Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – Review

Title   Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Developer  Criterion Games
Publisher  Electronic Arts
Platform  PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii, Xbox 360, iPhone
Genre  Racing
Release Date  19 November 2010

I’m going to try and not mention Burnout Paradise at all during this Need for Speed Hot Pursuit review.  Now, I won’t lie to you, that’s not going to be easy as Criterion are best known for their work on the Burnout franchise and, well, Paradise was the last game they made so it’s only natural to mention it once or twelve times, but I’ll try not to.

Seacrest County, as viewed from space

So when you go to open the game you’ll need to peel the seal off the box much the same as you did with the box for Burnout Paradise… I’m joking, I’m joking! Boot the game up for the first time and you’ll be greeted by a posh lady who’ll explain how your menus work (it’s the same posh lady from Burnout Paradise, but we’re not talking about that) although this isn’t because the menus are necessarily complicated, far from it in fact, she’s just letting you know where things are. From left to right we have “Photos” where all your screen shots taken within the game are stored; “The Wall”, which is like your Twitter or Facebook feed; “Hot Pursuit Online” (Burnout had an online mode); “Career”; “Autolog Recommends”, which I’ll get to in a bit; “NFS News”; “NFS Store”, and that’s it.  Swishing about under those options you’ll see random posts from your wall, some of your stats and photos which act as a snapshot of all the different things going on within your game so, all in all, it’s a very dynamic and intuitive interface.

Into “Career” we go, and you’ll find a limited selection of events at the start but, don’t worry, the posh lady is just easing you in and letting you know what’s what. Once you have your first event for the cops and the racers under your belt, you’re free to pick and choose as you wish; don’t be of the impression that you have to pick one side and that’s it, as the map you’re presented with in the Career mode just lets you select an event for either side, so you’re free to play the game however you want. I prefer to play as a cop and then a racer, but on the odd occasion completing an event will have unlocked another cool event and so I’ve ended up sticking with that side for a few races, but it really is up to you as to how you want to play it.

There are a stack of game modes to keep you happy for both sides – “Race”, just a plain old fashioned race; “Time Trial”, race against the clock; “Hot Pursuit”, a race where you need to win and cheese it from the Five-Oh; “Duel”, a one-on-one race which is usually something like Evos versus Impezzas; “Preview”, which is essentially a time trial but in a set car, normally from a higher class just to tease you; and “Gauntlet”, you versus the fuzz where the goal is to reach the end in a longer than usual race. Sounds like a lot to be getting on with, but that’s just the Racers! On the cop side you’ll have access to Hot Pursuits, but from the law’s point of view, Rapid Response and Preview events – like the time trial I mentioned above, but with the addition of two second penalties for bumping into stuff (these events will drive you crazy!) and Interceptor, which is a one-on-one chase with a racer, but they have the freedom to venture down whatever road or shortcut they like as they endeavour to get away from you, and it’s your job to stop them.  So, in short, you’re not going to be stuck for something to do.

Each and every event is well balanced and makes you feel like you really are racing/chasing/cheezing it, although I suspect that there is a bit of rubber-banding going on behind the scenes as you’ll always be in amongst the pack and not tearing five miles ahead of everybody. It’s very finely tuned and makes you feel like you’re in the thick of it most of the time, and the AI of the other drivers is also spot on, helping to make the events feel more alive, rather than feeling like they are all following some invisible Scalextric track.  The events are all a lot of fun but be warned that the Time Trials and the Hot Pursuits as the cops will drive you crazy and, unless you’re getting gold medals, you’ll feel that just one more go urge all the time but then, when you finally hit that gold medal, Autolog will immediately point out that one of your friends was 3.47 seconds faster and you’ll have another go… and another go… until you either A) beat them or B) twist your controller in half, although it’s possible that this could ruin your gaming life for the next few weeks.

The Autolog. I’m sure, if you’ve seen any of our previous coverage or indeed anything at all about Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, you’ll have heard the word Autolog, which is one of the many things that really sets Hot Pursuit apart from other racers. It will suggest which race in the career to do next if you want to unlock more events, it tracks what your friends are doing and is persistent across all game modes both and on and offline, and will point out when your friends have beaten you on an event that you were previously leading.

