The Speed… The Acceleration… The Chase… Need for Speed has finally returned with not just the usual disappointing whimper many of us will have experienced with some of the more recent titles, but has triumphantly rekindled its classic origins and thrills – reappearing with the key ingredients and much more besides.
With Criterion Games firmly in control of development with their well known Burnout heritage, you may wonder if their successful past has had any influence on Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Well I can say unequivocally oh gosh yes! This is certainly not a bad thing and with a sprinkle of Need for Speed charm thrown into the mix, the latest release turbo charges down the road while wheel spinning muck in the face of all of those previous incarnations that failed to deliver.
Need for Speed at its core embodies the thrill of the pursuit, either as the determined police enforcement or the rogue offender. Whichever side you find yourself on results in a wave of adrenaline and excitement as Need for Speed Hot Pursuit rams a dose of ecstasy down your throat without a moment to recover.
The menu interface is actually quite stark in its appearance, yet everything is there for you to take in the options and explore the depths of the game. Starting with the ‘Career’ mode, utilising a map you will discover an ever growing list, presenting details of the challenges that await. These consist of pursuits, races and time trails acting as either the cop or the racer. As you conquer sections of the career, cars are unlocked almost with every successful completion of a task including selections from Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ford and so on. These are separated into different classes and the more points you are rewarded, the more access you have to faster and more powerful selections. The vehicles certainly look the part especially when kitted out with the police colourings and flashing lights.
The world ironically boasts elements that Burnout Paradise would have benefited from including the addition of barriers which close off roads that are not relevant to the particular challenge. Even though you can actually roam around all of the available sections as one seamless free-roam, the challenges restrict access thank goodness. In Burnout Paradise I often found myself taking a wrong turn and in an instant losing any chance of recovery, so this is indeed a welcome feature.
My favourite mode has to be ‘Hot Pursuit’ where the need for quick reflexes, smart manoeuvring and dastardly actions are all part of the course. Here spike strips, helicopters, road blocks, electro magnetic pulses, jamming devices and more are employed throughout the race – selected by the player and all terrific fun. These tools for getting away from or assisting in an arrest are activated by the D-pad and will increase in effectiveness as you progress through the game by levelling up. Reaching the finish line in Hot Pursuit is certainly going to test all of the racing skills you can muster as your vehicle can easily be wrecked if you become careless with your driving turns and dodges, in an effort to avoid crashing into innocent regular traffic, smashing into the road side objects or scraping with the other contestants. All of this intense activity is amplified by the inclusion of the police, whose sole role is to bust your sorry backside into jail. You will also take control of the police though splitting the game essentially into two halves. Other modes allow you to compete for the best time and straight forward races without the addition of all those fancy gadgets and law enforcement type shenanigans.
The courses are bathed in visual beauty as you speed along the various landscapes. The detail, the textures, the weather effects and the sheer depth presented is at times mind boggling and with so much occurring on-screen, its hard to focus on all the wonderment available to your now wide open eyes. It really is a marvellous site to behold especially when you factor in all the other elements such as the impressive car models, lighting, and crash effects. There are many short-cuts to be found along these start to finish routes – no looping here. Many will take you along a quicker path particularly on bends, which is handy when trying to avoid all of the hectic goings on around you. Some will just act as convenient diversions that hopefully throw off the cops, however they also reveal obstacles that can actually hinder rather than aid your escape.
If all of this pressure isn’t enough to make your head explode, you will also learn of bad news within the menus. Autolog tracks your accomplishments and compares them to your friends who are also enjoying the delights of the game. If they beat your time, you will be informed of this annoyance and encouraged to revisit the challenge in an effort to regain your pride. Although this sounds like a simple feature, it actually elevates the interest levels within the standard career mode greatly, resulting in a continuous glance in case someone dares overtake your prowess. You can further check progression by watching the ‘Wall’ section, which is akin to Facebook news – presenting recent captured photographs, times beaten and so on.
By now your senses have reached overload (in a good way!), yet we are far from reaching the end of this particular story. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit also of course includes an online multiplayer element, which includes all the crazy racing carnage from the single player. With options for private rooms with friends or open public games, you have a little flexibility along the way. Featured are three main modes which include the single player variants split further by then choosing which car class you desire.
Need for Speed has finally returned to its glory days in the guise of Hot Pursuit. Every element of its design is simply stunning starting from the visual prowess right down to the gameplay mechanics. It’s all brain bustingly brilliant, so if you pass on this title you may miss one of the best racing games of the year. Need for Speed is indeed back!
Rating: 4 / 5