Need For Speed Hot Pursuit – A Day At The Races

Wednesday 27th October… and it’s 8 am…

That’s early for me, really early. I don’t get out of bed for my real job that early, yet today I don’t mind so much because I’m heading to Chobham test track in Surrey for a Need for Speed Hot Pursuit event. Turns out I could have had a lie in as I got there about an hour early and Dan from EA was kind enough to let me in while they were still setting up.  He pointed me in the direction of a much needed cup of tea and gave me a more in-depth run down of the day, and it turned out that I’m going to get the chance to interview Senior Vice President of EA Games Europe, Patrick Söderlund, and my first thought was “Oh crap this guy’s like a big deal and all of my questions are geared towards Criterion”, so I knew I’d have to think on my feet.  A few other people arrived and Dan from EA introduced me to Tim from Sarcastic Gamer UK and Phillipe from Game Rant and we sat and chatted about games in general for a while – a conversation where I nearly ruined the end of Enslaved for the two of them.

A little later, it was time for a quick blast on the game before the main event starts.  There were eight Xboxes set up on either side of the room, all wired up and ready for some cops vs racers gameplay which is essentially a 4 vs 4 game mode where the racers have to reach the end and the cops have to stop them, who’d have thunk it? By now I’m sure some of you will have played the demo that’s available for download on Xbox Live and the PSN, and for those that haven’t, let me tell you that this is a very pretty game, really pretty; it’s fast too but it’s not called Need For Slow, so that’s a given. I was a racer for my first game and got to try out some of the weapons that aren’t in the demo, and first up was the turbo boost, which is not to be confused with the normal boost. After it had charged up and I was ready to fire, I hit up on the d-pad and then… nothing… I spent a second trying to work out what I did wrong and then… BANG! The turbo kicked in and I was off,  which proved very handy for blasting through road blocks. If I’m honest I think I got lucky on this race as everybody who was a cop seemed too interested in the other racers behind me and I took pole. My first win of the day.

Close your eyes and make a wish

The day is officially kicking off now and Patrick Söderlund is up front giving us a run down on what to expect from Need for Speed Hot Pursuit as well as some of the back story as to how the game came into existence, lucky for you I caught it on video and you can watch it here.

I’ll have a few more races before my interview, as I fancy a go at playing the fuzz this time. Racing games are always a bit odd the first time you play them – some claim to be sims with bang on physics and tyre damage, some want to give you stupid amounts of speed and almost-disconnected-from-the-road handling. Thankfully, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit isn’t either of those types of racer; the cars don’t handle with the boring real world physics and they aren’t over the top arcadey like Blur. This might sound a little daft but the cars handle exactly how you want them to handle in your head, and within a few corners you’ll be power sliding and near missing everything in sight.  Dan from EA taps me on the shoulder… it’s time for my interview with Patrick… WTF Dan, I was winning! Again.

I was a bit nervous about talking to Patrick as he’s a big deal and it was like I’d been thrown in at the deep end as I was geared up to talk to Criterion. Lucky for me he’s a professional and knows the game inside out! We spoke about how Criterion got passed the torch to the Need For Speed franchise, the first thing to exist in Seacrest County, differences between building a social network and building a game, the future of Autolog and mobile phone apps (yeah that’s right, there will be an Autolog app), the pre-owned games market, EA’s online pass… all while getting interrupted by The Stig looking for his driving suit! Yup, that’s right, now I know some say that The Stig sleeps upside down and that his left nipple is a start button but it turns out he can’t dress himself! You’ll have to wait for the full interview with Patrick Söderlund so keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for news of when it goes live.

Errrr no officer, you were speeding not me.