Let’s say, for example, that we’re friends and I set a fastest time of 1:14:58 on the event called Vanishing Point, which is a time trial; you’ll see my time in the bottom corner of the event select screen on what’s called the Speedwall. Should you possess the awesome driving skills to best such a time, you’ll be asked if you want to post your fastest time to your own Wall and leave me a taunting message. Next time I fire the game up I’ll see I have ten new Wall posts, I click the Wall tab, scroll past peoples photos that they’ve uploaded, along with all the posts where other people are talking about what to have for lunch, and suddenly I see your Wall post telling me to “Suck it” along with the information of the event, the time you set, and how much faster than me you were. From there I can send you a message back calling you a scruffy nerf herder, then pull on the right trigger to launch that event so I can have a go at beating your time, all from the Wall option in the main menu. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, I know, but it really adds to the game and it works and flows exactly how you’d want it to.

Believe me when I say this, these taunts will go back and forth a few times with messages getting more and more aggressive as the differences between your times start to be measured in the hundredths of a second, before eventually spilling over to your other social networks.

Make or break for any racing game is how the cars handle, and in Hot Pursuit you won’t find any ultra realistic handling, fuel usage or any of that tyre pressure bumf you get in the racing sims. You won’t even see any sign of the tuning options found in recent Need For Speed entries, hell you can’t even put stickers on your car! You know what though? Good! The game’s better for it. Things like that just don’t suit the feel and flow of the game and, like I said back in my preview event coverage, the cars just feel right when you’re driving them. They are fast too, really fast, and that’s just how you feel about the game when you’re starting out with the slower cars! Then, just as you’re starting to get used to the slower cars, the next level of car unlocks and you’ll need to get used to the increased speed all over again. At times the game is so fast that you really don’t have time to think anything other than “Bollocks, I’m gonna hit that” but it’s ok, as you’re rewarded when you do eventually crash because, when you do, you’re shown your car crumple, spin, spark and flip in glorious slow motion. As you progress through the game you will also unlock new weapons for both the racers and the police, which you deploy to help you catch/evade the other racers/cops – EMPs, spike strips, turbo boost, helicopters, all of which are pretty self explanatory and they’ll provide you with some real hold your breath moments as you zip through the gap in a road block at 180mph.

The soundtrack to the game won’t be to everybody’s taste but it’s hardly a bad point as music is always going to be subjective to the listener anyway. You’ll find a good mix of rock, pop and dance music  (apologies if it’s not dance, I really don’t know what I’m on about with that kind of music) which suits the game’s pacing and is, ultimately, good driving music. If it’s not to your taste, it’s not really an issue as the game will feature custom playlists allowing you to play your own music and incorporate it into the game as if it was part of the licensed soundtrack, rather than just having it play over the top via your console’s menu.  That said, the option is there in the settings but I haven’t been able to change it or play around with it in the review copy so I only have EA’s word to go on, but hopefully it’ll be working by the time the game hits the streets. If you’re lucky enough to have your console hooked up to a home cinema system you’ll be able to experience the roar of the engine, the “nee narrr” of the cop cars in your rear speakers as they chase you, and the whizzzz of the cars heading the other way as you near miss them; it’s easily one of the best racing games I’ve heard and it really draws you in.

Overall, Hot Pursuit is also a pretty game, in fact very pretty. The cars are accurately reproduced, the environments are stunning regardless of the game being a racer and if Seacrest County was a warzone and was featured in a shooter, people would be dribbling over just how gorgeous the game looks and it’s likely all they would be talking about.  Seacrest County also has a full day night cycle along with a weather system featuring everything from sunny to scary-ass thunderstorms, and are available to witness as a whole 24 hour period in Free Drive mode while the races themselves in Career mode are set to a specific time of day and weather type.

There are only two things that I can pick fault with. One is the free roam mode and the lack of being able to free roam online – it’s literally just Seacrest County without the barriers keeping you to the track; while it’s great to just drive around, I’d have liked to be able to get into a chase with the fuzz or smash through billboards or anything like that, but you can’t. The other tiny thing that I have a problem with is that EA have added some DLC to the store which unlocks all the cars for a price. It’s not something I’ll be purchasing though, as part of the fun is unlocking the new stuff and DLC like that ruined Split Second for me as everybody online just tooled around in the fastest car. Like I said above though, the game is well balanced online so hopefully it won’t spoil multiplayer but, until the rest of the world gets online and playing, its effects are unknown. All in all, Hot Pursuit is a damn good game and I’ll be recommending it to all my friends. I hate to come back to it once again, but I really do hope it has the longevity of Burnout and that I’ll still be playing it in six months time. One thing is for sure though, I’ve played the hell out of it this week and, if anything, I’m itching to get this review finished so I can jump back on the Xbox.

