Giant Bomb Review

45 Comments

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

4
  • X360

Hot Pursuit has some of the best online play that the Need For Speed series has ever seen.


The cop cars get pretty extravagant as you progress. 
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is a great return to form from a series that feels like it's been slowly losing its way over the last few years. It achieves this by stripping away a lot of the extra junk that's been building up around the edges of the last several games and refocusing on actual driving. You aren't going to spend time tuning your cars, buying upgrade packages, or working your way through some hackneyed storyline in Hot Pursuit. Instead, you're going to build up your arsenal of available cars as both a racer and a cop across a set of single-player challenges and a multiplayer side that's one of the best online modes that the Need For Speed series has ever seen.

The crux of Hot Pursuit is the interplay between racers and police chasers, and at any time you'll be able to take on race events or police events, with a separate set of experience points and unlockable cars for each side. As you take on events, either offline or on, you'll earn "bounty," which increases your level and gives you access to more cars across five different tiers. There are also a set of career milestones in both careers, so you'll get bounty bonuses for crashing 100 times, spending set amounts of time driving at top speed, drifting for a long time, and so on. On top of that, you'll also unlock upgraded offensive and defensive gear when you effectively use the weapons you're given when racers and cops collide.

Those weapons are the thing that separates Hot Pursuit from the rest of the recent Need For Speed games. In events where both cops and racers are present, cops are given abilities like roadblocks, helicopters, spike strips, and EMP blasts. Calling in roadblocks and choppers lets you deal with racers from a distance, while dropping spike strips behind you or firing EMP charges ahead of you are the preferred method of dealing with nearby offenders. The racers, however, can fight back, as they have EMPs and spike strips of their own. Racers can also jam police radar and abilites with a jammer and bust out a turbo boost that's way faster than the standard nitrous oxide system fitted onto every car in the game. These powers don't turn the game into Super Mario Kart or Blur, though. The number of times you can use each ability is very limited, forcing you to be strategic about when and where you use them. They don't replenish at any point during an event, either. It gives the game a different feel than the typical weapon-based racing game, though it would have been nice to see fewer shared abilities between the two factions or some sort of loadout customization.

When cops and racers collide, the faster car usually wins. 
Hot Pursuit is at its best in the actual "Hot Pursuit" mode, where a team of racers tries to get to the finish line while the cops try to stop them. But in the career, it feels like too many of the racer goals don't have any cops at all, which turns it into a very standard, understeer-heavy racing game. And if an event is going to have a police presence, you always know that up front. A little more surprise about when and where the cops are going to try to stop your races--which is how the series has handled this in the past--would have been nice.

While everything you do feeds into your experience points and unlocked cars, there's also a full career mode with a couple of different ways to attack the events. The default career just gives you a map of event locations and a "new" tag on a location means there's an event there you haven't tried yet. Cop and racer missions are both listed on this map, letting you freely interchange between the two. The map isn't great at letting you know what's next, though, and it sort of leaves you hunting around the screen to see what's new, rather than quickly letting you know what the next event is.

The other way to move through the career is to follow your friends. The game has a set of friends leaderboards that it uses to recommend events to you. It's termed the "Autolog," and it'll occasionally tell you about events you haven't tried yet, but it's more focused on letting you know when people on your friends list have beaten your times on events you've already completed. If you're the type of person that lives for beating your friends, you'll love it. But as someone who was also interested in seeing events that I hadn't seen yet, the whole Autolog feels a little underwhelming and overly in your face.

The single-player events on the racer side often feel like they don't have enough cops in them, but the police side of the career is really exciting. Sometimes it places you up against a full team of racers in the Hot Pursuit events. These aren't too tough because the opposing racers are always following a race track. But the Interceptor events, which gives the AI racer the option to go anywhere and spin around at will, open things up in a cool way. Both sides have point-to-point races against the clock, but on the police side, you're penalized for collisions. Overall, the career is decent, but you're more likely to find lasting excitement via the game's online mode.

 Ramming into roadblocks is bad for your health.
There are three online events to choose from. Race is the least exciting of the bunch because it's just a basic race. Hot Pursuit allows up to eight players to break into two teams and battle it out across the game's courses. It smoothly moves from one event to the next and, if you're playing public games, it'll auto-balance the teams and swap you between the two factions automatically. The Interceptor mode is also available online, and it's a two-player, one-on-one mode. It doesn't seem like too many people are playing Interceptor online, as it can be hard to get a game going. It's interesting, but Hot Pursuit is where it's at. That you earn bounty and can upgrade your weaponry by playing online only helps to make the online mode more addicting and exciting, since you're unlocking additional cars every few races.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit feels like it's almost always locked at 30 frames per second. While that's not 60, it's smooth enough to convey a real sense of speed. When you've unlocked the fifth tier of cars and start barreling through these courses at like 250 miles per hour, it feels insane. Also, the game has really terrific weather effects. The rain and the wet roads look fantastic, and thunderstorms that light up the nighttime tracks are frequent and really, really cool. Beyond that, the car models look good and crunch up pretty well after a crash... well, pretty well for licensed cars, anyway. Considering how hard some of these hits can be at top speed, it'd be nice to see more realistic damage. The racing in Hot Pursuit also sounds great, with throaty exhausts and some pretty good cop talk over the radios to spice things up.

