Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Criterion Games
Take one of the most popular arcade driving game franchises around and put it in the hands of one of the best developers of arcade style racing games and it is only logical to expect a great game. Many games fail to meet their expectations but Criterion Games have done the Need For Speed franchise proud, providing both a very enjoyable single and multiplayer experience for fans of the NFS series.
In Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit the choice is yours. Set in Seacrest County, the game allows you to pursue the career path of a racer or a cop with twenty levels for each career. As a racer you'll try to win races while avoiding the attention of the cops whilst playing as a cop sees you trying to stop the racers carrying out their high speed shenanigans, generally by crashing into them several times. As both a cop and a racer you'll have limited access to assistance in the form of road blocks, jammers, spike strips, turbo boosts (in addition to the nitrous) and even helicopters.
Regardless of whether you're playing as a cop or a racer you'll have access to some of the most impressive cars out there. You aren't simply confined to standard cop cars. In fact the cops have access to Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins, Chevrolets, Dodge Vipers, Lamborghinis, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche cars all kitted out in the Seacrest County's police livery. Racers have access to a few more models to drive (once unlocked of course) but on the whole you'll be happy with your choice of vehicles whichever role you wish to assume.
Hot Pursuit has arguably the best online features of any NFS title. The modes on offer are Hot Pursuit, Interceptor and Race. In Hot Pursuit the racers must get to the finish line whilst it's up to the cops to prevent them from doing so. Interceptor is a cop versus racer in a head to head pursuit. Finally there's the Race mode where you'll compete with other racers to see who's the quickest behind the wheel of some of the fastest cars on the planet. All three variations are simple, exhilarating and addictive.
The game doesn't just throw some addictive multiplayer modes your way however. The game has a feature known as Autolog. You'll automatically post your best times for the challenges you've completed in the single-player game and your friends will be able to see them and attempt to set a better time that you'll have to beat and vice versa. This adds a welcome competitive edge to the single-player game and I find it much better knowing how your friends are getting on rather than seeing a leaderboard made up of people you have no knowledge of.
It comes as little surprise that Hot Pursuit is both a fine looking game and one that performs nicely too. Criterion has a history of creating racing games that really do give an impressive sensation of speed and maintain a healthy frame rate throughout and Hot Pursuit is no exception. The frame rate in particular is especially welcome as recent NFS titles have a habit of looking good but have had frame rate issues that left a lot to be desired. I would have liked a cockpit view but sadly you won't find one in the game. The crashes are visually impressive and just what you'd expect from Criterion Games. The load times in Hot Pursuit are very impressive for their brevity, even if you choose not or aren't able to install the game to the Xbox 360's hard drive.
NFS: Hot Pursuit is subtitled but the subtitles are disabled by default. When you first load the game you'll see a short introductory video to the game and because the game isn't subtitled by default, you'll miss out on what's being said. In the general scheme of things it's a minor complaint, especially as the video doesn't really contain anything of great importance. Once you do have the subtitles enabled you'll be able to follow all of the essential dialogue in the game. All of the audio description of the various screens and modes in the game are subtitled. The verbal car descriptions (which play once you've picked your car and are in the process of choosing its colour) aren't shown by default when playing as a racer but you can press the X button to show exactly what's been said so you're not missing out on anything. You're always made aware of what needs to be done as objectives are shown in text and you're notified of any time restrictions which you'll need to meet to achieve specific grades for a challenge.
What I really like about Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is that it focuses on the driving action and there are no distractions such as cheesy cut scenes or any pretentions of a storyline. Some may be a little upset by this, after all the NFS cheesy cut scenes are appreciated by many, but in truth they haven't been humorous for several years now and it's better if they aren't there at all if they aren't going to impress. Hot Pursuit captures the exhilarating feel you want in an arcade racer very nicely and whether you're playing as a racer or a cop in single or multiplayer mode, the game manages to hit virtually all of the right notes.