Wednesday 24 November 2010

Game Review – Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Formats: Xbox 360 & PS3

For many years now arcade style racing has been dominated by two franchises, Need for Speed and Burnout. While the former can be hit or miss, Criterion games ensures that Burnout is without a doubt one of the most exciting and exhilarating racing experiences on the market. So it is an absolute joy to see both franchises come together from a Criterion perspective, as other than the name, there is little reminiscent of the Need for Speed series here. Instead, we are offered a dangerous driving adventure where you can race for either the law or the illegal racers as you speed across Seacrest County. With plenty of intuitive and fun-to-use gadgets at your disposal on both teams, the traditional racing rush that resembles what I still consider one of the best games of this generation; Burnout Paradise, amazing graphics and audio, plenty of beautiful licensed cars and tones of replay value and multiplayer ventures to get involved in, could very well make Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit the best racer you will play this year and the next to come (eat your heart out Gran Turismo).

Those of you who have had the pleasure of playing Burnout before will feel right at home in Hot Pursuit. Indeed the gaming engine is almost identical to that of Burnout Paradise but this is anything but a bad thing. Glorious driving mechanics with precise controls make high-speed chases and races a sheer thrill to be part of. Burnout is also notorious for its dramatic and over-the-top car crashes that you will no doubt be familiar with. The wide variety of licensed cars available will make any driving fanatic go crazy and seeing what each car looks like under police paint is also amazing. Hot Pursuit also impresses with a fantastic map with plenty of secret passages and alternate routes to get accustomed with.

So one of the main appeals to Hot Pursuit is the potential for absolute disaster to occur on the roads at almost any point in the race or chase. The game rewards you for driving dangerously and on the edge, speeding into oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding crashes, taking risky short-cuts, all of this makes racing in Seacrest Country outrageously fun. Aside from all of the ridiculous dangers on route you will also have to tackle the game’s arsenal of gadgets that it gives out to the two opposing factions. As an illegal racer you will have to avoid police roadblocks, spike-rails on the roads, EMP weaponry that disables your car and even what closely resembles the Helicopter killstreaks on Call of Duty, sending in a chopper to try and take you down. It would be incredibly unfair if the racers didn’t have weapons of their own and indeed they have access to super speed boosters that can outrun anything, their own EMP weapon jammer that disables police radars etc. These additions to your standard arcade racer help add a sense of unpredictability, something that makes Hot Pursuit even more enjoyable to contend with.

Of course traditional Burnout-esque tricks do still work in Hot Pursuit. The ever-strong car-barge still does the job in smashing your enemies off the road but this has to be done in combination with your weapons if you want quick and effective takedowns. An interesting wrench thrown in the works effects the illegal racers in particular who of course each aim to win the race, but will also have to join forces and stop the police; an interesting scenario to take part in.

Hot Pursuit continues to impress with its incredible AI. The game feels very challenging and can be equally as fun against the computer as it would against human players. This can be clearly seen from the AI’s relentless driving and sheer determination to steer you off the road or outpace you to the finish line. That’s not to say that playing with friends online isn’t a whole load of fun, in fact it is probably one of the most exciting and addictive multiplayer racing experiences you can get your hands on. Hot Pursuit offers online races that pit your driving skills against other players on the maps, but also offer the Hot Pursuit game-mode which is a 4 on 4 cops vs. robbers style chase to the finish line. This perhaps is the most entertaining event to play as you work in a team using your equipment to reach victory or ensure the illegal racers do not get to their destination. The final game-mode offered is Interceptor, a cunning 1 on 1 match up that allows free range across the map for the illegal racer. This is also a lot of fun and ends when the racer is either caught or a player is wrecked off the roads, at which point you can switch teams and play again.

The campaign mode in Hot Pursuit is definitely the central focus point and should definitely be played through, if not for all the awesome events then to unlock all of the cars and weapon upgrades to use in your online games. As you progress through the campaign your bounty will increase and accordingly so will your police and racer ranks. Cars are categorized into 5 separate tiers meaning you will never come against someone with a car that completely dominates yours as races abide by these tiers. Weapons on the other hand prove to be quite devastating if used effectively and upgraded. EMP bursts that charge faster and are more accurate give you a strong advantage against other racers and more fortified roadblocks and multiple spike-layers really make you a force to be reckoned with on the roads of Seacrest County. Fortunately Hot Pursuit never feels busted or unfair, in fact it is a really balanced game both offline and online. These additional upgrades are merely an incentive for you to continue playing and enjoying the game.

One of the best things Burnout Paradise did was incorporate the Burnout community and your friends into one easy-to-use stat comparison system. Known as autolog, Hot Pursuit always takes the time to remind you how your scores, times, records and so forth are holding up against your friends. Unfortunately there are no online leaderboards to compare with the worlds best, which is a massive shame but nevertheless, the majority of your bragging and boasting will be done between you and your friends, so it’s a nice touch knowing exactly how and where you compare. Ultimately all that matters is how you compare to people you know and lets face it, none of us are ever going to get to the top of that infamous leaderboard.

If I had to pick a fault with Hot Pursuit that wasn’t the omission of leaderboards, well I would find it very hard to call out a specific point. Some inconsistencies occur when the game switches over to a replay of a crash or wreck and at times when control is handed back over to you, you will find your car neatly compacted in a square like shape, rammed in the back of another car. This camera issue is miniscule but nevertheless, is there. Just like in Burnout Paradise however, this same feature can sometimes save you from an obvious crash as the AI so cleverly dodges obstacles for you as the replay is taking place.

From a technical perspective Hot Pursuit is an incredible achievement. The presentation is simply superb, each and every car is beautiful, each and every aspect of the map is vibrant and varied and the car crashes are absolutely stunning. For a game of such high speeds, there is very little to no frame issues, in fact I don’t think I encountered any slow down whatsoever. The audio is also great; a cool soundtrack accompanies the life-like engines and crashes as you’re blistering down Seacrest’s roads.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is the best racing game on the market in my opinion. I stand by the Burnout games as being some of the most entertaining and well-crafted experiences and this holds true to that mark once again. A varied and thrilling racer with beautiful technical design, amazing multiplayer, plenty of replay value and a whole load of catastrophe waiting to be tapped into. It really doesn’t matter if you are a fan of either series because there is something here for everyone without a doubt.

Technical presentation – 9.0

Graphics – 9.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 9.0

Final score – 9 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl