I like my racing games, and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is no exception; I love it! You certainly feel the sheer speed and power of the licensed motors you’re driving and if anything, it certainly feels a lot faster than Burnout Paradise if that’s at all possible.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit has been two years in development by Criterion Games, the developers of the Burnout series. Whilst this latest title in the Need for Speed series is a homage of sorts to 3DO’s original Need for Speed series in the late 90s, the game also evokes memories of Burnout 2: Point of Impact for me. It really does beg the question then: where does Need for Speed begin, and Burnout end?
Well, Burnout most definitely remains the most arcade-style racer, with a bigger emphasis on crashes, takedowns and outrageous stunts. The cars in Hot Pursuit feel like they handle slightly more realistically, but still unmistakably arcade-style. The game also feels more stripped down to its bare essentials. At the end of the day, you get the opportunity to drive the world’s fastest, and most desirable licensed cars exactly how you’d want to drive them: sideways round a hairpin in the early hours of the morning with rain lashing down and lightening forking through the sky. Possibly.
Whoever approved the soundtrack for Hot Pursuit captured the tone and atmosphere of the game perfectly. Equally impressive are the visuals. Weather looks terrific, and depending where you are in Seacrest County you’ve either got sand or snow blowing across onto the highway. A neat touch. The game world is supposedly a lot bigger than Paradise City, but there’s little incentive to explore by free-roaming.
Never has a racing game just got it so spot on for me, I almost can’t describe with words the visceral excitement of blasting through a dusty desert highway at 200 mph at midday as a police helicopter roars overhead and a pursuit car rams you across the road. In Burnout Paradise there was the ‘cops N’ robbers’ add-on which was a rather lightweight affair, but Need for Speed’s a meatier game than you would expect. Criterion has mixed things up a bit, introducing as much variety as they can, with time trials, head-to-head battles and standard races. ‘Hot pursuit’ is a major component of the game, but not the only thing in it.
Still, Hot Pursuit whilst being technically amazing, feels like it’s auditioning for something far grander. Sure, there’s plenty of replay value and you’ve got the innovate online component ‘Autolog’ where you can see stats of what your friends have achieved and much more, but there feels like there’s something missing. I suppose I’m looking for a complete racer that’s a hybrid of Burnout, Need for Speed and Race Driver: GRID. I’m not asking for much, am I?
At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got Gran Turismo 5 which I’ve yet to play, so I’m not going to try to compare Hot Pursuit with it. Although having played Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, I can say that I personally tend to err more towards arcade-style racers. Whilst with Gran Turismo I do love taking time to indulge in tinkering with components to squeeze out faster lap times, I just don’t get the instant satisfaction that Need for Speed provides.
It’s more likely that if you love racing games, then if you like one game, you won’t like the other (this isn’t a hard and fast rule!). So, you loved Burnout, Need for Speed, Race Driver: GRID? Then you’ll love Hot Pursuit! Highly recommended.