Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Updated Hands-On

We tear through the Sports and Performance series events in the first Need for Speed from Burnout studio Criterion.

Need for Speed publisher EA is frank about the position of its premier racing series, that is, in the doldrums, after some recent lacklustre offerings. "We were beating up the franchise," says Patrick Soderlund, EA senior vice president. "We wanted to come back from [Need for Speed] Undercover." The decline was attributed to an unworkable one-year development cycle--"You can't make quality that way," he says--and so development duties for this latest instalment went to Criterion, the British studio behind the Burnout series.

With its racing game pedigree and a longer development period in hand, Criterion settled down to making Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which Soderlund describes as the 1998 PlayStation game (Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit) built for a new generation.

Accordingly, cops-versus-racers action is the hook, and Criterion is well suited to deliver it. The multiplayer modes centre on aggressive, top-speed, eight-driver chases, with players cast either as illegal racers or as the Seacrest County police, who are dispatched to shut them down by any means necessary--with those means ranging from barging them off the road, to spike strips, to electromagnetic pulse weapons. The career mode, on the other hand, is split between that of the racer and the police. You can independently make progress on either side, unlocking events and vehicles for each and earning the bounty you need to reach wanted level 20 (as a racer) or rank 20 (as a cop).

The racer's career is mapped out as time trials, races, duels, and hot pursuits pinpointed across West Coast USA Seacrest County--a state that conveniently spans timber forest, desert, canyon, valley, snowy mountainside, and sandy seafront. Career challenges for the police differ, adding the likes of the chase-and-takedown interceptor event. The developer has declined to go open world; locations are discrete and routes straightforward, with the occasional side route that may or may not be a shortcut.

To protect and swerve.

The game is keen to remind you it is "powered by Autolog"--an overarching social network that links your experience to that of friends, tracking your accomplishments against theirs, sharing photos, and recommending events to try. And though Autolog is the chief innovation in Hot Pursuit, it will still be the core action--that is, the actual driving--that carries the day, or not. It has been up to the task so far, with great drifty arcade handling set off by handsome environments and, as you'd hope, even better-looking cars.

As a racer in career mode, your first vehicles include the sports series' Porsche Boxster Spyder, the BMW Z4 sDrive 35is, the Mazda RX-8, and the Nissan 370Z, and then, as you progress into the performance cars of the second series, you gain access to motors such as the Maserati Gran Cabrio, the Jaguar XKR, and the Alfa Romeo 8C. As a cop, you start out with the classic Ford Crown Victoria and then graduate to a highway patrol Subaru Impreza WRX ST1 and beyond.

Before you reach the rarest and fastest cars in the uppermost series, you get a taste of what's to come in preview events. These time trials temporarily loan you one of the most exotic models: a Pagani Zonda Cinque, for starters, followed by a Porsche 911 GT3 R5, and then a McLaren F1. Hooning down a highway through a snowfield at 200-plus miles per hour in the latter makes the earliest drives feel practically leisurely. Some events in the performance series are designed specifically to showcase car types, pitting American muscle cars against each other along a desert highway, plus Italian convertibles alongside a beach, and German all-wheel drives on a stormy night on wet roads.

Risky chaser.

The familiar, Burnout-like handling is accompanied by Burnout's trademark spectacular crashes and bodywork-crumpling slow-mo instant replays. These come thick and fast in the most aggressive career events, between the feisty AI and the constant incentive to drive into oncoming traffic; your nitrous boost is refilled by slipstreaming other cars and driving in the wrong lane. Play feels agreeably accessible; the crashes, if they don't wreck you, are spectacular hiccups rather than race-losing, controller-clenching disasters.

Accessibility extends into the game's steady tick of unlocks and levelling. Though finishing a race in the top three will land you bonus experience points (bounty), these can be picked up all over the place, with encouraging onscreen pop-ups for dodging police roadblocks or nearby crashes, for reaching top speed, for wrecking a cop, and so on. That accessibility, combined with Criterion's eye for quality and detail (the eclectic soundtrack mixes Pendulum, M.I.A., Plan B, and Bad Religion), should serve it well upon launch in November. EA will be praying the studio has turned out what Soderlund calls the "first real comeback for Need for Speed."

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Discussion

211 comments
JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

Got it. Not the greatest looking game of all times, but still enough graphical deliciousness and unadulterating fun to spend more than a nice time behind the computer... JJ

unDeny
unDeny

This IS a badass comeback. Finally!

ammiedredd
ammiedredd

hi there! for the owner of this wonderful game i have question for you and hope all answers are yes. Is offline-free-roaming is possible? Is clutch available? Is available to all cars? Is drifting possible? How is it? merry christmas!

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

Aha. Thanks to this info I finally got it sorted... Thought this was on-line multiplayer only, but now it seems there's an off-line career mode as well. Cool. Will have to molest my piggie-bank, as I just purchased "Fallout: New Vegas", "COD Black Ops" and (finally) BF Bad Company 2"... Time my boss gives me a serious raise... JJ

chaoskingz
chaoskingz

@starmanuk50 - im afraid free roam is offline only, so you wont be finding other racers/cops in it. GAME IS AMAZING IMO.

bemabo
bemabo

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

FERAMERE
FERAMERE

Oh would you look at that.....its free roam =). i was right. its not like the free roam in other free roam games but its still free roam and the game is amazing.

Fugazy32
Fugazy32

No steering wheel support!!!

