Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

Hot Pursuit isn't like recent NFS games and, as it turns out, it's actually one of the best racers we've played in recent memory

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Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Running Hot Pursuit on a high-end PC will reward you with gorgeous graphics and fluid framerates
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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  March 9, 2011

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Key Specs

Number of players: 8
Online play: Y
Price: $54

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Hot Pursuit is the 16th game in the Need for Speed (NFS) series. The title was developed by Criterion Games who famously worked on the hugely successful, and intensely entertaining, Burnout racing series. Compared to recent Need for Speed titles, this latest game is meant to be more like earlier NFS titles, which focused on racing exotics and avoiding (or playing as) the cops. As a sort of thumbs up to NFS titles of old, this game bears the same name as Need for Speed III.

One new and rather major addition to Hot Pursuit is a social interaction system known as ‘Autolog'. This is a sort of NFS Facebook and allows players to share photos, post records and achievements and ties into the game's experience system as well. The experience you gain from completing races, evading cops, busting racers, finding shortcuts etc is known as ‘Bounty' and the more you accumulate, the more cars and tracks are made available to you.

Progressing through the ranks, either online or in the game's career mode, rewards both cops and racers with new equipment with which to bust and evade respectively. Playing as cops you can call in helicopter support, deploy spike strips, fire EMPs and, playing as racers, you also have access to radar jammers that disrupt the communication channels of cops, and their weapons, your own spike strips, a turbo system and much more. The way each power-up works is different from the other so whereas using the EMP requires you to stay behind a target until it locks on, for a spike strip to work, you'll have to speed ahead of your foes and deploy them strategically for maximum effect. The power-ups add that extra bit of zing to races. If you happen to run out of power-ups however, you can also rely on simply ramming opponents
until their cars simply throw in the towel.

The races themselves are exhilarating whether you play as either the cops or racers. The mechanics are tuned to make driving more of an arcade racing experience rather than realistic but it works beautifully. Each and every race will see you maintaining rapid, triple digit pace and taking corners is pure fun simply because you can handbrake into a spectacular drift. It looks fantastic on screen and just feels cool. Winning can be a white-knuckled experience when playing against AI opponents however; you'll have a serious fight to catch up and then overtake them and all it takes is one slip up for them to pull ahead again.

Like a lot of the titles released recently, NFS relies on the Internet for its multiplayer gaming. While we still prefer to have a local area network (LAN) option, the online experience we had over the last month has been rock solid. On our 4-megabit line lag was nonexistent and so playing with other players was a fair, fun and entertaining experience. That said we wish that Hot Pursuit had team modes that allowed you to team up with other players against the AI. As it stands right now, all you can do is go up against other players.

One major issue we have with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is that its presentation gets in the way of gameplay from time-to-time. Before you get down to racing or busting criminals, you're forced to endure a short clip that sets up the race each time. The clip lasts for only a few seconds but when you're eager to get busy on the road, it's an annoying frustration each and every time. Unfortunately there's no way to skip this annoyance. The game also puts a freeze on the action when you advance a level or unlock a car, as again you're forced to endure a short clip that you can't skip past.

Another slightly disappointing find is that Hot Pursuit is actually devoid of car tuning. This is in line with the older series of NFS games but given that most racing games now allow, at the least, a little bit of tuning, we were expecting to find that here.
Graphically, Hot Pursuit is unmatched; the tracks, cars and everything you see onscreen is drop-dead-gorgeous. It's easily the best looking racing game we've tried on the PC. Of course being a PC title you'll need a high-end machine to enjoy the best visuals and keep the framerate butter smooth.

The audio however is something of a letdown in Need for Speed; the music is surprisingly mellow and the same can be said for the sound effects. Each car's engine is fairly muted whether you're driving a Pagani Zonda or a Lamborghini and even effects when your car is skidding across the road are far from realistic. The only really satisfying aspect is the crash effects, which considering Criterion made each Burnout collision and crash such an event, is no surprise.

For: Playing as the cops and chasing racers is immensely engaging.
Against: Some annoying presentation bits, sound effects and music are a letdown.
Verdict: The NFS series has evolved into one of the most fun arcade racers we’ve played in recent years. This is a title that’s definitely worth having in your collection.

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