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For more seasoned gamers out there, the title may seem very familiar. The original Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was released way back in 1998 and was fairly successful. The game spawned a sequel and then fizzled out. With a new generation comes a reimagining of the Need for Speed franchise and that’s where the 2010 release of Hot Pursuit enters the fray. Developed by Criterion, the makers of the Burnout series, this new title offers over the top crashes, high speed, and pure adrenaline.
It’s important to note that I may be slightly biased since Criterion developed my favorite racer of all time, Burnout 3: Takedown. Hot Pursuit has the standard career and online modes allowing you to either race against the AI cars or against real racers. The online component is also subject to EA’s new online policy that requires you to either buy a new copy of the game or pay a ten dollar fee to purchase the license to play online. This policy is not particularly important for the review, but if you wish to play online you may want to buy this one brand new.
This is not the Need for Speed game you are used to playing, and that is definitely a good thing. EA’s flagship racing franchise was starting to show its age and Criterion has made some changes to really up the excitement factor. The biggest change is that cars take damage and will crash. Unlike Burnout though as cars do not crash as easily and instead have health bars that deplete as you hit obstacles or other racers or cops hit you. The benefit to having the EA brand behind the game is that you also get real cars to wreck such as the Camaro SS and Ford GT and that’s a much bigger thrill than wrecking cheap looking replicas. The cars are identical to their real life counterparts, and while the casual racing fan might not care, car aficionados definitely will.
While the online mode is fun to get a few races in, the career mode is where you will spend most of your time. The best part of the entire career mode is that you are not weighed down by a tacked on story mode. The lack of a story plays to the strength of a racing game where your goal is to race and earn money while causing as much havoc as possible. The core of the career is split into two modes, racer and cop. The two modes have different objectives based on which side you choose. As a racer, it is your goal to race and earn a bounty, the higher your bounty the more cars you unlock. The cop is the polar opposite as you chase down the racers and bust them. Depending on which side you choose, you get a variety of weapons to stop your opponents, such as spike strips, EMPs, helicopters, super turbo, and a jammer.
The most interesting facet of the game is actually apart from the gameplay almost entirely. The autolog feature, which makes its debut in Hot Pursuit, can only be described as a “Facebook” feature in-game. Autolog allows you to take photos in game, and in the car garage and share them to a “wall.” This wall allows you to post the photos as well as issue challenges to your friends. In fact, this feature automatically takes your best times from each event in career mode and, depending on if a friend has played the track, it will automatically recommend that they attempt to beat your time on the track. Imagine that the leaderboards were brought to the forefront of the gameplay and not buried deep in the menus. At any given moment you can find any conceivable stat about anything your friends have done on Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, and that’s the way it should be. Autolog is such an interesting feature and could easily be adapted to work on a multitude of EA titles. The one thing it could use is a name change; Autolog is not a particularly catchy name for such a great feature.
If you are an arcade style racing fan, you can’t afford to let this one slip by you. It is a great combination of the best parts of both Burnout and Need for Speed. The ability to play as both the cops and the racers add to the depth and help stave off monotony. The cars move comparable to their real world counterparts but are still forgiving. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is exactly the boost that the series needed. The phenomenal sensation of speed, the addicting gameplay, and the plethora of different cars and modes will keep you racing for a long time to come.