Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Xbox 360 Review

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – EA – Developer – Criterion – Genre –  Racing – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – PG – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Wii

As arcade style racers go, Criterion certainly knows their craft. The developer is well known for their Burnout series, which started life on the linear road and turned into an open-world racer with the most recent game in the series, Burnout Paradise. After EA snapped up Criterion, many felt that it was only a matter of time before they put Criterion on the task of developing a Need for Speed game.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is going to be a name that is familiar to many. Back in 1998 Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit was released and in 2002 it was followed by Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II. Criterion’s game is a modern day reboot of that series and shares many elements from the popular Hot Pursuit games of old.

I have to admit that, despite loving all the previous games in the series,  I didn’t really get on with Burnout Paradise. I just feel that the game takes away the usual immediacy of an arcade style racer and is perhaps a little too fast for an open-world. With Hot Pursuit, Criterion has made an arcade style racer that is just as linear as Burnout once was. I’m obviously very, very happy.

But to call Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit a mere racer wouldn’t be telling the entire truth. As previously, this reboot doesn’t just allow you to play as an illegal racer but it also gives you the opportunity to be the law and chase down those speed freaks. In the career mode, racer and police are combined, although you can focus your attentions on one or the other if you so wish. I just liked the fact that you can mix things up: racing and attempting to shrug the police off in one instance and then commandeering a vehicle with a wailing siren on top of it in the next.

This screen in no way shows the amount of chaos within the game, in fact no screen could.

Before we get deep into the features, if you’re wondering how this thing handles, well what can I say other than it handles like a dream and it’s arcade style handling that is up there with the very best. All the licensed exotic vehicles feel supremely responsive and can be thrown around bends with an enjoyable drift, and what matters most is that it works and is the kind of entertainment that fans crave in their arcade style racers. It’s all about the thrill of the drive, the terrifying speeds and immense fun over any hardcore driving mechanics.

So, we have our normal A to B racing, although the Hot Pursuit of the title is actually a mode. Hot Pursuit is complete chaos – the police attempt to stop you and your AI opponents from reaching the finishing line, intending to knock more than your wing mirrors off and aiming to put you completely out of commission. It’s accompanied by dramatic music and is all wonderfully intense – many will feel their eyes wandering off to see how many miles is left in the current run, hoping their next crash won’t result in critical damage, as the next one after that will spell the end of their bid to get away from the police and to finish the race in a nice position. This leaves such a player with no option other than to restart or to attempt something else that they think they’ll be less rubbish at.

Of course you can play as the police in Hot Pursuit mode as well. Racer or lawman, you’ll have some resourceful kit at hand to deal with your foes. Both have nitrous, with a gauge being built up by taking risks (yes, just like Burnout), and they also have in common the always useful resource of tyre bursting spike strips and EMP’s, which makes your target lose control if it hits. Racers exclusively boast a jammer which disables EMP attempts and gets rid of any spike strips in their path, and a turbo that makes their vehicle go even faster. Oppositely, the police have the powerful eye in the sky that is the helicopter, which drops those aforementioned spike strips ahead of the racers, and road blocks can be setup in an attempt to end a chase or at least slow the targets down. It’s hardly Mario Kart, but these helpful tools certainly add to the action and the thrill of the chase or attempted escape, and certain players will soon learn to use them strategically and to not throw them all out as soon as they become available for use following each cool down period.

All this exhilarating action takes place in the confines of Seacrest County. This fictional area is made up of over 100 miles of road stretching from the coast to the desert, forest and mountains. Seacrest is a very attractive place and, luckily for racers, there are a fair number of shortcuts to nip along to hopefully shake the boys in blue. The roads are well put together and link up impressively and are varied enough to not become overly repetitive in the career mode, which will last you many hours before you manage to see it through. If you fancy taking in the sights of Seacrest at your own leisure, then it’s possible to take a vehicle into Freedrive, although those expecting to be able to do anything within this open environment will be left disappointed, but it does allow you to learn where everything is without anyone else bothering you whilst you are doing so. Still, it does feel like a bit of an afterthought in comparison to similar games.

Online, the game has three modes. There’s your normal race alongside Hot Pursuit and Interceptor. Multiplayer allows for up to eight players at once, which makes for some very chaotic Hot Pursuit’s, with four on each team when a game is full. The two player Interceptor mode is less about the chaos, although it can hardly be called a quiet Sunday drive, with one player racing to get away and the other attempting to stop them. Overall, the excellent online works flawlessly and will get the heart pumping of many a person, but the lack of cat and mouse split screen is a huge shame.

The AI of the police is aggressive and quite reckless at times. It all makes for exciting times when you're a racer.

Sticking with Hot Pursuit’s online side, but moving away from the multiplayer and to the new Autolog feature. This is a clever little inclusion which shows how those on your friends list are faring, adding a competitive streak and, even if you are never going to be physically racing against other players within the career mode, it also adds a human touch. Autolog records all your own results as well as your friends for each of the events and places them on the speed wall, and you’re informed on the race select screen as soon as one of your friends breaks your record, encouraging you to replay the event and take the lead back. It’s a feature that is very successful, so much so that it should be implemented in many other games in the future.

Visually, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is as polished as anything you would expect from Criterion. Things speed along wonderfully well without any noticeable drops, and the environment of Seacrest County is wonderfully detailed and seeing it in the dark in the pouring rain is a real thing of beauty. Car models are shiny and attractive and when police cars are speeding under bridges the entire thing is lit up with rolling lights, which looks absolutely amazing and almost as if a disco is going on. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and gorgeous are words that certainly fit together nicely.

Not only is it gorgeous, though, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is also a wonderful arcade style racer that just so happens to be one of the best games in the series for a long time. The handling is slick and responsive, Seacrest County is varied and beautiful, and Autolog adds to the longevity alongside a huge career mode and some very chaotic online play. Obviously, I’m telling you to do the sensible thing and get the disc inside your console. This is easily one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable games of the year.