PS3 Review – Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

Since first appearing on the 3DO back in 1994, EA’s Need for Speed series has gone through numerous changes. From Underground to Undercover to Most Wanted and more recently, Shift – the series has had something to appeal to both fans of sim and arcade style racing games. The original Hot Pursuit is still one of the most respected and talked about entries in the series, so when EA announced that Criterion, creators of the Burnout series, were handling the developing duties for the new version of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, an instant buzz and hype for the game was created. Could the team at Criterion work their magic on the series or does it feel too much like Burnout? Fans, worry no longer, for the best Need For Speed in recent years is here and with Criterion’s past track record, will be here for a long, long time.

What do you get when you combine the masters of arcade racing with million dollar dream cars? You get one of the most fun and addictive racing games released in the entire series. EA didn’t make Criterion work on the game, Criterion went to EA, asking if they could create their vision of the game and the results have turned out to be something that all fans of the series can enjoy. The game’s main focus is the career mode, which offers you two different options: the ability to play as a cop or a racer. This helps add variety to gameplay, so if you’re tired of being chased by cops and want to take justice into your own hands, all you have to do is choose the cop missions instead. Considering the fact that the map is 4 times larger than Burnout: Paradise, you better believe the game has a massive load of missions for both sides of the law. The career modes also offers a storyline, but it’s so cheesy and, well, pointless that you are probably not going to care about it and will skip the cutscenes when you’re prompted. The game’s focus isn’t the storyline, the game’s focus is about being fun, driving million dollar cars you’ll never get the chance to in real life, and escaping the law – which the game offers in spades. You haven’t played an arcade racer this fun in years and is easily on one of the best entries in the Need For Speed series.

One reason why the game is so fun and addicting to play is because there’s such a vast difference between being a cop and a racer when it comes to gameplay that it truly feels like the game offers you two completely different modes and didn’t rush one or the other. For example, the time trial for the racer has you racing to beat a certain time, where as for the cop, you’re racing to intercept a racer from escaping justice. Driving down the road on the wrong-side as a racer increases your boost, while doing the right thing as a cop increases your boost.

Each weapon offers three levels of awesomeness and slowly re-charges over time. The cop comes equipped with EMPs, road blocks, spikes, and my favorite, the helicopter which follows your target like a hawk. The racer’s arsenal consists of EMPs and spike strips as well, but on top of that, you have a mega-dose of boost and a jammer which destroys the cop’s weapon and map. It is crazy how strategic it can be using the weapons. Teamwork is vital for quick takedowns or escapes and is completely rewarding. Criterion games nailed the weapons system and deserve a major thumbs up for doing so.

One of the most interesting modes in the game is the ‘battle mode” which pits you and a friend as a cop and a racer. This mode is labeled Interceptor mode and your goal as a racer is to get the hell out of sight, while the cop’s goal is to take you down and to the pound. This mode almost feels like a fighting game, trying to figure out the best tactics of when to use your weapons and conserve them. Learning how to combine and use your weapons strategically in Interceptor mode could make the difference in a match that could last 30-seconds or 15-minutes.

While the career and interceptor modes are terrific, online multiplayer with your friends, online friends, and complete strangers is fantastic. Online allows for up to 8 people to take part in a variety of different events. While race mode and interceptor is great fun online, the Hot Pursuit mode is where it truly shines. Each team shares their weapons so finding out the best method to take down the opposing side opens up a new level of tactical racing. Do you think a helicopter will distract your enemies from the road block up ahead? Tell your fellow enforcers and you could be one step closer to winning. Each vehicle has four slots of energy, which slowly dwindles after each and every crash. A good team of cops could easily corner you and quickly take you down and out. The norm for this mode is 4 cops vs 4 racers, that is, if you want to be completely fair about. But if you’re feeling up to it, one cop can challenge seven racers to a match, and thanks to the Autolog, if you win everyone you know will know about it.

The Autolog is the game’s patented ‘social networking’ system that works like a dream. Taking some cues from past titles and the all-mighty Facebook, Criterion has created a social system that works flawlessly. One screen is all you need where you can post your craziest wrecks, record times, read about new DLC for the game or recommend a race or challenge a friend. It is a major component to the game and helps you stay connected more than ever before. Did a fellow friend just beat your record on a track? Simply click on the post about it and take it back. And just like all of us Facebook addicts out there, you’re going to consistently feel the need for checking it, just to make sure your time trial speed is still number one among all of your friends. What Criterion has created here should be implemented in every game that Electronic Arts offers, as it would add an entire new level of social interaction for you and all of your gaming friends.

When Criterion first showed Burnout Paradise to the world, the next-gen look of the game and the world were a sight to see. Two years later and the team has outdone themselves with Hot Pursuit. It is hands-down the most beautiful game the guys and girls in Guildford have ever created. Every car from the Camaro SS to everyone’s favorite Lamborghini has been digitally recreated down to the last exhaust pipe. Combined with the help of DICE over in Sweden, the backgrounds are also wonderfully given life and always offer you something new to look at. While the cars might not feature the intricate detail of say, Gran Turismo 5, Criterion Games did their absolute best to make the game something to be seen and is definitely a game you would want to show your friends who are still waiting to migrate to the PlayStation 3. It looks that good.

Unfortunately, while you can contrast scores with friends, there is little to differentiate your car from theirs as the only thing you can customize in the entire game which pertains to your car is the color. Those who loved Shift’s crazy customization will feel left out. Criterion’s goal wasn’t to give you the option to change the weight of a tire or give you the option to adjust the front or back weight of you car. This game is about having fun, so if you’re looking for a sims racer, save your money, but for those looking for one of the greatest arcade racers in years, here’s your chance to have some pure fun.

What Criterion Games has done with Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is develop the best entry in the series in the last 5 years of release. Once you start playing this game, there is no way you can play just one race. The ‘one more race’ addiction factor is always present and refuses to let go of its firm grasp. If you’ve been waiting for a fun, addictive, and enjoyable arcade racer with just enough sim in it, stunning graphics, and an online mode that will keep you coming back for more, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is your answer.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Fun and Addictive Gameplay that Criterion is known along with stunning graphics.

+ Online mode is a blast no matter who you play it with.

– Lack of customization will turn away some fans.

9 out of 10