Review by solidsnakeRAY

"Still Needing the Speed"

So being that I come from the generation of gamers that experienced Hot Pursuit when it first debuted on the Playstation and the good ol' days of the supercar El Nino, and also playing it's brother on the PS2, I had high hopes for this game. The commercials were amusing and I always enjoy racing cars that I have virtually no chance of obtaining in the real world. Does this game deliver? Well, mostly yes but somewhat no.

The story is...well, there is no story. Am I going to discredit the game for this? No, not really. It's a racing game. If you want a deep, enthralling story, look into other genres. Regardless, like the previous Hot Pursuit game, you can play as either the one racing or the one catching the racers. You race in a land called Seacrest County, which for some reason attracts young billionaires and their million-dollar sports cars for highly illegal street racing. Of course, somehow the police station is also rich, and often has even more expensive sports cars, which are indeed used to hunt you down. Or the other way around, if you like being the men in blue.

There are a few game-types to go around. Duels, Gauntlets, actual races, Previews, and Time Trials round out the racer end. Hot Pursuit, Rapid Response, and probably a few other game types that I'm forgetting for the cop end. These aren't the most varied, and while the differences between the game-types are apparent, I felt that there needed to be more distinguishing characteristics. They're all more or less racing a designated path (no laps) with either you being the cop or being chased by the cop, or doing time trials. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I do miss tracks that have actual laps, and some side objectives. The other downside to this is that none of the tracks feel distinct. It's as though somebody made a copy of a track, pasted it a bunch of times, then changed the scenery and a few twists and turns, and called it something new. There are also situations that will arise, either due to traffic or other objects, that will make you go "What the ****". On the plus side, the weather produces some cool effects, with lightning storms at night being my personal favorite. Who doesn't love a 200+ mph showdown during a storm?

The actual game-play isn't bad. I enjoy the repetition of the courses because the game-types are enough to keep it fresh, albeit not as fresh as I would have liked. Driving at speeds in excess of 180 mph can get a little harrowing, but if this wasn't the case I would criticize the game for being too non-realistic. Yes, it's fun to get into a straightaway with a Bugatti Veyron and hit 260 mph, but if you expect to take a hairpin turn at that speed, you have another thing coming. There are some new introductions to the HP series as well, like the ability for racers to use spike strips, EMPs, and some other funky stuff. This gives it a bit of a Spyhunter feel, although not quite as cheesy or over the top, and the focus is definitely on maneuvering and racing. Also new to the game is the addition of Nitro, which can be obtained by drafting another car, as well as taking shortcuts, drifting, and causing others to crash. When and where to use Nitro is a pleasant challenge, as it can be lethal at the wrong time and a game saver at the right.

Also of note is the computer AI, which is one of the best I've encountered in a racing game. It annoys you, irritates you, and challenges you, except not in an over-the-top way. It's one of those games where if you finally beat that time trial or finish the race without the cops destroying you, or make it from point A to point B without hitting the walls (which can count against you in some modes), you'll throw your controller in the air and praise the higher powers. At the same time it's not excessive, and it's very much possible to win every race/event with some practice. This is probably the crowning achievement of this game, and if I were giving individual sections ratings, I'd probably give this 10/10. So few racing games today can pull off that perfect balance of challenging vs fun, and this one does it with style.

The graphics are just downright pretty. Cars are razor sharp, and the road, in addition to what I said earlier, looks good when rained on. The environment itself probably looks pretty good, but honestly it's hard to stop and stare at it during a race. There's not much modification to the cars other than the color you can choose, but these are some of the nicest-looking vehicles in the world. Some rim-changing or tire color options would've been cool, but still, as it stands the developers did an excellent job of capturing the detail and personality of each car. Just remember, this game isn't meant to be a simulator like Gran Turismo is.

I can't say much for the music. Most of the new racing games are trying to go with some sort of hybrid between hip hop and modern rock, which ultimately never works out. As other reviews have stated, there are a few good tracks on here while most are what you would expect to hear coming out of stores in a mall. If this is your style, then by all means go for it. For me though, this game is about adrenaline, and nothing triggers that better than a blood-pumping soundtrack, which this game seems to lack.

Overall I have to say I'm pretty satisfied with the game. It does what I expected it to, and that's to provide me with a nifty experience driving some of the world's most powerful cars, and of course being able to smash them when I decide to play the good guy. It's lacking a certain finesse though that I felt the first HP really had, but has it more than the second one did. Call it "soul" if you will, but as previously mentioned, that "challenge vs fun" factor totally makes up for it. I picked this game up for $35, and I consider it to be well worth the money.

Bottom line, if you like the other HP games (especially the first one), you'll enjoy this one. 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/11

Game Release: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (US, 11/16/10)


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