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Do you know what it’s like to drive expensive sports cars at blistering speeds with police on your tail as you swerve around traffic vehicles? Or to be on the side of law and order and to stop the speeders by any means necessary? Do you know what it’s like to experience the thrill of the chase? I don’t. But it’s fun in the Need for Speed games and after my childhood experience with Need for Speed III, I’m always eager to check out any game in the series with cops. Developed by Criterion Games and published by Electronic Arts, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was released for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii in November, 2010. A remastered version titled Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered was released for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch in November, 2020. For this review, I played the Remastered version on PC and one of the biggest additions to Remastered is cross-platform multiplayer.
I would describe Hot Pursuit as an action racing game. Coming from the developers of the Burnout series, anyone familiar with that series will notice some similarities in mechanics and style. While crashes are cool in Hot Pursuit, it’s not the game’s selling point. That would be the police chases. You can evade the police or pursue racers. You can improve your racing reputation and move up the cop ranks by playing through the career mode or burning rubber online.
The Steam page describes the game as “a heart-pumping, socially competitive racing experience”. What does that mean, you ask? Well the original Hot Pursuit introduced a social interaction system called “Autolog” which has been carried over into the Remastered version. It tracks your progress and lets you compare high scores with other players.
Hot Pursuit features a Career mode and Online Multiplayer. Unfortunately, there’s no other single player game modes. For example, you can’t set up a custom race or event in any way. You have to either participate in a Career event or jump into the Online mode and hope it’s still active which it is as of this review. Regardless, the Career mode does offer a healthy dose of content and should keep you occupied for a while.
No matter what mode you decide to play, your performance during an event counts towards progression. Hot Pursuit is set in the fictional Seacrest County. When you enter the Career mode, you’re brought to a map screen where you can pick a location and each one features multiple events, most of which need to be unlocked. Additional locations, events, and vehicles are unlocked by progressing through the career and accumulating bounty. As a racer, your reputation is measured in wanted levels and as a cop, you progress through ranks. Depending on which side you’re on, accumulating bounty can be done in different ways. As a racer, you’ll want to drive dangerously and evade the police. As a cop, you’ll want to drive fast but carefully and bust racers by bringing them to a stop or wrecking their vehicles.
You can accelerate, brake, and drift. Using slipstreams increases your speed and driving dangerously will build up nitro and you can activate nitro at any time to gain a boost of speed. Each vehicle does have health and once it’s completely drained, you’re vehicle is wrecked and you’re done. Like in the Burnout games, you can take down other vehicles but it’s not as easy nor is it ever the focus, especially as a racer. If anything, you want to avoid danger.
You don’t start with many vehicles on either side but you will unlock sexier and faster vehicles as you progress and from what I understand, some vehicles that were in the original did not make the cut in Remastered. Racing vehicles are split up into different series and you can change their paint color and finish. Cop vehicles are split up into different units. Each vehicle has different stats and the game provides some information on each one. You’ll get to drive vehicles from several manufacturers including Aston Martin, Dodge, Ford, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Porsche among others.
The racing is fast and fun in Hot Pursuit and the weapons or equipment make things even more enjoyable. Each faction can use up to four weapons during certain events and each one can be upgraded. You’re given a limited amount of each and many events don’t grant you access all four. As a racer you can lay down spike strips, activate EMPs, jam police equipment, and activate a turbo boost. Cops can also lay down spike strips and activate EMPs but also call for road blocks and helicopter support. Because you’re only given a limited amount of weapons and sometimes only certain ones, you should learn to use them strategically. You might want to save your Jammer for blocking EMPs and disabling spike strips. If you use up all of your weapons at the beginning of an event, you may have nothing to give you and edge or defend yourself later on.
The Career features different event types for each faction. You’ll earn medals based your finishing position, time, and amount of busts depending on the event. The better the medal, the more bounty you’ll earn. As a racer, you can participate in typical races, time trials, hot pursuits, gauntlets, and preview events which let you drive some of the more exotic vehicles early. It’s the hot pursuit and gauntlet events that are the highlights and my favorite event types as a Racer. In Hot Pursuit, the objective is to finish in first without getting busted so cops are often all over the road. In Gauntlet, the objective is to make it to the finish in record time without getting busted. You’re the only racer so all cops will be up your ass for the duration of the event.
As a cop, you can participate in hot pursuits, rapid response, and interceptor events. Hot Pursuit is similar to its racing equivalent except your the cop and the objective is to bust all the racers before they escape. Rapid Response is my least favorite. You need to get to the finish as fast as possible but if you crash into anything, penalties in the form of additional time are added to your event timer. Then there’s the Interceptor events where the objective is to bust a single speeder as fast as possible. The speeder will try to escape and the tracks in these events are more open in a sense. The speeder doesn’t have to follow a specific route and can drive anywhere they want.
The difficulty in the Career mode does ramp up as you progress. Races will get longer, faster cop vehicles will be thrown in, and rubber banding is consistent throughout the entire game. The difficulty does spike towards the end, specifically Race events, and it can get frustrating. Some of the later Races will require perfect or near perfect runs. One crash can ruin your chance at finishing in first. Unless you take every shortcut, activate nitro at the exact right times, and turn every corner perfectly, the opponent AI will always be up your ass. It’s easier to win in the beginning but the later events will put your driving skills to the test. AI opponents will take shortcuts and cops will try to run you and other racers off the road. You can take down AI opponents but they will respawn and you can wreck cop vehicles. During Interceptor events, the speeders will often turn around or activate a jammer so you can’t see them on the map for brief time and then drive off the main road. You need to be constantly vigilant.