Time for a trip out in a race car now, and Patrick was going to be driving. It’s ok though, he’s not just some playboy games developer with a fast car, he’s actually a race car driver too – talk about living the dream! He’s taking me out in the Porsche and we’re going to have a real life game of Hot Pursuit with us as the racers and have a police car Lamborghini chasing us. I’ll be honest with you, while it is awesome to get the opportunity to have such an experience, the ten year old kid in me really wanted to go in the Lamborghini; it just looked so cool. A tap at the window and it turns out that I’m in the wrong car, and MSN Jane from SentUAMessage on Xbox Live (she’s now at Gamespot) is supposed to be in with Patrick. Another win for me! I practically ran over to the Lambo and jumped in.

“You get in the wrong car pal?” asked the driver
“Yup, but this ones the cool one, sucks to be MSN Jane… can we do some donuts while we’re waiting?”
He laughed “No I can’t pal, see that guy over there? It’s his car and he’ll have me for it if I do”.

In the driver’s defence though, the guy who owned the car looked like a fighter and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his bad books either. It’s a little hard for me to sum up into words but, oh man that trip round the circuit was awesome; the noise that the car makes as it starts up sends a shiver of pure awesomeness down your spine and the way the car plants you firmly back in your seat as it tears off from standing still to 60 miles an hour in about four seconds is scary. That said, I couldn’t help but smile all the way ’round.

Bit shaky legged after that and trying to get out of a car that low to the floor with shaky legs, being as big as I am, is not an easy or graceful task. Time for some lunch and a go on the time trial event at the other end of the tent. The guys at EA were giving away an Xbox to the two fastest times on an event called Vanishing Point on a track called East Gorge in what Patrick called one of the hero cars, a Pagani Zonda. Oh man what a stretch of road that is; you start off passing though a tiny town (it might have been a service station, it’s hard to tell at those kinds of speeds) before it opens up just over a crest into a wide open desert with a row of huge satellite dishes like the ones at SETI. I got put off a bit by the sight of them, as it’s hard not to look at things like that, and I clipped a van which spun me into a barrier. I’d set a reasonable time, but not the top one and, as the day went on, I got bumped down the power lap board more and more before eventually settling around mid table.

Time for a wander outside and look at the cars. I couldn’t help but want to sit and play in Lamborghini Murcielago that was parked up, and Dan from EA is also hanging around the car talking to Diane from Girl Gamers UK. After some guys had finished doing some filming near the car there was a look that Dan and I gave each other (not like a gay look); it was a want-to-mess-about-in-the-150-grand-supercar look. If anybody, such as Dan’s boss, happens to be reading this… he was working really hard playing host to his guests and not messing about in the 150 grand supercar. Dan got called off to do something (see told you he was working) and Diane and I got chatting about games and all sorts of other stuff; I love talking to folk about games, the industry, and geeking out. That’s the brilliant thing about people like Diane and most of the other guys that were there that day – we are all really passionate about games and do what we do because we love it and it’s awesome for a large company such as EA to give us the opportunity to attend things like this, and that they value smaller sites like us and the others, although I use the term “smaller” lightly as I really mean “not IGN or Gamespot”.

Back inside the tent the events of the day are starting to wind down a bit and everybody is gathered up by the screen with the time trial event running. Phillipe from Game Rant is currently sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard and he’s being cocky with it too. He’s set a time of 1:14:90 and my best of the day was 1:19:30 so there was no way I was going to beat that, but the guys from EA called last goes so I figured I might as well. I was third from last to have a go out of a room full of press, gamers and guys from EA.

Your tax dollars, hard at work.

To get though everybody quickly, the rule was that if you crash out then you were out because there was no way you’d possibly beat the top time. I brought my camera all that way and hardly used it, so I asked Tim from Sarcastic Gamer if he’d video me playing it. Now I know it’s not a massively taxing thing to do, but you really feel the pressure in a room full of gamers with all of them watching you… that, and Kev from EA chatting away on the PA system trying to put you off! I got through that little town thing at the start without any hassle from traffic and then out and over the crest to the big open stretch with the SETI satellite dishes, you have to use the boost that you’ve built up in the little town bit here if you want a chance of setting a good time so I hit the turbo and off I went.

