I don’t know about you, but when I think about the golden age of gaming about 10-15 years ago, I’d kind of liked if it stayed like back then. True, there weren’t so many games which shouted “play me, play me” from the store shelf; but almost everything on the market offered the maximum possible at that age’s technology level: consistent single-player gameplay and multiplayer with all options available: LAN, online, Split Screen where it fitted the genre, versus and cooperative. What do we have now? Superficial single-player and only online multiplayer (often castrated, too) because the developers have to protect themselves against piracy and the publishers want to get some extra money from DLCs. Lots of DLCs.
Thus, the new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a child of its generation, with all the flaws, only some of the qualities and even those that it inherited from its predecessors. And if on the single-player side the good is obvious, when you go online you realize that the Hot Pursuits from 10 years ago had more options on the table. Still, not to be unfair, I have to say that the gaming experience has that special something of old racing, especially with the racers (the illegal drivers), and together with the speed feeling offered by the modern vehicles, the damage model taken from Burnout and the tactical use of gadgets, you’ll end up at 5 in the morning noticing that you are still racing just to be number one on the SpeedWall.
Bounty for drivers
Hot Pursuit is the first NFS in the modern history of the series that shakes the story, so no more underground or SMS racing, but also no more beautiful girls to start them either (no, you can’t have fast cars and lovely girls in the same game); and no more open world, only courses in a varied background in the fictional Seacrest County. Everything is very straight forward, the whole idea behind racing against cops being that the law enforcement in Seacrest, aware that they can’t face the hundreds of horse power of the invading drivers, got Koenigsegg, Lamborghini and Zonda for themselves to be able to cope with the situation.
The clash of forces is split into a 2 options Career mode: as an adrenaline junky racer and as a cop. I favored the first ones, as the dark side of the Force is usually more attractive; still, I couldn’t ignore the police because I look good in blue and I love to call up a helicopter to help me out from time to time. There are differences between the two career paths aren’t huge, but just enough to make a stand: for example, the time trial racing matches are just that (in the beginning), you just have to beat the given time. But as a cop, the game also accounts for your correctitude in driving and any collision (with a fence, tree or another car) has a penalty of 2 seconds minimum attached to it, which is added to the overall time.
For the racers there are 5 types of matches, mixed on different tracks, with different settings: sun, snow, rain, by day or by night and some combinations between these. And it goes like this:
- Preview: usually a time trial race with a super car, still locked, just to make you dram of it and let you evaluate it on the road. Among the first cars here is the McLaren F1, with an infernal time trial. I’m curious, has anybody made it under 3:08 minutes the first time around?
- Gauntlet: also time trial, but with the police after you, busy to push you into the walls, with Nitro from behind or by throwing spike strips.
- Duel: one versus one fights where the first arrival matters most; second place gets Bounty too, but considerably less.
- Race: the classic races, with a growing number of opponents as you unlock classes and cars, from 4 to 8; each racer can hit the others, but you have to be careful not to wreck your own car.
- Hot Pursuit: o mix of Race and Gauntlet where you have to be the first to the finish line, but also to overcome the opponents and the police.
- Interceptor: one on one with a cop and use all you have to evade the law.
For the cops is kind of the same thing:
- Interceptor: the siren version of the Racer mode, only this time the cop uses all the gadgets to catch the racer.
- Preview: see above.
- Hot Pursuit: police version where you have to arrest as many drivers as possible, preferably all of them.
- Rapid Response: time trial with penalties for every collision.
After tackling all these types of races, I drew two conclusions: one, the police is stronger than the racers to add a tactical side to that perfect moment of using the gadgets; two, as a cop life is a bit harder, especially with Rapid Response, because the cars actually behave differently and you can’t drive a Zonda like a Ford.
Here, the conclusions can be good, bad or mixed. For beginners or casual gamers, the AI could seem too aggressive and a dirty cheater, especially after unlocking the Hyper class (with the fastest and strongest cars, like Koenigsegg and McLaren). On the other hand, the perfectionists will work anyway toward maximum Bounty and gold medals so they can brag about it online.
Also, on the police side, you might get tired fairly quickly of penalties and bad guys with suspiciously high speeds, even with Nitro or Turbo on. Also, since these races are harder, the cars and the leveling up are slower. Still, Hot Pursuit has a way to motivate you and I can say that, even if it annoyed the hell out of me from time to time, I didn’t give up the fight.