The Need for Speed series hasn't really had a great game in a long time. There have been some decent games along the line but nothing will top it's Underground and Most Wanted series. EA gave Need for Speed one more go before handing over development to Criterion the makers of the Burnout series. The Undercover series was one big failure with many in game bugs, cheap acting and mediocre game mechanics. The only good part of the game was Maggie Q but you can't help wonder why EA would throw all that money at her instead of throwing it into the game to make it better or maybe give the gamers some type of incentive. Criterion got a Hold of Need for Speed and with it we got Hot Pursuit a game where it focuses all on the races and cop chases than an open world perspective. Hot pursuit is not the best game in the series but it is definitely entertaining.
There is no basic storyline in Hot Pursuit besides that you are a driver and the police wants to catch you. As the driver you will take part in races across the city. There are several types of races to compete in such as Time Trial in which you must make it to the checkpoint before time runs out. You are give 3 different completion times which grant you Gold, Silver and Bronze depending on the time you make it. Hot Pursuit is where the cops are involved. Depending on your bounty, it will determine what types of weapons they will use. They have Road Blocks, Spike Strips, EMP and a Helicopter at their disposal. Race is just a basic racing event where you compete with other racers for first place.
While racing in regular events you will earn bounty which is the points system used. The more bounty you collect the more cars you will unlock but it also means more cops will be on you. However just like the cops you will also have EMP's, Spike Strips, and Radio Yammers at your disposal which can be used against your opponents and the cops. You do have a limited amount of items and they will only be given on certain types of races so you can't always be using them.
You will also get to play as the cop and highway patrol. Each division has different cars available meaning that if you unlock a certain car either the Highway Patrol or Regular Division will be able to use it. In the beginning you will just do regular take downs but as you progress you will be able to use Spike Strips, EMP, Road Blocks and Helicopters. You will also get to participate in several events which include Time Trail, Stop the Race and Capture the speeding vehicle. Time Trial is the same as the regular race event only this time every time there is a collision, you will be deducted 2 seconds for every time you hit anything on the road so playing ping pong with your car is out of the question. For every completed mission in the highest ranking you will earn points which leads to promotions and more cars at your disposal.
Races and Take Downs take place around the city. While playing Hot Pursuit I noticed that some tracks resemble the ones found in the PS2 version of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. Of course these tracks could have been recycled from the old version and it is nice to see them once again in HD. All tracks have twists and turns which need to be taken with caution. When racing you will have less than a second to figure out what you are going to do. There are shortcuts but only a handful are useful and the rest are a waste of time. At the most you will get ahead of the competition by 1 second but all your opponents will catch up in no time. Also while taking shortcuts there are hazards that you will need to watch out for and because most of them are in dirt your speed will drop.
One feature that you will notice when playing Hot Pursuit are the crashes. The crashes are borrowed elements from the Burnout series which Criterion also handles. Every time you crash someone whether it's against the wall or use a spike strip the camera will pan out and show the crash taking place in slow motion. Crashes that you are involved in that wreck your car will also display the crash cam. This is a nice addition to the series but it does feel more like a burnout game than Need for Speed.
The cars are what make the game and this is one section where Hot Pursuit does not disappoint. You can unlock many different cars throughout the game from exotic to regular tuner cars. Car tuning has been completely removed from the series but that isn't a bad thing as Hot Pursuit is taking more of an Arcade approach. Hot Pursuit is not a Sim game but some cars do handle differently and have different stats. All cars are equipped with Nitrous which is refilled every time you reach a certain speed or when you collect bounty.
The developers got the handling of the cars just right except for a few exceptions with several of them. Drifting is no longer a hassle and can be pulled off easily every time a turn is made. Going off road is just as easy as making turns so you must use the right amount of power whenever a turn is made or risk losing your position.
Hot Pursuit is not without it's negatives and there are plenty of them. Ramming a car into the wall is a suicide mission as the cars are hard as stone and all it will do is throw you off course while the go on unaffected. It's best to just block cars off while you're ahead rather than slamming into them. Cop chases are easier for doing this but it's still a bit difficult to do for the reasons mentioned above. I think this has something to do with how the game was scripted. The races in Hot Pursuit are all scripted meaning that the cars follow a path and do nothing can practically derail them besides a few mistakes here and there. I noticed this when I was racing I saw 2 cars slam into each other while trying to take a shortcut. I thought to myself finally they make a mistake however I still lost the race. When I restarted the race the same cars slammed into each other in the exact same location the exact same way. This why some races are challenging and it is not because the AI is better than you it's because the AI follows a path that was given to it by the developers. This makes the game a handy cap and it's one that can't easily be turned off.
Another annoyance are the spike strips. Hot Pursuit is a game where you continue pushing forward at all times. The Spike Strips basically blow out the tires off a car and it should be game over right? Wrong. The spike strips only slow down a car and then it continues as if nothing ever happened. At the most the car will loose some health but as a cop you must always ram into the car until it can no longer continue moving. If its your first time playing the game you will be confused and it will piss you off.
Like stated before Need for Speed has more of an Arcade feel to it and Arcade games tend to be less accurate from Sim type games. This can be heard when revving your car's engine. Mostly all cars sound the same from the class types that are available. There is hardly any voice acting besides the introduction videos which cannot be skipped and the tutorials which also cannot be skipped the first time. The soundtrack is decent if you're into rock music.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit does have some nice in game graphics. The car models are all nicely detailed and resemble their real world counterpart. The damage details are also nicely done with the lightest of dents showing. The environments are also well rendered. Because there is hardly ay traffic in game, Hot Pursuit performs very well. The effects are not the best which is a disappointment. The rain effect is basic and the wet road doesn't resemble a wet road at all. Granted they are only minor details and are hardly noticeable since most of your focus will go into the game.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit has a very long campaign which can be completed in roughly 10 to 15 hours. Unlocking all cars and events are based on your bounty. It is a very linear game which requires you to finish in first place but it's not very anal that it actually wants you to complete all events in first place.
Verdict: Rent, Borrow A Friends Copy.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit won many awards in 2010 as the best racing game but I don't think it's the best racing game out there. What Criterion did was add better graphics and licensed cars to their Burnout 3 game which is almost similar to Hot Pursuit. The races are fun but the AI is almost non-existent. All cars are programmed to go fast and avoid any obstacles coming their way. You can't even take them down without risking your own car and place in line. The whole system is all based on the bounty which the more you get the more cars you unlock. You can remain on the first level and have all cars unlocked. I am a big fan of Need for Speed and I am disappointed that all they give you is just a generic racer but it is what it is and for the most part it is fun to play and that is all that matters but with a price tag of $59.99 after many months on the market this game is a rent or borrow at best..
GamePlay: Great Arcade racer with easy pick up and play feature but I wish they could have done more to make it more appealing and not just generic. 8/10
Graphics: It's no Gran Turismo but it does have some nice graphics with details. If you love cars then you'll love the line up in Hot Pursuit. 9/10
Sound: Music is overshadowed by all the games sound effects but unless you like rock music you'll want to keep it down. Each car class has their own engine sound but this is all based by class and not necessarily their real life counterparts. 7/10
Performance: Very weak AI makes your experience a generic one. Your first time playing will make things confusing as they don't really explain everything that you need to know. 5/10
LifeSpan: With 10+ hours of gameplay you will be glued to your seat for a long time and will want to test out each and every single car. 9/10
Total Score: 76/100