The last time I truly played Need for Speed was back on the original PlayStation system. I slowly lost interest in the franchise at the time, as none of the new releases could outdo Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit. The title had speed, action, and was just a lot of fun. Over a decade later, we have still yet to see a Need for Speed title to receive as much critical acclaim as Need for Speed III. At least, this was until Hot Pursuit returned, developed by Criterion Games – famous for their Burnout franchise. Intended to return to the roots of the Need for Speed franchise, Hot Pursuit is fast and filled with action as the police become heavily involved.
The change in developer has breathed a lot more life into the series. For a while, the Need for Speed series has been going downhill. After finishing Burnout Paradise – a very arcade-esque open world racing game, Criterion Games have really done a great job. Whilst the title is not as arcady as their Burnout franchise, Hot Pursuit is not quite a racing simulator like Forza or Gran Turismo either. It lies between. You can feel the weight of the vehicles, and it’s not quite as fast Burnout, but that doesn’t stop the title being quite over-the-top.
The Career mode consists of two separate campaigns, intermingled together on one large open country-side world. However, unlike Burnout Paradise, you’re not completely free to roam this open world. Instead, you select an event on the world map screen and jump straight into the action. You can play both a police officer and a law-breaking racer, but obviously once at a time. Unlike Criterion’s previous work, as a racer you cannot take out your fellow racers; however, as a police officer not only are you allowed to take down other vehicles, you may also use weapons to your advantage.
Hot Pursuit also introduces autolog, an innovative means to track your friends’ times and compete with them on each event. I got confused by what it referred to as ‘posting on my wall’ whenever I beat somebody’s time. I assumed it was posting to my Facebook account when in reality it was actually autolog’s own wall. It would have been neat to have had more social integration, but the entire system is fairly neat all the same.
Graphically, the game is stunning. The cars look beautiful, and the environment is gorgeous. It really is a stunning game. The title is also very loud, with the sounds adding to the immersion as you feel even more like you’re going at neck breaking speeds. There isn’t really much else to add about the sound except that the soundtrack is hit-or-miss.
I’ve been playing the game for a while now but I’ve seemingly not even put a dent into what it holds far, so the game appears to be rich in content.
Overall, this is a pretty solid racing game and a great debut into the franchise from Criterion. Whilst I still somewhat prefer Burnout Paradise because I’m more of a fan of the arcady style, this game is still great fun.