Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Say what you want about the Need for Speed franchise, but the one thing that it cannot be accused of is complacency. Electronic Arts have never been afraid to shake up the series, which meant that fans never knew what to expect from one release to the next. Thus, after leaning into the simulation side of things with Need for Speed: Shift, it’s no surprise that the series made a u-turn back into arcade territory with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. With Criterion, known for the highly entertaining Burnout series behind the wheel, it’s also one of the frantic entries in the franchise.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, not to be confused with Need For Speed 3: Hot Pursuit or Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, is the sixteenth entry in the long-running series. However, it does follow rather closely in the footsteps of these games by offering a more pure arcade experience compared to some of the story-heavy previous titles. The game opens by welcoming players to Seacrest County, which is a playground for illegal racers. Of course, to have even a remote chance of catching up with cars such as the Aston Martin DBS Volante, Audi TT RS, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Jaguar XKR the cops are pretty well funded too. It doesn’t take long for the likes of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor to make way for fore exotic fare such as the Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake and Ford Police Interceptor Concept.
Another thing that the game doesn’t care about is which side of the law your loyalties lie on. Both a cop and racer career track is available right from the start and you can jump between them at will. Each side also earns bounty bounties from winning races and reaching milestones in the game. These points then increase your police rank or infamy level, which unlocks new cars and new races. What you won’t find here is any type of story or car customization beyond selecting a color. Instead, everything about Hot Pursuit is geared towards getting you on the road and racing as quickly as possible. It’s a good thing then that the actual racing is quite good.
With Criterion in charge, there was never any doubt that Hot Pursuit is going to share some similarities with the Burnout series. The most obvious of these is the “Takedowns” which sees you turning an opponent or pursuer’s car into a mangled heap of scrap. This can be done by running them off the road or into obstacles enough times or by making use of the countermeasures at your disposal. Each side has four of these power-ups at their disposal, which are available during certain races in limited quantities.
Racers can use a jammer to interfere with police communication and countermeasures or activate a speed boost to outrun them. Cops on the other hand can call in roadblocks or helicopters to harass racers. Both sides share the EMP, which can disable whatever car you target with it, as well as spike strips that can be dropped behind your vehicle to seriously mess up anyone behind you. These gadgets are a lot of fun and become more potent as you progress through the game and unlock upgraded versions. They are pretty potent too if used correctly, but you are still going to have to drive hard to get in a position to use them effectively. In addition to being limited, these power-ups also take some time to recharge after use, so you need to decide when and where to use them most efficiently.
The actual racing leans heavily towards the arcade side of things, which means plenty of speed and cars that can drift at the drop of a hat. It takes a little while to get used to how the cars handle, but you’ll soon be tearing through the roads of Seacrest County at breakneck speeds. Tracks are wide open for the most part, which means there’s plenty of room for you and your fellow racers as well as a ton of pursuit vehicles as well as civilian traffic. When playing as an illegal racer you can use your opponents as shields while dodging the cops, but unfortunately, you won’t get much backup when playing as the police. You can still call in roadblocks or helicopters if available, but there won’t be fellow officers joining in the chase.
Each race in Hot Pursuit begins with a rolling start and even after the most spectacular crash you’ll be respawned back on the road and accelerating away. However, take one hit too many and your race will end prematurely. At least you don’t have to worry about repairing cars as this is done automatically after each race. Playing as a racer you typically have to finish in the top three, reach the end of the track in the fastest time or evade the police. Meanwhile, playing as a cop you have to bust a certain amount of racers, take down one particularly feisty racer, or reach your destination in the time allotted. There are 20 ranks for each side and it took us about 15 hours to complete both career tracks.
The Need for Speed series has always looked good and Hot Pursuit is no exception. It features a ton of licensed cars and they all look suitably shiny until they get damaged. The crash damage also looks good with crumpled fenders, shattered windows, and body damage. Everything looks crisp and clear in 4K, which coupled with the dynamic lighting looks beautiful. Races can also take place at day or night while rainy weather can hamper visibility and make the roads look wet. Unfortunately, Hot Pursuit does not feature a cockpit view, so you’ll only be able to admire all the licensed cars from the outside. The tracks look very good with some nice coastal views as well as scenic drives through snowy mountain passes, lush forests, and arid regions.
The audio for Hot Pursuit holds up well too with a slew of licensed music tracks, including Thirty Seconds to Mars who provides the theme song. During races, you can listen to the music or focus on the police chatter as these will tip you off about upcoming hazards, such as spike strips or roadblocks. We found that the game works best with a controller although it is certainly playable with a keyboard too. Also, the user interface is very slick and it’s possible to get racing within seconds of booting up the game. Unfortunately, since it is an arcade racer, players will find that most cars handle very similarly and the steering is nowhere near realistic. AI opponents and cops can also be annoying during later races due to rubber-banding, but all in all the game isn’t too difficult.
Overall, Hot Pursuit feels like a nice homage to the earlier cops versus illegal racers style of the series, but with some Burnout-style crashes thrown into the mix. Racing around with exotic cars is a lot of fun, but watching your opponents wreck in slow motion is even more satisfying. The game isn’t perfect and the multi-player is pretty much dead at this point, but there is still fun to be had with this game.
- Windows XP SP3, Windows XP 64-bit SP2, Windows Vista SP2 (32- or 64-bit), or Windows 7 (32- or 64-bit). (Not Supported – Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 2000 are not supported.)
- Processor: Intel Core® 2 Duo 2.0 GHZ or AMD Athlon X2 64 2.4GHZ; 1.5 GB Windows® XP / 2 GB Windows Vista® – Windows 7®
- Memory: 1GB (XP), 1.5GB (Vista), 1.5 GB (Windows 7)
- Hard Disk Space: 8 GB free hard disk space. Additional space required for DirectX 9.0c installation and for saved games
- Video Card: DirectX® 9.0c Compatible 3D-accelerated 256 MB video card with Shader Model 3.0* or higher
- Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card
- DVD-ROM: 8X speed DVD-ROM drive (Disc Users only)
- Online Gameplay: Broadband connection for online activation and online gameplay – 512 Kbps or faster
- Direct X®: DirectX 9.0c