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Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
The Need for Speed series has seen a bumpy road the past 6 years. I have always wanted to take a trip back to the last great game of the series, which was Porsche Unleashed in my opinion. The closest the series came was Most Wanted, even then disappointment after disappointment lead many to think the franchise was done. The day Criterion was mentioned with a Hot Pursuit remaking/re-imagining, the dark cloud known as Need for Speed suddenly had a silver lining.
Criterion, responsible for the Burnout series, takes us to Seacrest County. A huge landscape that contains roads winding through farms, forests, mountains and even beach sides. The whole game world looks stunning. When you add several weather effects it only further enhances the whole environment. I will say this, driving through the country side during a thunderstorm where it hadn’t started raining yet left me amazed. I also have always wondered how Criterion could handle real world car models, they have not disappointed. Everything about Hot Pursuit screams beauty. With the beauty, comes destruction. Criterion has finely tuned their craft over the years and know exactly where to put crash cams and how much debris should fly off your car when wrecked. With all this comes a downside that most will not notice. Burnout games have notoriously all ran at 60 fps, Hot Pursuit was notched down to 30fps to add more detail. In the amount of time I have put into the game, it has never hiccuped or slowed down.
The single player gives you the option of following a racing career or a cop career, and sees you mainly doing point to point style races. This is a major call out to the early versions of Need for Speed which featured mainly only these type of races as well. Your progress through both careers by a leveling system that is unique to each side. By your performance through these events you gain “Bounty,” which is your experience points. The first 13 levels of the racer or cop career you will unlock about 4 cars per level. Both careers max out at level 20. The weapons you are given to use also level up, but separately. The more you successfully use them, the faster you will level them up. Road blocks with cars will change into road blocks with SUVs, which will damage your car more if you hit them. Helicopters will gain more fuel and spike strips. EMPs will lock on faster and do more damage. Just a few for examples. Of note, the cars you unlock in single player are playable in multiplayer and vice versa. The weapon power-ups however; do not carry over. You must unlock the upgrades in each game play mode. This assures a player doesn’t just pick on the CPU racers in single player to get their upgraded weapons to bring into multiplayer. You have to earn it.
Speaking of weapons, each side has been given their own set. Racers come equipped with Spike Strips, Turbo that gives a prolonged burst of speed, Jammer that blocks cop radars, lock on mechanisms and radio, and the EMP which shocks a car and causes momentary loss of control and damage. The cops get Spike Strips and EMP as well, but in addition they also get Road Blocks and Air Support. Air Support is a helicopter that will fly ahead of racers and drop spike strips. Use your combination of weapons wisely, and you should do rather well.
There are enough events in the single player to keep you busy for a good amount of time. I have spent at least 5 hours in the single player and still have another 1-2 hours of events to run. From time trials, races, and trying to bust a single, or in some cases up to 7, racers in my experiences so far. Like most racing games, you are giving medals based on your results. The goals change in each event, sometimes it may be to finish before a certain time, to finish first, or bust a certain amount of racers.
The multiplayer is available in 3 flavors. Straight up racing, Hot Pursuit, and Interceptor. Hot Pursuit consists of up to 8 players. Teams are auto balanced and randomly assigned to cops or racers. I have done at least 75 races in this mode and I have only been a cop, or racer, in back to back races maybe two or three times. Don’t feel you will get locked into just being a cop or just being a racer. Interceptor mode pits one cop against one racer with no holds barred and the entire map open. The racer has to get outside of the cop’s pursuit circle for 20 seconds or just wreck them. The cops job is to bust the racer no matter what. There is no time limit to these matches and they can last a good amount of time depending on the skill of the individuals. The multiplayer feels very balanced and you will need some skill to escape the cops or bust racers. If you are lacking in the skill department, then just enlist some trickery to get the job done.
Everything in Hot Pursuit revolves around the new Autolog system that EA has been touting ever since they first showed the title at E3 of this year. Autolog is basically the wheels that will keep Hot Pursuit rolling into the night. Every race you do in the single player campaign are instantly compared to your friend’s times on the same event. You get extra bounty for being first on your friends leaderboard, and for even besting your own old time. Beat your friend’s time and want to let them know? You are automatically given the option to post on your friend’s wall that you have beaten their time. The next time they start their game up, they will be notified that friends have beaten their challenges and given the option to be taken right to said event to beat it. For those die hard leaderboard fans, this alone will keep you playing the game until you are on top of all your friends in all events. Autolog is what makes competition among you friends possible if you aren’t online at the same time.
With all the good of this game, I have still ran into a few nagging problems. At times when the camera cuts to the vehicle you just hit or wrecked, the game takes control of your car automatically. When the camera cuts back to your car, you instantaneously have control. This sometimes has less than favorable results by lining you up directly into a spike trap or road block. Seeing the damage you have caused is sometimes not worth the admission price(control of your car). I have also had problems with the Autolog server. At times I will start the game and it sits at the “Connecting to Autolog…” screen and doesn’t progress. Only way to fix it is by backing out to your dashboard and starting again. Autolog servers can even be pesky when you do connect to them right away. Several times I would be playing single player then randomly lose my connection. I could never regain connection to the servers unless I went back to my dashboard again. The Autolog problems could more than likely be fixed easily by a patch.
It has been a few years and many different iterations of the Need for Speed franchise, Need for Speed feels like it has mostly come back full circle. All the franchise needed was a little, or actually a lot of, outside help, from Criterion Studios. You can see a lot of the Burnout influence all throughout Hot Pursuit. They have successfully created a hybrid between the two series. You get real world exotic cars coupled with an easy to approach, hard to master game. Long story short, Need for Speed is back. If you are a fan of Burnout or the older Need for Speed games, then you are in for a treat with Criterion’s take on Need for Speed Hot Pursuit.