Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit review

Need for Speed games have been churned out to an average reception for a good few years now. Sometimes they're fantastic, sometimes they're not so great. Hot Pursuit is unique. It has been developed by Criterion, the speed junkies behind the Burnout series. If that doesn't get your heart racing already, check out the demo. If this doesn't have you pining for more, it's hard to see how any racing game will satisfy your needs.

Usually, you will start up a racing game for the first time and be given an old, perhaps rusty car. It won't break 100MPH and will only have a chance of winning because your opponents have equally crappy vehicles. Hot Pursuit is different though. The first car I found available on free ride was a Lamborghini. Instantly, the game is different to the rest. You are thrown in straight at the deep end. In fact, you're thrown from the highest diving board into the deep end. The reason for this is simple. The shallow end is no fun.

You will spend your time in Hot Pursuit playing both sides of the law. Cop challenges include Hot Pursuit missions, which see you taking down everyone in a race, taking down one particularly fast driver in Interceptor missions or racing against the clock to complete Rapid Response missions. Each of these variations are well developed and fun. Rapid Response is the weakest of the bunch, being a glorified Time Trial. It sees you racing against the clock to cut off a racer and be the final car in a road block. The best aspect of these missions is the fact that you are given a car that you usually wouldn't have unlocked yet. When you're used to driving an Audi TT, the sudden acquisition of a Bugatti is a real shock, and will no doubt have your pulse racing, as you fly past 200 MPH.

When playing as a racer, you will play the opposite role. In Hot Pursuit missions this time, you will be evading the cops, not destroying the racers. Whilst evading, you must still try to finish ahead of the other racers. These are the most fun challenges to take part in on both sides, playing as a cop or racer. Also available are Duels. One on one races in the fastest cars, with the fastest cops doing all they can to take you both down.

When trying to destroy the opponent, using blunt force is fine, but at your disposal is a range of gadgets and vehicles, which you can call in for help. The cops have spike strips, which can be deployed from the rear of your car, starting as a small box and extending to cover the entire lane. Drop one in front of a suspect and they will spin out, slowing down and taking damage at the same time. Next is the road block. Call one in and further along the road, in front of all the racers, a group of officers will assemble to attempt to slow down as many racers as possible. The EMP is a long range weapon which disrupts and temporarily disables the electrics of the unwitting speedster. Finally is the helicopter. Calling in one of these bad boys is insane. They fly along the road, identifying the lead racer and then waiting further along for them. As the racer approaches, the helicopter drops a spike strip, damaging the front of the pack whilst you deal with the back.

Playing as a racer also gives you the EMP and spike strips but switches out the helicopter and roadblock for turbo and jammer. Turbo boosts you faster than the nitrous and can send you sailing away from your opponents and the cops, if used at the right time. The jammer is the only true defence gadget in the game, and it's a big help. If you get targeted by an EMP and can not outmanoeuvre it, employ the jammer. As the name suggests, it jams the EMP radar and saves your ass.

The powers, when used successfully, will eventually level up and become stronger, last longer and have better overall performance. For example, levelling the roadblock sees bigger vehicles making the block, taking up more of the road and posing as a bigger threat to the racers. Taking down an opponent triggers slow motion and the camera focuses on the vehicle being destroyed. It's almost poetic.

The world is huge. Bigger than Burnout Paradise and much more beautiful, you could spend hours driving around aimlessly, finding hidden roads through caves and forests, discovering beautiful vistas to sit back and enjoy. Switch to photo mode to capture these moments, and your car, in glorious HD screenshots which you can upload to your Autolog wall for your friends to see. The sheer amount of detail in the game is most apparent in photo mode. Take the camera to the read of the car and zoom in on the badge. Sharp and lifelike, Hot Pursuit presents some of the best graphics of this generation. Action packed shots are definitely worth taking too. Switching to photo mode mid-crash can produce some beautifully destructive results. Take the motion blur to the top, allowing you to feel the speed, play with the contrast and brightness to make the image stand out, drain the world of colour of you so wish, making the cars the true star of the show. Photo mode shows every fleck of paint and every tiny piece of broken glass, frozen in the air as the chaos stands still in time.

The game is not easy, but it's not difficult. Some challenges may take numerous attempts but it doesn't get annoying. Even on the third or fourth attempt of a challenge, you will be having too much fun blasting down the highways to get frustrated. The Rapid Response missions are arguably the hardest, with extremely tight deadlines. No matter how hard the challenges, it is so rewarding due to the Bounty that you will accumulate.

Bounty points are basically experience points. You can level up by winning challenges and earning Bounty for not only placing first, but for driving skill, use of force and getting a time which tops your speedwall. The top level is 20, which you can achieve on both sides, cop and racer. Levelling up gives you new cars, areas and challenges, as well as new titles on your records. This adds a layer of replayability to the game, urging you to rank up to unlock all of the cars.

Once you complete a mission, your time will be automatically posted to the Speedwall. This is part of the brand new Autolog, keeping you up to date with absolute everything that your friends do. Whether it be ranking up, breaking a record or even uploading a photo, you will know about it. It's a gloriously competitive feature, making you strive to beat your friends times and earning you bonus Bounty points if you are successful.

Take the game online and play the most fun multiplayer racing on the console. 4 Vs. 4 cops and racers is the stand out mode, in which the players acting as cops must take down each racer before they reach a destination. The excitement of being a racer, seeing the cops catching up in your rear view mirror is intense. The feeling of achievement when you and your cop team mates work together to take down that pesky racer is great. Playing both sides online is fun, and offers two completely different experiences as your style of playing must dramatically change when switching sides. Pure speed and careful evading is needed for the racers, whereas the cops must be more tactical and deploy their back ups at the opportune moment.

The cars are all licensed, making the game a lot more involving and interesting. Included are all the modern exotic cars that you could dream of. Pagani, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche; all present. The only noticeable absence is Ferrari, but there is so much choice that it's not a major loss. They are all perfectly realised models and look every bit as beautiful as their real life counterparts. The cop versions of the cars have decals and lights, notching up the level of awesome to 110%.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is incredibly reminiscent of Burnout Paradise, which is no bad thing. The speed is intense, the cars are breathtaking, and the world is gorgeous. The Autolog features are implemented perfectly, adding a social element to the single player game. The multiplayer is intense and fun, and taking down other players is much more satisfying than taking down AI. A must-have for speed junkies and lovers of Burnout, this game is damn near perfect.


by Louis Gardner

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