Though I occasionally felt like I was fighting the front-end UI to get it to tell me which events I should be trying next, the gameplay offers just enough variety to work well in short bursts and the online modes are terrific fun that could keep you coming back for a while as you strive to gain levels and get a better, longer spike strip. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
45 Comments
Edited by nintendoeats

Not into it, this game doesn't seem to have any of the things that I like about either the Burnout or NfS games. Its like they made a list of things that I don't care about from each series and made a game out of it.

Posted by gla55jAw

SO CLOSE.

Posted by Mrskidders

I have been loving this game, its really well executed.

Posted by zombie2011

This game seems really great, but i just don't see me getting this.

Posted by MisterMouse

Wow didnt think it would get 4 out of 5, cool though!

Posted by Seraphim84

Better, Longer Spike Strip is the name of the all-girl metal punk band I'm manager of.

Posted by Nictel

A good Need for Speed game again? The world may not be completely lost after all! 

Posted by ErEl

It's not better than Shift though is it?

Posted by Vinny_Says

well now I wanna buy it!

Posted by eldiax

I hope this is a return to the time when NFS franchise was actually good.

Posted by SomethingClever

I kinda wanted it anyway but I think now I have to pick this up.  Now I just have to decide where from (various deals all over the place in the coming week for a variety of games).

Posted by BlackSymbiote

I can't wait to pick this up.

Posted by Insectecutor

 The cop cars get pretty extravagant as you progress
Posted by Nadafinga

I want this game, the demo was good.
 
Between this and GT5, looks like I'll be doing a lot of racing this winter.

Posted by Seppli

I don't agree that Hot Pursuit mode is the pinnacle of this game. The game's at its best when it's all about the driving. Best arcade racing driving mechanics ever.

Posted by thevector

I'm loving this game, but kinda hating autolog

Posted by DarkFury

I prefer Burnout, but Criterion were the right team to make this game. I guess Jeff didn't mention it or draw comparison in his review as he felt it was too easy a point to make or to easy a criticism?

Posted by Video_Game_King

That's certainly a weird line to use for your review title-quote-thing. It'd be like me opening a Conker's Bad Fur Day review with, "The Great Mighty Poo is fucking awesome!" Granted, there are probably several Bad Fur Day reviews that begin with exactly that, but the point is that it's not a good thing to do.

Edited by Seppli
@thevector said:

" I'm loving this game, but kinda hating autolog "

How that? I often revisit events to beat friend's times and honing my skills in the process. If you give a damn about your driving and don't shy away from competition, it's the greatest addition to singleplayer racing ever. Endless challenge is awesome. Really can't understand how anyone doesn't appreciate that...
 
That'd be as pointless as driving every event just once... Hot Pursuit ain't about beating the game, it's about mastering it.
Edited by Seppli
@Video_Game_King said:

" That's certainly a weird line to use for your review title-quote-thing. It'd be like me opening a Conker's Bad Fur Day review with, "The Great Mighty Poo is fucking awesome!" Granted, there are probably several Bad Fur Day reviews that begin with exactly that, but the point is that it's not a good thing to do. "

Shame that Jeff doesn't go in-depth about the acutal driving experience itself. Controls. Mechanics. Feel.
 
To me it's the best arcade racing I've ever played. It's exactly what Arcade Racing has to be. It's the pinnacle of Arcade Racing. Perfect feel to the driving and the environments and road layouts.
 
Ever drifted a doughnut at breakneck speed with just barely enough control to weave in and out of traffic? Drifting like forever? So fucking good.
Posted by Falconer

*nods* I saw the 4/5 coming. I don't know if I agree for all the same reasons as to why though. I like the world map, as you get to see the route of the events. It's also literally straight out of Burnout 3: Takedown, one of the best arcade racers ever. 
 
Jeff, if you see this, do you think by putting in a simple option of being able to switch between seeing just Racer events and Cop events would have made it better? A la switching between racing and crash events in B3.

Posted by Jimages

This game has really interested me, might just have to pick it up !

Edited by FritzDude

This is a safe buy after christmas for me.

Posted by SuperJoe

They need to patch in a party mode for Hot Pursuit & Race multiplayer.  Inviting friends to an 8-player session is a hassle because the slots fill up almost immediately.

Posted by CowsWithGuns

Good review jeff. Very pumped for this game. Glad to hear nfs is back!

Edited by Sin4profit

Great game, hope GB does a TNT with this sometime. 
fair review...i wonder if they'll push it into the future as a new sub franchise, or whatever you want to call it.  
The game's also "in association with Dice" does anyone know Dice's involvement? 
 