Then the worst thing that could have came into view on the horizon – a car coming towards me and a van going the other way on the other side of the road, no big deal? Well it looks like they are going to pass each other just as I get there, but the thing with Need For Speed is that it’s fast, I know this because I’d spent the earlier part of the day doing 150mph on a test track. Remember how in Burnout Paradise you’d be boosting down the road at eye watering speed and something would come into view in the distance but rather than think “Oh I’ll go around that” you would think “Oh balls, I’m gonna hit that”, but before you’ve finished thinking “Oh balls, I’m gonna hit that” you’ve already hit it and it’s too late? Hot Pursuit gives you that same kind of “Oh balls, I’m gonna hit that” feeling but, lucky for me though, I didn’t… and I threaded the car straight through the middle. My turbo topped up with x2 more than you normally get thanks to the near miss and as I get to the end of the road I power slide up the dirt shortcut and light the boost again all the way to the road on the other side. Down another straight past an airfield and up to the corner that had given me, and the others, trouble all day then all I remember at this point is Kev from EA squealing. I think I must have blacked out here because I don’t remember seeing anything from that corner until my time came up on the screen at the end.

The fastest blogger in the world!

Awesome, 1:14:58, that’ll do… and the crowd went wild! Well, at least in my head they did. Phillipe comes running back over from the other side of the marquee and I look him in the eye as he sees my time and his heart breaks. I won’t lie, it felt good and a great way to end a great day.

So what did I think of the game?

It’s good, very good. I’m not just saying that because I got to drive around in a Lamborghini, meet The Stig and @AceyBongos (he’s shorter than he looks on Twitter), interview Patrick, beat Phillipe and win an Xbox. The game IS really good and with a good bunch of mates online it’ll keep you entertained for a long time. Anybody who hasn’t tried out the demo yet because it has “Need for Speed” written on it should give it a try, you wouldn’t even have hesitated if it was called Burnout: Hot Pursuit would you?

Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for some Need for Speed Hot Pursuit giveaways and news of when the interview with Patrick is published, as well as a full review of the game nearer its launch on November 18th.

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Pete Pete says:

    HAHA!! Awesome write up Lee mate!! Sounds like you had a fab day! I’m not jealous at all :D

    Now…. I wonder if I can afford the game this month….. ;)

  2. Adam Adam says:

    Throw in some cheese from the Moon and you got yourself a Lou Reed :D

  3. Edward Edward says:

    I’m so incredibly jealous of you right now. Though I think I would have been more shakey than you in those cars and I would have failed to get the top time. All hail Lee, for he is the fastest of us all! :D

    Brilliant write-up, and glad you had so much fun!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Fantastic stuff! Am massively jealous – it sounds like you had the day out of a lifetime, you jammy git! The game itself looks breathtaking…the screens of those cop cars look shinier than a Samsung laptop factory. Am severely tempted to add this to my wallet killing list of ‘stuff to get’.

  5. Lee says:

    it was an awesome day out and met some cool guys from other websites, the games good too i’m having withdrawls from not playing it. The demo isn’t quite enough to keep me going now i’ve been teased with more of the game. I need to try and beat my time

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I reckon this game is going to kick ass… I loved NFS Most Wanted, and I love Burnout Paradise… so if it has elements of both these games then I can see it getting played to death at Casa GLHQ. There’s not a single point of your day where I’d have thought “yeah, whatever” as it sounds like it was great from beginning to end. Glad you got to meet some of the other site people too, always great to hang out with like minded people.

    Well done mate, sounds fantastic :D

  7. Ben Ben says:

    If in the new season of Top Gear the Stig has a Buzz Lightyear and Woody dash toy we’ll know your secret ;)

    Quite enjoyed what I played of it at the Eurogamer Expo, online multiplayer will make or break it for me though, come on Father Christmas I’m a good boy I buy all your coke!

  8. Rook says:

    I haven’t played the demo yet but I am more interested in this now. Sounds like good fast “Oh balls, I’m gonna hit that” fun. I may just invest in this after all as I hadn’t really been paying it alot of attention before hand. It sounded like an awesome day too.

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