Bazaboy gets in trouble with the law.
It is a well known fact that when it comes to racing games I usually prefer something a little bit more realistic and on the simulator side of things, rather than the arcade style of racing. That’s not to say that I have not enjoyed the occasional arcade driving game, in fact it’s where my love of the genre first kicked in with games such as Outrun. When the head Turtle at GGUK offered me the chance to check out and review the PlayStation 3 version of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, I was more than happy to do so but I was not sure what to expect. I would not say I have been a huge fan of the Need For Speed series of games as I am not a great fan of the street racing thing. When NFS Shift came along however I tried and thoroughly enjoyed this title as it was a pretty good mix of simulator and arcade racer. So my initial thoughts on what would be involved when it came to Hot Pursuit were that it would handle and play similar to Shift, but within the street racing scene. How wrong I was. But despite this I found myself enjoying the game more and more every time I played it.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit takes an interesting route in that it allows you to view the world of illegal street racing from both sides; that of the racer himself, which involves as you may imagine the player taking part in numerous illegal races throughout the fictional county of Seacrest, and on the flip side you can also play as a member of the elite police interceptor team, specialising in high speed car chases, using state of the art high performance cars which match those of the racers you find yourself chasing. When you choose to start the single player campaign you are presented with a map view of Seacrest County which initially has only a couple of races to choose from, one each for the racer and the cop. It’s up to the player in which order they play the races and they have the choice to switch back and forth between events for either racer or cop. As you complete events for either career in the campaign, new races are opened up. Each race has a bronze, silver or gold medal finish, for the cops these are called distinctions, and the better you achieve, the more your racer or cop levels up, earning new cars and upgrades as you go, and boy do you need those faster cars further on into the game.
Playing as a racer your aim is pretty straight forward in that you need to get from point A to point B in one peice, or at least in as many pieces that are required to keep the car running. There are three modes which have you doing this, the first of which is a solo time trial run with you racing a make of car from one point to another, dodging traffic, using shortcuts and with no police presence to worry about. The time you take decides whether you are awarded bronze, silver or gold. The next mode is much the same, only with the police doing their best to stop you and this is followed by the Hot Pursuit mode which is, when playing as either racer or cop, in my opinion the most fun. It involves, from the racers point of view, yourself and up to seven AI racers competing against each other in a street race while the police do their best to shut the race down. So in this mode the player not only has to race for the win defending against the other racers, but also the police. Playing as the police, which I actually prefer doing, is much the same. There is still the time trial like stages where you need to get from one spot to the other, only as an officer of the law. It’s a little more difficult as you are given time penalties for hitting barriers and civilian traffic. The other two modes are similar to the racers events, only with the player being the cop it is his or her job to chase down the racer and disable his car, or cars as the case is in hot pursuit mode.
The cars in all modes also have a damage metre which, when playing as the cops, is shown as a segmented bar above the racers cars and as a cop your job is to knock that health bar down which ultimately leads to the targeted racer being eliminated from the race in a spectacular slow motion crash. The car damage metre can be depleted using one of two methods; the good old fashioned physical method of using your own car as a weapon and ramming the racers, or perhaps a little more safely, using your weapons of which you have a choice of four. First up you have the spike strips which involve you getting in front of the racer and dropping said strip, spinning their car out and causing damage. Then there is the roadblock which, as you may expect, calls in a police roadblock on the road ahead. Should the racers hit that, they are brought to a halt and are dealt some serious damage. Following that there is the EMP which when used brings up a target in front of your car, which then locks onto a target before firing and disrupting the cars electronics. The final tool in the cops arsenal is the police helicopter support which has you calling in a helicopter that attempts to get ahead of the racers before dropping a spike strip of its own. That’s not to say the racers are completely defenceless as they are also armed to defend themselves or even go on the offence. They share the spike strip and EMP weapons with the cops, but also have a jammer which temporarily blocks the weapon systems on cop cars and also a turbo boost which gives a huge boost in speed for a few seconds, offering the chance for a quick getaway.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, the gameplay and handling of the cars in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is pure arcade. It’s not something I usually look for in a racing game, but Hot Pursuit is such a fun game to play that the fact it is an arcade game does not even come into the equation. The cars all feel frighteningly fast, especially the later supercars, and dodging in and out of traffic is so much fun, except of course when it goes wrong resulting in a spectacular crash. The handling of the cars is done so that you rarely need to slow down, unless you are braking in order to avoid a collision. The majority of the smaller turns in the game can be taken at full throttle and even when it comes to the tighter turns, these can be taken at quite a speed. With just a tap on the brakes, turning in and then getting back on the gas you can slide your supercar around most if not all of the turns within the game. If like me you might have had or still do have reservations about the game because of this arcade style, you should not let that stop you trying it out as it is this fast, furious and exciting style that makes the game so much fun to play.
If what I have talked about was not enough, the game also comes with a some great online multiplayer modes. The modes more or less mirror the modes in the single player with the addition of pure online races of up to eight players. Alongside those races there is the two player mode which has one player as a racer trying to escape a cop, the role which the other player fills. The final online mode is once again the most fun and that is the Hot Pursuit, with eight players in the game lobby they are randomly split into two teams, four racers and four cops with the aim of the game being for the racers once again to finish the race and the cops are of course looking to stop them. It’s much the same as the single player versions, but with other players behind the controls it is a little more of a challenge and undeniably a lot of fun.
On the presentation front again it’s hard to find fault. Both the scenery and the cars look fantastic, even when they are travelling at speed or in free drive mode, which you can do as either the cops or the racers. If you are just cruising around Seacrest County, you will be hard pressed to find anything within the games map that does not look as good as anywhere else. From the snowy mountain peaks to forests, all the way down to the beach front, every location looks just as good as the last. The same can be said for the cars which are all beautifully created, looking exactly like their real life counterparts. It is not just their looks that are spot on, the engine sounds are excellent and just beg you to turn up your systems volume as you play, so as you can enjoy them to the fullest. One other thing that should be mentioned is the games user interface. It is set out much more like a social network site revolving around the game and is called Autolog. Once you have driven a single player mission, your time and performance is compared to that of all your friends, keeping a leader board of who has performed the best and even giving players the chance to leave a message boasting and challenging people to better them. Pictures can also be taken at any point within the game and these can also be commented on and shared with your friends. Not only a fun addition, but gives you the added challenge of constantly trying to better you friends times and such.
So overall I would definitely recommend Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit to anyone who enjoys racing games, even if you usually prefer something a little more realistic, or if you do not normally play driving games, this is one you should check out. As it’s without doubt a fun and exciting game that is sure to keep you entertained for a good bit of time, with some of the later racer events providing a decent challenge but not so much so that it becomes annoying. There is plenty of challenge and fun times to be had here.