[update] turns out a team of Dice's artists helped build the environments in the game

Posted by Jayross

Grr, Icalledit at 4, but then cancelled thinking it would be 5/5. =\

Posted by Jemima87

awesome

Posted by Sanryd

Not really sure what Jeff was talking about with the map. It doesn't tell you what's new because it's easy to see which ones are lit up and which are grayed out. You just pick from the lit up ones unless you didn't get gold, but it's not really a tough game and I personally love the driving enough to repeat events if I happen to get silver or bronze instead.

Posted by animateria

ONLY 4 STARS? 
 
I mean it had a "Burnout" Achievement for doing a burnout right? 
 
That should have given it an extra Star. 
 
All kidding aside, can't wait to play this game! 

Posted by SBYM

Maybe now that this is out, I can finally afford a used copy of Burnout Paradise.

Posted by niamahai

but is the SP campaign fun?
 
the most shocking thing about SC2's SP wasn't about 
Mission 1: Go destroy other dude's base
Mission 2: Go destroy other dude's base 
Mission 3: Guess what? Go destroy other dude's base  
 
Did NFS:HP finaly change the SP game for racers?

Posted by csl316

i was having a decent time with the single player, but once i started hot pursuit mode online i couldn't stop.
 
it looked cool in the quicklook, but experiencing a four on four car war is frickin' intense

Posted by MichaelBach

Haven't played racing games since the first NFS games, maybe it's time to get back into it! Great review!

Posted by MEATBALL

Having a lot of fun with it so far, it's an awesome blend of NFS and Burnout. With a good 10 or so people on my friends list playing the game the autolog system is in full swing, competing against your friends' times is great motivation for doing events multiple times, much moreso than competing against your own times or simply going after gold. 
 
Haven't enjoyed a racing game this much for a fair while now, Criterion absolutely nailed it.

Posted by AndyMP
@Seppli said:
" @Video_Game_King said:

" That's certainly a weird line to use for your review title-quote-thing. It'd be like me opening a Conker's Bad Fur Day review with, "The Great Mighty Poo is fucking awesome!" Granted, there are probably several Bad Fur Day reviews that begin with exactly that, but the point is that it's not a good thing to do. "

Shame that Jeff doesn't go in-depth about the acutal driving experience itself. Controls. Mechanics. Feel.  To me it's the best arcade racing I've ever played. It's exactly what Arcade Racing has to be. It's the pinnacle of Arcade Racing. Perfect feel to the driving and the environments and road layouts.  Ever drifted a doughnut at breakneck speed with just barely enough control to weave in and out of traffic? Drifting like forever? So fucking good. "
I still prefer Dirt2 for that racing feel but I very much enjoy this game.
Posted by oobs

its a burnout game to me...just has the cops and robbers dlc pretty much...its a good game still but is at heart a burnout game..
Edited by JustKamToo

So far I have been loving the game, i even like the autolog stuff (it looks and feels great), but then again I'm a driving fan = P

Edited by Piranesi

Played a few hours this morning and not really loving it. Not a great deal of variety in the game types and some of the car handling is terrible. Have only played on the cops side but the interceptor missions are just as pointless and demoralising as in Burnout - you can't win unless you go back with a better car (or race a 100% error free line). 
 
There is a risk-reward with the short cuts that takes a bit of getting used to - i.e. you more likely to crash if you go through the off-road paths at high speed due to less signposting, more obstacles and no clear tracks in low visibility. If you don't know what to expect, it's often safer sticking to the tarmac.
 
Hopefully it gets better as you progress and open out the map and car / weapon unlocks. The map and mission structure is pretty poor given the quality of the developers (and successes of the NFS series in the past about getting the user directly into the game and the next fun mission). Wish I could turn off the HUD as well - who cares about how fast they are going in a racing game? 
 
Sorry to keep up with the comparison but the Burnout games had that immediate rush and hooked you in for the next thrill - this seems a bit restrained as if tied down by the NFS format. Oh, and online wasn't that a big deal that everyone has made out it to be - Paradise had tons more character, community and challenge.
Posted by durden77

Never liked sim racers, but have always loved arcade racers. And Criterion.
 
Picked it up and I love it! The online is incredibly intense every time.

Posted by mike28212

I enjoyed the demo but not sure I want to buy.  

Posted by Pop

Sounds pretty good, I can't believe it got 4* wait.... 20 mins later... I just played the demo it's pretty cool the cars have some weight to them.. I think I'll buy it :D

Posted by Vlad_Tiberius

A good game, but I still think that "Midnight Club LA" is the best and also the most underrated arcade racing game of this generation.

Posted by Maclintok

What does everyone think of the car handling in NFS Hot Pursuit?  Coming off of Split/Second the cars in Hot Pursuit felt very twitchy.  Feels like I'm driving over hot grease most of the time.  To post up decent times it feels like I always have to switch back to the hood or bumper camera. 
 
I like using the 3rd-person camera in arcade racers so if the handling is such in NFS that I need to go bumper it's actually kind of bizarre. 
 
Otherwise, it seems like a solid game.  The Autolog is great and can see EA using it in all their racing games from here on out.

Posted by Vigor

Maybe I'll wait for a price drop. 
EA seems to be milking this game already.