Review | Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Format: Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii | Genre: Racing | Publisher: EA | Developer: Criterion Games | Release date: 16/11/2010 | Price: £39.99
Steve K Peacock drives badly but loves NEED FOR SPEED: HOT PURSUIT.
IT CAUSES me no end of annoyance that I am incapable of playing racing games properly. I can drive a real car, quite well if I do say so myself, but you stick that car in a virtual setting and I’m worse than your typical chav on an evening’s drunken escapades. Crashes in abundance for my virtual self and it’s quite handy that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit devotes at least half of itself to causing such spectacular wrecks.
Hot Pursuit splits the action between more traditional high octane racing, complete with extravagant super cars and outlandish (if limited) weaponry. The focus is on the race in this mode, evading the machinations of the wily police and those of your other competitors, in the hope of reaching the finish line first. In essence, it’s what you’ve come to expect from a racing game: fast cars, sneaky shortcuts, interesting tracks and plenty of on-road tactics to bring into play. Do you use your weapons to cause an opponent to spin out and explode, or push him off the track into one of Hot Pursuit’s long-cuts – alternate paths that trick the racer’s hind-brain instinct that says anything off the main track must, by definition, be shorter – and keep him around as fodder for the cops.
Police, camera, action
As the street racing in Hot Pursuit is technically illegal, blasting past police at speed traps will cause them to give chase. They have access to a handful of similar weapons as you, but whereas the racers will be concerned with finishing the race and doing so in a high position, the police are concerned only with making sure the race end with every driver brought to justice in a way that will appeal to a TV audience. The tell tale beep of the mirror-mounted radar detector acts as an early warning system, followed by a stylishly shot scene of the car – make and model included, naturally – spinning into life behind you. Suddenly you’re in two races, one to beat the other racers and one to escape the fuzz. Going mano-a-mano with the police is possible but, owing to the relative fragility of your car, a last ditch choice. Instead, you are forced to use other drivers as shields, tactically keeping yourself near to them rather than going all out for pole, hoping that the police will see you as less of a threat and provide you with the opening you need.
But fear not, pure petrol-heads, if the police sound like an unwelcome annoyance to your traditional racing style, they do not appear in every event. Each “track” — actually a specific segment of a much larger map – has a variety of different events, ranging from straight up racing to time trials and the more destructive races that allow weapons and the police. This allows the already pretty sizeable track choice to feel even larger, with different tactics being needed for different events, and different driving styles and car choices coming into play when considering whether speed or durability are the most important.
The other half of the game lets you play as the police and, despite what must have been a powerful temptation to slack off, is just as deep and involving as the racing portion. The main source of fun in police mode is taking down the racers, be it through car-to-car contact or the liberal use of weaponry, but that’s not all there is. Rapid response, prototype testing and others – similar in style to their criminal counterparts but with unique twists – round out a mode that is actually perfectly complimentary to what many might see as the “main game”. Get sick of fighting for position in the racer mode, switch over to the cops and take out some frustration on the AI, complete with gratuitous slow-mo every time you wreck a car. It’s sublime to watch, and more forgiving with regards to progression than the racer mode.
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