It always gives us a tickle, as slightly older gamers when a title we remember fondly gets a reboot. Indeed, some instances are genuinely exciting. The thing is that the nature of the games industry today means that it’s more than likely it’s just the name that’s taken, rather than the essence of the game. Just a few examples, but Final Fight, Golden Axe and Altered Beast all took entirely the wrong direction with their remakes. All three of those dreadful pieces of trash show exactly how the magic of a game can be so easily lost. With Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, that magic hasn’t been lost exactly, but neither has it been developed.
You see, NFS: HP, past the actual racing, is all about taking your choices away. For some, this will be a great thing. Those who just want to sit down and race their way through the countryside for an hour or so every now and again will be overjoyed at this reboot. It does exactly what it says on the tin. You get to race in reasonably modelled cars around reasonably modelled environments, either chasing or being chased, all the while listening to reasonably enjoyable tunes. There’s plenty of crashing and a fair few near misses, but overall, it’s reasonable.
If you’ve played any of Criterion’s previous titles, most notably the Burnout series, you’ll know exactly what to expect. But then that’s not the problem. If you’re after that kind of thing, then great. This is the game for you. We can’t recommend it enough for fans of Criterion’s work. Some may not like the rather clunky feel of the cars, or the bi-polar soundtrack, but hey, it’s a racing game. One man’s meat is most definitely another man’s poison in this genre. The only real difference between this and any other Criterion title is that half the time you’re playing as a cop, trying to bring down the speeding racers, and the other half you’re desperately trying to avoid the back-and-whites. What this really boils down to is pretty straightforward: you’re either thrashing or bashing.
How it stands up to extended play is a different matter though. When, as we mentioned, you have your choices taken away at every turn, the game gets a little frustrating. We’re not talking about major issues here, rather niggly logistical and irksome ones. For example, playing the career mode gives you very little choice as to which races you take on and when. Similarly, a conscious effort has been made to force you to watch the banal intros and info shots that it gives you. It’s not major, but it belies an attitude that in no way benefits the game or genre. No, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is the game that EA want you to play, which we feel is missing a trick, especially given the additions made to the game.
Probably the best addition is straight from the social media handbook, namely a ‘speed wall’. This really does add to the game, in that before and after each race, you’re given updates on which of your friends to beat, which cars they did their races in and who your nearest rival is. It also allows you to comment on any races or times, giving your friends something to aim for. This matches the genre perfectly, and is a very welcome addition.
Online, the same kind of joy can be found, and being tasked to take down your friends, or teaming up with one to smash up some poor noob can be a genuinely enjoyable blast. The game modes don’t inspire though, and really just split into races and smash ups.
Criterion doesn’t seem to have worried too much about the superfluous nick-nacks that other developers might well have. The cops have four ‘weapons’ that are near enough the same as the racers’, and due to their simplicity, do add something to the game, particularly online. If you’re after truly furious racing action, it’s not all there in our opinion. The cars are a little too sluggish and too similar to be really enjoyable for long stretches, and the courses could be considered somewhat staid too.
What it all adds up to is something that will keep you happy, there’s no doubt about that, but it has so little ambition that it falls a little flat in almost every area. The whole idea of being chased by police is that it’s supposed to be thrilling. This isn’t that though. When you’re being chased by the fuzz, it feels more like you’re swatting at flies, and while you’re playing as the cops, you feel utterly indestructible. It has none of that hustle and bustle of the originals, sadly, as it’s more about avoiding the cops, or as the police, making clean busts.
We were expecting something groundbreaking here. An open world would have helped a lot in this instance, and while we wouldn’t condone the overly complex world of say, Midnight Club, a move away from rigid mechanics would have been a welcome one. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is well worth a bash, particularly if you like Criterion titles in general. Don’t expect too much of their trademark crash mechanics, as everything has been toned down somewhat to allow the rather pedestrian addition of police cars to come out. The next in the reboot needs to have more thrills to really make the name Need For Speed stand out like it used to.
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