Almost 8 years after their highly successful second release in the franchise, the guys (and gals) over at EA Games are at it again. This time though, they handed over the reins (or rather wheel) to British game developer Criterion Games. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is what every big racing fan wants in a racing game. Exotic cars, over 100 miles of virtual road, and not to mention you can play as the police! Who hasn't wanted to play law enforcement during their free time? I know I have!
Overview: One thing you should know before buying this game, is that it is not Need for Speed:Hot Pursuit 3. This game is actually a reboot from the 2002 PlayStation 2 hit as stated above. When you first start the game, the menu screen is very streamlined, with clearly labeled buttons pointing you where to go, even giving you a tutorial for first time users. One thing that I noticed right off the bat is that this game is geared towards players with online connectivity. Even though this game does not need it, you will still get the annoying messages saying that the game is trying to connect but can't. Anyway, the game basically allows you to start one of the two career, the racer, or the cop. At anytime you can switch careers, due to the game menu being a large map having multiple colored points corresponding to each career. You can select one of these points and then choose the type of driving you want to do, whether it be race or time trial for the racer career, or hot pursuit or interception for the cop's career. The area you drive around in is a fictional land mass called Seacrest County, closely resembling the coastal areas of California. The terrain varies greatly though, from snowy hill tops, to coastal highways.
Gameplay/Physics/Realism: Both of the careers, whether the cop or the racer, revolve around an in-game "money" system known as bounty. Bounty is accumulated doing multiple things, ranging from completing a mission, to drifting down a mountain slope at 200mph. As you gain more and more bounty, you unlock new cars, new car classes, new equipment, and new ranks. The ranking system is composed of 20 levels for both careers, and has no effect on the outcome of the game. It is mainly just for bragging rights when playing online or showing your friends. The story, playing both careers lasted me about 12 hours, but you can replay each mission to try to beat your record. The racing physics are usually realistic, with the occasional glitch. During missions, you also will have access to many "power-ups", including EMP's, roadblocks, spike strips, and helicopters. A perfect example of this is sometimes when you are racing down a road and slightly clip another car, your car may spin out, when in actuality, you know that this wouldn't happen. Another annoying thing is that when playing as the cops, the civilian traffic does not pull over even the slightest bit, causing you to sometimes crash into them. Other than these minor flaws, the game is fairly easy to pickup and master the controls for all consoles. The game even has a free drive mode that allows you to drive around Seacrest County in any car you have unlocked without affecting your career.
Car Selection: While no GranTurismo 5, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit features an extensive amount and diversity of cars. Each career has 5 car classes, each with their own cars. These classes play an important role in how you take on missions. For example, if one cop mission requires you to choose an unlocked car from the traffic patrol class, they wouldn't let you choose the Lamborghini Reventón, you would be stuck with the Ford Crown Victoria. This makes you feel like you've truly earned these cars. The car selection in the game is very extensive, from well-known USA makers, to foreign and exotic car creators I had never heard of before I played this game.
Graphics/Sound: This game has some of the most beautiful car and environment graphics I have ever seen in a video game. No joke, I was watching one of the cut scenes in the game as my friend comes in, and he asks, "Where do you think they filmed this?". I showed him the video game box, and he thought I was joking. Even playing this game on a 24 inch tube TV, it still looked great. The sound just makes it even better. One of my personal favorites is that when you make your car selection for a mission, you can hear the car starting and its engine revving up. It is so close to the real thing that you can almost smell the exhaust fumes. (Unless of course your car is electric).
Multiplayer: The multiplayer gameplay does not disappoint in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. A quick and easy matchmaking lobby puts you into a room with 8 other drivers, where you can use your microphone to talk strategy with your fellow car enthusiasts. Shortly after starting the countdown until game time, you are put into one of the two factions, cops and racers. Like the single player mode, you earn bounty, and the bounty earned in multiplayer rolls over to single player. The opposite is also true. The game modes are based off the classic cops and robbers chase sequences. Using your power-ups, you have to stop all the racers if you are a cop. If you are a racer however, you are trying to run from the cops while still trying to finish first in the race. If at anytime, your car gets wrecked, you are out of the game for the rest of the duration. After the game, you repeat the entire process again. The multiplayer is a good solid example of what multiplayer racing should be like.
The Bottom Line: As you can see from reading the entire review, my opinion of the game is pretty high up there. Who should buy this game you ask? I believe even if you have the slightest love for cars, then I think this is a definite buy for any console gamer. The easy to pick up controls, along with the spectacular graphics and sound, combined with a solid multiplayer gives this game a reason why it was nominated as Best of E3 by Gameinformer. If you have any extra money lying around, then I suggest going right on down to your local video game retailer and picking up a copy of this epic racing masterpiece.