I love the highlighted part:
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is not a driving game. It’s a speed game. Point the car, squeeze the trigger, and you’re off like a rocket, careening down long undulating inviolable ribbons unfurling along the usual biomes. Braking is mostly optional. It’s more like surfing. The twist in this particular speed game is that sometimes your car is a gaudy cop car that looks like it drove off the set of The Fifth Element. Cars get mild superpowers to chip away at enemy cars’ health. You can also, of course, bump enemy cars. Unimportant crashes may happen. The whole thing is over after about four minutes, at which point you’ve probably unlocked something.
There are some good speed games, and Hot Pursuit developer Criterion has even been party to making some of them. But you’d never guess that this isn’t a throw-away title tossed onto the shelves after a short development cycle to keep the brand alive. It’s all so rote, relying on flash instead of anything resembling gameplay. The biomes you race through look good enough. The sense of speed conveys a sense of speed. The package has that slickly Electronic Arts veneer, with a steady drumbeat of rewards, as if Pavlov’s bell was wired to a metronome. Hey, you just unlocked an award. It’s a hawt car. So hawt. So sexy and hawt. Hawt. Sexy. Bam. Bam! Sexy bam! You leveled up! What good is leveling up? Don’t ask! Have a new car! A hawt sexy new car. Now go drive it and we’ll give you another one that’s ever hawter and sexier. Bam! Wow!
But once you get past all the manufactured excitement of this automotive Monty Haul, the central fact about Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is its lack of anything approximating driving. It’s ultimately a higher resolution version of Pole Position, where you jerk a car graphic around some scenery. The scenery and the car graphic have come a long way since Pole Position. The basic concept hasn’t.
The eponymous hot pursuits seem intriguing until you realize that it’s all about jockeying to knock pieces of health off an enemy car, which gives the game a thinly veiled combat mechanic. There are tire strips (mines), cannons (EMP blasts), guided missiles (police helicopters), and obstacles (roadblocks). Oh, and turbo boosting. The criminal cars actually get two (2) flavors of turbo boosting.
Single player races are politely rubber-banded so that minimum exertion is applied to the gruel thin gameplay model. Multiplayer matches are all about judicious use of your four powers, particularly since it's really hard to stage a car combat game along a length of non-interactive road-shaped ribbon. Collisions are supposedly a big part of the game, but it’s really a crap shoot whether you’re going to spectacularly total a car or gently nudge its bumper. This also applies to things like guard rails, which will mostly guide you back onto the road. Sometimes a guard rail will have the temerity to wreck your car. Hot Pursuit doesn’t have physics. It has under-the-hood die rolls.Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with a brain-dead speed game. But in a game built so completely around unlocking new cars, it’s hard to give the cars any personality when there’s no real driving. Some cars are faster. Some cars have better grip. And that’s about it. When you choose a car, there’s virtually no information about its performance. This is understandable, because these cars don’t have much actual performance. They have mainly their glossy shells and the insistent whine of their sometimes distinct engine noises.
You get marketing blurbs where you might expect to find stats about gameplay. Want to know the car's acceleration? “Always thrilling at full throttle.” How about its handling compared to another car? “A breathtaking combination of power and exquisite luxury.” Can this car take more or less damage than another car? “Completely new. Yet true to its core.” What’s BHP stand for? “Seductively powerful and exquisitely finished.” So is this 0-to-62mph rating a straight up substitute for the acceleration stat? “Get in. Get reborn.” Oh, look, an information button. Let’s see what that does. Hey, it’s a woman reading the copy from a dealership's sales brochure. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is antiseptic car porn. These are barely cars. They're ads. The game was not made for you. It was made for the people who want to sell you cars.
You can see this approach in Hot Pursuit's online support, which is patterned after Facebook so you can spread the car ads around to your friends. Electronic Arts has slapped the name “Autolog” onto a bloated high score feature built around a system of nags, wall posts, and challenges. There's even a feature to sniff out new people for your friends list so you can brag to each other about which car ads you've unlocked in the course of ascending a pointless leveling system. Competitive high scores are nothing new in games, and they can be an effective way to build a sense of community around a game, and to get players invested in playing. But I’ve never seen high scores used so shamelessly as a marketing feature, designed to get you to do Electronic Arts' job by bugging your friends about this game.It’s enough to make a fellow pine for the innocent days of yore, when Activision’s Blur may have been a vehicle for Facebook nags, but at least it had the courtesy to include an actual game.