall.  It’s gutting to get a notification that your time has been beaten, but it only fills you with the need to reclaim the crown.







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