WiseLyrics
WiseLyrics

Jane Douglas...I want to take you for a ride! omg..hotness!

starmanuk50
starmanuk50

@chaoskingz still nothing to stop you pursuing other players in free roam unofficially? i mean assuming you can free roam with other players then you can still set up unofficial races or chases but if free roam is just you then that needs to be addressed with a pc mod soon as.

chaoskingz
chaoskingz

The game has an option for free roam...however you can't engadge in persuits in this mode. Free roam is only for tearing up the asphalt in the car of your choice, taking pics, learning shortcuts and map. ONE MORE TIME FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T READ WELL -- NO PERSUITS WITHIN FREE ROAM if you want persuit it has to be within a race (online or offline) ty.

MoreThot
MoreThot

Sounds more like a overhaul of Need for Speed: High Stakes. A game which I thought was pretty fun and addicting. I'm looking forward to this game though, I have a feeling from what I've read its going to be a good release, especially since the creator from Burnout will be making it.

FERAMERE
FERAMERE

And the creators of burnout are doing this and they made one of the biggest if not biggest free roam maps and most detailed so i don't really see how they wont make it free roam.

FERAMERE
FERAMERE

@johnmetcalf look i keep reading that its open world/free roam. i don't know about you but i still think its free roam. prove me wrong in 4 days but for know i think its free roam. if it is hahaha suck it but if it is not sucks for me laugh in my face then.

Ir0nHog
Ir0nHog

Thank god Criterion actually put some effort into making the cops look like real cops, unlike the crap that EA gave us in Undercover. Pumped for release!

F-14-D_TOMCAT
F-14-D_TOMCAT

Early review pliz GS. (spoiler alert) GT have already reviewed hot persuit and they gave it a nine, now am waiting for GS score I just hope they do the review b4 16th.

johnmetcalf
johnmetcalf

@FERAMERE Then how do you expain in the article and I quote. " The developer has declined to go open world; locations are discrete and routes straightforward, with the occasional side route that may or may not be a shortcut." Looks to me like you need to learn to read before you go and call someone a retard. Although I do hope you are correct because I really enjoyed "most wanted" when it launced with the 360.

Philthy101
Philthy101

I played the demo, I found it to be good, steering was abit delayed, just not real responsive but that's ok, you will get used to it. One thing I hoped for that i don't think they did is like in need for speed high stakes (1999) They still had cops and you could race as cop but they had tournaments and championships where you had to purchase a certain car to get let in for that race. It gave you something to WORK for.. hopefully there is something like that here otherwise if every race is accessible it gets boring.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

It is closer to the 1998 Need for speed but the original is still better.. But this is still great never less. I am just a tad disappointed with it. buy i will definitely still buy and enjoy it.

FERAMERE
FERAMERE

hey ian4444 your a retard don't tell someone they are wrong when you are wrong. you have absolutely no idea what your talking about. The review of the game said that there is an open world. when they say 100 miles of open road THAT MEAN FREE ROAM!

sinista4
sinista4

I have been trash talking all over the demo with friends. This is gonna be a great for talking to those old PSN buddies that gather dust at the bottom of my friends list. O.K GT5 is a big draw but I feel like every other racing dev teams have made enough advancements to reflect a real driving experience without the waiting. Fun is what I'm after so NFS:HP here I come.

mrkickme
mrkickme

played demo and this just burnout all over.very fun.

BombayNugz
BombayNugz

yea..been playing the demo and i stopped and realized i ran the track 118 times lol.. keep trying to beat my last high score 3:28...cant figure out how someone got 3:10 i must be missing a shortcut but yea this game is freaking sick man its an ode to the old NFS..thank god

ahpuck
ahpuck

Bet this game sells more than GT5. I'm buying both but something tells me i'm going to be playing NFS more.

benandmax
benandmax

@samftrmd : only for premium cars : )

Assassin_2525
Assassin_2525

played the demo. looks and feels great. steering is touchy at first but u get used to it. cars seem a little driffty around turns. overall thought looks good. hopefully wont get boring or repetitive. and also hopefully they get some old muscle in there ( 69' camaro,70' chevelle,72' hemi cuda,69' charger, 67' mustang,72' camaro,88' camaro, any of the gto's)

Assassin_2525
Assassin_2525

about time for a comeback NFS.. we ALL have been waiting

the22for4
the22for4

welcome back need for speed....

benandmax
benandmax

I would get this game but gt5 will be out within a month. NFS has never even been in the same league as GT, so it's a no brainer which one I will pick. But it does look like a fun game, so I'll eventually get it. PS3 has been short on racing games, so why release two top end titles in the same month?

swmdwn
swmdwn

@Falken_PT i'm not saying that NFS Shift is bad. Nfs series was losing its charm so its good that EA let criterion dev. next NFS.

swmdwn
swmdwn

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sangdolee
sangdolee

it's gonna be hot this game ^^ awwwww i love it wiiiiiiiii !!! ^^

iNiNe5
iNiNe5

hot pursuit 1 and 2 were not open world. this one shouldn't be either. i think it's better that way for a cop chase game. you keep everyone on the same path so people can concentrate more on the chase rather than navigation....

Falken_PT
Falken_PT

@swmdwn Well, I liked Shift.

poor_ends
poor_ends

oh god when its ll be release? its killing me come sooner plz

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

Burnout with police chase

blacksaibot
blacksaibot

Gamespot previews always make games sound so promising... why? So they continue to get exclusives? Then when the final game comes out it sucks. I hope this game will be an exception.

swmdwn
swmdwn

after the failure of undercover and shift it was EA's best decision. Hope this brings back memories of most wanted.

Snake_1118
Snake_1118

looks like classical nfs mixed with burnout seems good

Baronx10
Baronx10

wow! do u guys remember nfs 3?? it was an awesome classic, i loved that game back then! this remake better live up to its name! its not expected though becuz of the recent constant failures of nfs series