I did go into Hot Pursuit expecting rubber banding because most racing games I’ve played have it and while I typically don’t like it, the Burnout series has shown that if tuned properly, it can make for exciting and fun single player gameplay. However, the Burnout games are also a bit different than others in genre. Regardless, Hot Pursuit is not Burnout but it is from the same developer and most of the time I never felt like I was being cheated out of wins. Now imagine if rubber banding wasn’t present and you could easily just blow passed cops and opponents all the time. It would be very boring. And in a game like Hot Pursuit, it’s the action that makes it fun and exciting. You need to know other opponents can catch up if you make a mistake and evading police shouldn’t be simple otherwise there will be no action and you’ll end up all alone on the road. Where’s the fun in that?
Unfortunately, like many racing games, rubber banding does come with its problems. For one thing, it’s very noticeable when you activate a Turbo making it sometimes feel useless. That is if you’re only using it to try and gain a big lead. You can have racers and/or cops on your tail and decide to activate turbo so now you’re speeding down the road at a blistering speed but when it’s finally depleted you’ll notice they’re still on your tail. On the plus side, it’s great for evading EMPs. Another problem is that AI opponents will often blow right passed you no matter how well you drive and activating nitro doesn’t guarantee you’ll maintain your position or even catch up to others. Furthermore, during some of the later Races, AI opponents can gain a significant lead making it very difficult to catch up. You’re not provided any weapons during standard Races so you have to rely on your driving skills. For the most part, it’s not much of a problem for most of the Career and only seems to become problematic in the later Race events in particular, at least in my experience.
All of the events with the exception of Interceptor are sprints. You’re always driving from one point to another. Each track normally contains multiple shortcuts to help you get ahead or shave some time. Seacrest County appears to be based on the West Coast of the United States and is devoid of urban areas. You’ll drive on interstates, freeways, through tunnels, off-road, and over bridges. You will have to drive in different weather conditions and at different times of day. Traffic vehicles are present on the roads and act as obstacles to be avoided. There’s only a dozen locations but the different times of day, weather conditions, and routes for each one make for a nice variety of tracks.
Hot Pursuit does feature online multiplayer and the addition of cross-platform support is one of the best things about Remastered. You can participate in many of the same events featured in the career along with Most Wanted and Arms Race which are exclusive to multiplayer. In Most Wanted, cops try to take down a Most Wanted racer and the other racers have to defend them. Arms Race is a race with weapons and cops although I never got into any matches for this event. When I tried joining a match with specific parameters, I was usually unable to find any games and when hosting a match, players would often leave. However, if I joined a quick match, I was always put into a full lobby.
Unfortunately, Hot Pursuit Remastered doesn’t offer a much better visual experience than the original. There’s some new effects and cosmetic changes but if you played the original, this certainly won’t blow you away. That said, it does look good. The vehicle models look good, the environments are detailed, and the game is very stylish in general. When you crash, take down a racer, or wreck a cop, the camera focuses on the crash or collision so you watch the vehicle roll, tumble, get all dinged up, and see sparks and particles fly through the air. Vehicle models will show visible damage, cop vehicle lights are bright and illuminate dark areas which looks awesome, and there’s just something cool about being in the police helicopter spotlight. You can pause the gameplay and access a photo mode where you can change the camera angle and apply different filters for cool screen captures or photos if you’re into that kind of thing. The soundtrack is full of licensed songs, mainly punk and alternative rock. The sound effects are excellent in my opinion. Engines roar, skidding is loud, and crashes are accompanied by sounds of metal crunching and glass breaking and shattering. You’ll get to listen to police chatter and sirens wailing whenever cops are present. On the technical side, the frame rate is capped at sixty during gameplay which will suck for anyone playing on a monitor with a high refresh rate. I, personally, did not encounter any bugs. The frame rate would stuttered from time to time but nothing ever hindered my experience.
Now that Criterion took the reins, you might be wondering if Hot Pursuit is just another Burnout game. In many ways it is. Personally, I like Burnout and I like Need for Speed, especially the Need for Speed games with cops so I felt like I got some of the best parts of both worlds. Hot Pursuit doesn’t center on crashing but it does focus on racing and pursuits as the title implies. But the crashes sure do look cool. It’s a stylish game, the racing is fast and fun, the pursuits are intense, and I think this is one of the best games in the Need for Speed franchise. The difficulty in the Career does ramp up nicely for the most part but as it gets more challenging it also gets more frustrating thanks in part to the obvious rubber banding. But at least each event is exciting and I was often neck and neck with my opponents, especially in the actual Races. Ultimately, I became addicted. This is an addictive game. I initially wanted to play it just to check it out and it ended up consuming entire afternoons. My biggest complaint is the lack of a customizable single player race mode. Luckily the career mode offers plenty of content and win or lose, I was always accumulating bounty and unlocking vehicles so I was always being rewarded and it’s fun trying out all the vehicles. Plus, there’s quite a large roster. Going for all gold medals, setting record times, and the multiplayer will keep you coming back and the cross-platform multiplayer is a very cool addition.
I would absolutely recommend Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered to any fans of arcade styled racing games. If you don’t care about the multiplayer, then it might not be worth buying if you already own the original but it’s still a fun and action-packed racing game. Not only that but it lets you drive crazy expensive and sexy-looking automobiles in standard and police form and scratch them up and beat them to hell. Definitely check it out.