Need For Speed is back this year but something drastic has changed since the last few iterations. First and foremost, this NFS title is developed by Criterion team behind one of the best arcade racers out there: Burnout. This re-envisioning of NFS from Criterion really blends both games world in a racing world that is fast paced and exciting to play. Be warned, I tried to play Hot Pursuit like a Burnout title, and while you do need to drive recklessly (in oncoming traffic, drifting, etc) to gain nitro, its inherently not as fast and crazy paced that weve become used to with Burnout. I had to break myself out of old habits but once I learned the nuances of Hot Pursuits driving I was really starting to enjoy myself once I was able to drift those long corners without hitting anything.
Youll be speeding excessively, trying to shake the cops, doing takedowns on other cars and wreaking havoc for the streets of Seacrest County. Going back to its Need For Speed roots, you can once again play as racer or cop in this title. Whats even better is that you can choose what side of the law you want to be on in career mode and switch whenever you like as well if you want a change. Each career side is pretty lengthy and to reach the top rank of 20 on each side will take some serious gaming hours to obtain.
Before I get into all the gameplay mechanics, race types, and so on, I need to explain whats under the hood of the new NFS. Youll see Autolog plastered everywhere in the game; this is the new heart of NFS and quite honestly, I hope more games become this connected as time goes on.
Autolog lets you keep track of everything you do, every race, game stats, photos you take and more. What makes this unique is that its also going to track everyone on your friends list and everything they do as well and show you their progressions and times. It even goes a step further and when one of your friends eventually beat that amazing time you got, its going to tell you instantly that they beat it by X amount of seconds and give you a one button press option to go replay that course to try and beat it. I cant tell you how many hours Ive wasted simply trying to beat the Autolog recommendations to beat my friends top times. The only thing I wish that Autolog can do in the future is have a ghost of my friends run as I try and beat their freakishly low time.
This even extends to the NFS website so that when you arent on your Xbox playing Hot Pursuit, you can still always stay connected and see how many friends just beat your apparently good run on any given race. You can check side by side stat comparisons to any of your friends and even save any recommendation for when you get home and start up the game so that you dont forgive to give your friend a beating in the form on a quicker time. Its very connect, simple to use, and I honestly didnt think I would care much if my friends beat my times, but when you see it happen in real time, its hard to resist to not try and attempt to dethrone them.
Youll be driving all over Seacrest County which is known for its high speed racing culture and the cops that are known to stop them in their tracks. Youll drive along the coast, the snow covered mountain area, desert, and even forest areas that will have you reminiscing to playing Crusin USA. There is a free driving option, and I do suggest it to find those hidden shortcuts (careful though, some are long cuts!) for every advantage in your race (and against your friends).
Weather you pick racers or cops; youll constantly be working towards new ranks and unlocks. Hot Pursuit does a fantastic job at constantly rewarding you with new cars, equipment upgrades and more. You actually will get a few unlocks per level and it makes you constantly wanting to play as youre always close to something being unlocked. Youre always working towards progression of your career regardless of playing solo offline or online with friends.
Each side of the law gets different equipment to try and get a leg up on the competition. Racers can use Spike Strips, EMP blasts, Turbo (which is much faster than your standard nitro), and Jammers which will temporarily disable cops mechanical systems and lock-ons. Cops have their own bag of tricks as well though to take the racers down; EMP strikes and Spike Strips are also useable by cops, but they also get access to calling in Roadblocks that make it very difficult for racers to get through without crashing along with being able to call in Helicopter support that will travel ahead of the racers and drop spike strips hopefully infront of them.
Once you learn how the equipment works and when to properly use them, theres actually some strategy to be used and how to ration your equipment (hopefully before you get taken down). You need to constantly be driving dangerously on the wrong side of the road, barely missing cars, and drifting to keep your nitro meter refilling. Youll also need to learn to ration your nitro as well that really needs to be used for going uphill (especially with the heavier muscle cars), overtaking and correcting that guardrail rub going 300 kmh.
Hop online and you can jump into some awesome action as well. Two teams of four can do cops vs racers and I found this the most fun yet challenging mode online hands down. Things become much more difficult with an actual player controlling the opposing team when comparing it to career modes single player. You really do need to work as a team if you want to survive the cops pursuit or take down all the racers in the time allotted. Ive even had to take myself out of a race by slamming into a cop to stop him from getting my teammate near the end of a race. You can choose to do 1 vs 1 with a cop and racer if you prefer, but be warned, players with higher rankings have access to much faster and exotic cars that will leave you in the dust if you are just starting out. Straight races are also an option as well and everything is always connected to Autolog of course.
Any cars youve unlocked, you can then use in that series event. Tons of cars to choose from such as Mitsubishi Lancer X, McLaren F1, Nissan 370Z, Porches, Lambos, and more exotics youll never even see in real life, let alone drive them. Sadly the lack of Ferraris does seem like a gaping hole in the big picture though, but 100 cars is nothing to scoff at.
Im glad there was no cheesy attempt of a story mode in Hot Pursuit because lets face it; youre playing Need for Speed to race cars youll never own extremely fast. They dont try and be something else which I applaud them for and stick to the roots of NFS titles. Autolog may seem gimmicky at first and just a fancy way to show your (and friends) stats, but it will change the way you play eventually. I cant tell you how many hours Ive been distracted for just to try and beat my friends times; I cant let that stand.
I believe letting Criterion give their touch to a long running series was a great move and its definitely given the series a boost in the right direction as I lost interest in the last few titles. I once again care about Need For Speed and subsequently has also made me yearn for a new Burnout at the same time. If you loved the old school NFS, this is the next step for you. So go put on your aviators, buckle up, rev that V12 engine and give in to your need for speed.