  • It’s fast
  • It’s so pretty
  • It’s huge
  • Autolog really does work as they said it would
  • Online multiplayer is fun
  • Beating your friends' time will drive them crazy
  • Free roam may as well not be an option (hopefully some DLC might one day fix that)
  • Cheating gits can buy their way to the top
  • Trying to beat your friends' times will drive you crazy

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is a good game, a very good game. If you were a fan of the Need for Speed franchise before it lost its way, you’ll love it. If you loved Burnout, you’ll love it, and if you love racing games in general, you’ll probably love it. You can’t help but smile as you play it, the Autolog compels you to battle your friends for top times all of the time (anybody who says they don't care is a liar), and the online multiplayer does a good job of keeping it balanced and fair. It’s the sort of game you can play for a whole Sunday before realising you’re late for dinner, or you can just pop on for half an hour after work during the week. It sounds stupid to say considering it’s just come out, but I can’t wait for the DLC whatever it may be; EA have a good track record of supporting their games lately and Criterion practically laid the foundations for the sort of DLC that is possible to put in a racing game.

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Kat says:

    I should have it today but the Home Delivery Network are bastards.

    Cool review Lee. If I wasn’t already sold, I would be now!

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    You have such a way with words my friend, especially “a race where you need to win and cheese it from the Five-Oh” as I’ve never heard the term “cheese it” whatsoever, and not heard the “Five-Oh” reference in perhaps thirty years :D

    You’re right though, there are a lot of Burnout remnants there but it’s definitely not a bad thing… that woman’s voice at the start was almost like coming home again and hearing that familiar sound as you get to the front door… also annoying that you couldn’t skip past it and just get to the game lol. As I’ve said before, I enjoyed Most Wanted but not any of the other NFS games, so this was always going to be rocky ground for me, but I’ve loved every minute of it so far. Apart from “huh huh huh jelly donut” guy in multiplayer!

    Personally speaking, I can’t wait to get a full lobby of gamers, old and new (apart from jelly donut guy) and just tear up the streets. So much fun. If only we didn’t have to work all day :(

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    It sounds and looks great, but I’m still uncertain as to whether I’ll be picking this one up soon. Aside from Road Rash many years ago, the only other racing game I’ve eer been into is Burnout and part of the appeal with that was that there was a lot of stuff to do when idling around, such as billboards, smashes, showtimes, etc. This one may have to wait a while for me :)

  4. Pete Pete says:

    Excellent review there Lee! Has got me excited about it all over again! I believe my copy is on the way so very much looking forward to beating all yo asses next week! ;)

  5. Adam Adam says:

    I didn’t enjoy the demo all that much but got a big kick out of playing the full version, especially Multiplayer. I can see how that Autolog will be the death of many of us, I got that a lot with Burnout Paradise when people were still playing it and for the game to be so much more upfront about how someone just set a new road time and ‘owned the road’, its a lit fire that burns till you beat it.

    Tyre Pressure Bumf

  6. Rook says:

    Haven’t read this yet but I am leaning towards picking it up but I still have so much to play.

  7. Ben Ben says:

    One of the few games I will hopefully be picking this up out of my Christmas stocking. As you said, with Criterion behind the wheel (hur hur) the DLC should be good value too I’d expect.

  8. Edward Edward says:

    A great review, Lee!
    It makes me nearly want to take the plunge and get the game, as Criterion are amazing at what they do :)

  9. Lee says:

    I look forward to watching you all try to beat my times :-P

  10. Richie richie says:

    I was certainly tempted by this. Then I tried the demo and fucking sucked at it.

    So that’s not so good.

    Enjoyed the review. You’re a funny guy. That’s why I’ll kill you last.

  11. Samuel Samuel says:

    I’d been sitting on the fence over this. I didn’t really see how it differed from Burnout Paradise in any meaningful way. I’ve not liked a Need for Speed game made in the last decade or more (the last I really enjoyed being released in 1999). And then I played the demo, and read this review, and listened to you going on about how amazing it was elsewhere, and you convinced me to get it. So I did. And I don’t regret it. Huge amount of fun. The last two nights playing with Mark, Pete, South Q, and yourself, have been tremendously amusing.

    I can’t really give a review any higher praise than that. Thanks, man. To think, I nearly passed this one over.

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