Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

E3 2010: NFS: Hot Pursuit Hands On Preview - Chasers & Racers

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In the last 5 years, 3 words have made my blood boil: Need For Speed. Once my favourite racing franchise, until recently, the bane of my existence. For all of you that liked Shift, look away now: I have to admit I couldn’t get on with Shift. It was a racer that was half arcade, half simulation... and did neither particularly well. With Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, my contempt for the series has turned back into elation and with Criterion behind the wheel – sorry – and recognising what made the series great, we could be onto a winner here.

So what made the series great? Criterion were that on the ball at this year’s E3 that they actually told us what we wanted to hear: exotic cars, epic landscapes – of which there are 100 miles of road – and of course, the main ingredient: cops.

A big focus for Criterion at this year’s E3 – other than the racing itself – are the things that they plan to do with social networking within Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – they’re looking to create a connected experience by putting a social network at the heart of it. Meet, “Need For Speed Autolog” – an in-game social network that tracks your friends’ progress, gives you news, gives you a “Most Wanted” friend, allows you to send and receive messages (and pictures) and more. Two of the things that Criterion touched upon a little further was Autolog’s “Feed” and “Recommends” aspects.

“Need For Speed Feed” is the part of the Autolog which you can access from any web-enabled device, and it’s basically a live updated network that changes depending on what your friends do. “Autolog Recommends” on the other hand creates personalised challenges based on what your friends are doing online – so if a friend sets a new personal best, it’ll give you the option to go and beat it. If you beat that personal best then you can gloat to the high heavens. With the social networking side out the way, Criterion moved on to focus a little on the career mode.

With two separate careers and ranks for each (the racer & the chaser AKA the cop), Criterion were keen to point out that they want to make it just as fun to be a cop, as it is to be a racer. Being one of those attentive journalistic types, we noticed that when Criterion were flicking through the menus that Hot Pursuit will offer a plethora of modes for both the cops and the racers, although we assume that there is more up their sleeves as this was an early build. Listed under the cop’s category were such modes as; patrol, interceptor and pursuit race; whilst listed under the racer’s menus, there was; cruise, race, interceptor and pursuit. Whilst it might not be a definitive list, it does give you a good indication of what to expect from the full game. Criterion did note that you can create your own game modes as well, whether you want to play 7 cops on 1 racer or alternatively 7 racers on 1 cop.

Luckily for us we even managed to sneak a bit of hands-on time with title’s “Chase” mode that pits one racer against one chaser – in other words: a cop vs. a street racer. Taking turns with both sides of the law, we found the handling on both to be a joy as we were often able to drift round corners at high speeds with a certain amount of style and panache – something that the celebrated Need For Speeds excelled at. Both the racer and the chaser each have a handful of few tools at their disposal, and it not only helps keep you on your toes, but definitely raises the stakes of the mode. The cops can use EMPs, roadblocks and even call in the support of a chopper, while the racers can use jammers, decoys and nitrous to gain an advantage – all of which are assigned to the d-pad – but the end goals stay the same: if you’re a cop, whittle down the street racer’s energy till it’s 0% - damage is only aesthetic, so don’t worry too much about that – and as the racer, you have to get out of the cop’s detection radius.

The inevitable issue with one vs. one is that it can often be a lonely experience, so I have to say, this won’t be a mode for everyone. It’s more of a mode for the hardened racers and tacticians. “Tacticians!?” you scoff? Yes, because couple the game’s “weapons” with the ability to change direction, take shortcuts and go different routes, and the game becomes a battle of wits. It becomes more of a case of, “How can I slow down my opponent long enough to get away/capture him?” and as the abilities have a cooldown on them – meaning you can’t use them all the time – it’s more about “when and where” you use them, rather than “if” you use them. That being said, it is a far cry away from the recent Need For Speeds and definitely is a nod to the old direction of the franchise.

If I’m being honest, the thing that Criterion focused most on in their presentation was the thing I cared the least about: the whole social networking malarkey. More and more developers are trying to put this into their games these days, you know, because “social networking” is the in-thing, when truth be told, it’s just a distraction from why we play games... to immerse ourselves. I’m not sure I care if so-and-so on my friends list beats my lap time because truthfully, I’m not playing games to compete with them – although I’m sure a few of you are – but for me, the reason why we awarded NFS: Hot Pursuit our Racer of the Show award was because not only did it handle like the Need For Speeds of yesteryear, but it seemed as if Criterion understood what made the series so popular to start with: fast cars and intense chases. Although we’d like to have seen more of the straight up races and how the cops play their part there, on first impressions, things are ticking along quite nicely.

Need For Speed is racing onto consoles this coming November.


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Game Info
Criterion Games
Electronic Arts


US November 16, 2010
Europe November 19, 2010

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