Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is some of the most fun you can have on a console and the game deserves to be played. Read on, gentle monkeys…

I generally hate racing games.  Oh, I’ve got pals that have been into Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer and I have played my share of them, it’s just not a forte of mine at all.  I am a poor video game driver and spend most of my game time smashing into other cars on the road and failing to corner at 200 miles an hour.  It also bothers me that my car doesn’t have missiles or machine guns and I can’t pop out the door any time I want and go running across the track with dual Uzi’s, wiping out pit crews and spectators alike.  So unless it’s Mario Kart, I just don’t play them very often.

Thanksgiving was last week and a few pals and I got together over 22lbs of slow-smoked turkey and all the trimmings to celebrate the day and our friend Gus had just gotten the new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit game, figuring we’d all try it out for an hour or so just to see what it was like.  None of us in attendance were overwhelmed by this idea, as it was a race game, but we all know Gus to never steer us wrong so we aimed to give it a go, just for the sake of politeness.  Five hours later, the night was wearing down and every single person in attendance (and three who weren’t but were told about it) went to Best Buy the next day and purchased the game, myself included.  How is this possible?  Aside from the sale, Tron bought a Race Game?  Yes, indeed, and it is the only thing in the last month that has made me put down Black Ops for more than a minute.  Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is some of the most fun you can have on a console and the game deserves to be played.  Read on, gentle monkeys…

First off, the game is made by Criterion Games, the creators of the ultra-popular smash-’em-up car game Burnout, as well as the solid FPS Black, so the pedigree from which it sprang is awesome.  They had always been fans of the NFS series of games and it shows with all the love they put into making the cars look good, track design and backgrounds.  What really sets this game apart and what caught my attention in an X-Play interview is the development team’s attitude toward fun.  They say a lot of game manufacturers don’t care if their game was fun.  Criterion strove to make sure anyone who picked up this game for the first time would have a thrilling experience from the get-go.  No working up to get top cars or working the single player mode to death to learn to drive.  You start with some sweet rides, the control scheme is tremendously simple and within two races you’re unlocking achievements and earning great new cars almost effortlessly.  Even crashing can earn you bonuses and help you rise in the rankings but the game is no shallow shell for noobs either.  As you progress in the single and multi-player, the depth of playability and the skill level you need sharpens but you do, too.  I am quite a ways into the single player mode and some of the stuff they want you to do is indeed difficult but designed so that just when I start to become frustrated real bad it just seems to click and work out…and as I stated, I’m a poor video driver.  Nonetheless, the game is designed to be just as fun for the first-time player as it is for a racing expert and Need for Speed finds that balance expertly.

The game, of course, puts you behind the wheel of some of the world’s greatest automobiles and puts you in races against other drivers but adds the twist that the cops are after you also so not only do you have to win the race, you also have to avoid the long arm of the law while you make the attempt.  The sense of speed in the game is already magnificent but add the pressure of trying to take first while battling off four cops hungry to shut your race down and the adrenaline will start flowing.  Criterion doesn’t stop there, creating a ton of single player events for the police as well.  You heard me: you get to live out your fantasy of being Buford T. Justice, screaming down the highway in an effort to make the Bandit pay!  Roscoe P. Coltrane and Flash, on the trail of them Duke boys!  Sheriff Pepper, pulling James Bond over… “What are you?  Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?”  Sorry, but I love being Smokey.  You have a few weapons at your disposal as well, though ramming your opponent is still the preferred method of busting them.  Spike strips, road blocks, helicopters and EMP pulses are at your fingertips to assist in the capture but the racers have spike strips and EMP’s of their own, along with turbo and jammers so this race becomes part Cannonball Run, part Spy Hunter and all awesome.

The multiplayer is what really hooked us all and still consumes more of our time than any other part of the game.  Sure, you can race and time trial but the Hot Pursuit mode is where the real fun is.  You and up to seven other racers take part in an event and every round you are either a cop or a racer and there is something about playing live people, especially people you know, and either making that excellent bust with .5 miles to go or outwitting those last two cops on the field and sneaking by to place first and give your team the bonus that elevates this game from mere racer to “let’s play NFS tonight!”  It is also where one of the most tragic flaws of this stellar game lies.  It seems like Criterion didn’t really want you to play with pals as it’s almost impossible to get a team of 3-4 in a room together, let alone on the same team.  When you try and set up your own game and set the join-ability to “Public,” the servers don’t always recognize it as such so no one else joins, yet when you quit and go to quick match, every room is full.  So where were all the players?  So there has to be a better way to keep a party together but let those last few slots be filled by single players.  A minor quibble with the amount of fun we’ve had in this mode thus far. There are several categories of cars in each mode, some of which need to be unlocked but it begins with the Sports series and moves up to Performance, Super, Exotic and Hyper with a bunch of the world’s highest performance cars ready to be unlocked and abused and the starter cars are not complete crap.  We have put more miles on the Porsche Boxter than any other car in that category because it is so fun to drive but it’s your starter car.  How many other games can boast that?

Boasting is also a huge part of this game because of the Autolog feature, which kind of stands over your shoulder and tells you what a piece of crap you are.  The Autolog keeps track of you and your pals who have the game and relentlessly compares your statistics and will let you know, “Plastic Lachesis has beaten your time on GET IT COPPERS by 3.16 seconds.  Are you gonna let that stand?  Challenge Plastic’s score, which she totally cheated to get right now!” which is just the thing you need to fire you up in a game whose goal is to push your adrenaline levels to the maximum.  Not only does the game take the opportunity to bust on you but your pals can too on the ever-present Wall, which is shared among all your race buddies.  So, say Plastic Lachesis does indeed beat me in Get IT COPPERS.  There will pop up on her screen a generic note telling her she beat the hell out of my score and then asks her if she wants to post this and leave a personal message (of course she does) so not only do I have to hear it from the autolog but now, on our innocent Wall, the message also comes through that I have been defeated along with an individual-specific greeting!  Your “pals” will do more to force you to play this game than you ever thought possible.  Add to this package the ability to take photos in game and free drive and you’ve got a game totally worth checking out.

I can see where some people would shy away from the game at $60 because as much fun as we’ve had with it over the weekend, Black Ops is still calling my name but this is a game that can be picked up for a hour or two any time and have a tremendous amount of fun.  The game has been on sale recently for around $35 so if you could get it for around forty it would be an excellent buy.  Along with the aforementioned shooting game and Assassins Creed 3, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit makes most sites’ top three holiday games which is quite a kudo for a driving game, what with Fallout: New Vegas and Epic Mickey also lining the shelves.  This is totally worth a try and may change your mind about racing games.  Pick up the stick and try the Hot Pursuit mode and see if you’re not addicted.

Criterion also posted this video and said if they got a million views before Dec. 12 we’d get new cars so click this link and help us out, ok?


I did kick your ass… by 3 seconds.
My favorite part of this game is seeing high-end cars trashed and totaled. It’s not everyday you see a neon green Lamborghini impaled by street signs and concrete.

Posted December 01, 2010 01:12 am
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