Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit blasts back into the cops vs. criminals genre in a big way with a completely new game from Criterion that strives to put both the high speed chases with the law and the fun, back into this title. After the series veered off-course for awhile and tried to turn into a pure racing sim, this revamp is a welcome change that will have you dropping spike strips and blasting EMPs to evade your captors or capture your prey.
In Tokyo, eight different game stations featuring four against four beckoned us to put the pedal to the metal and race as either the cops or the criminals in a multiplayer match of Hot Pursuit. It's a short match that puts you either behind a badge trying to track down a speeding supercar, or on the other side of the law trying to flee at top speed. We'd raced in some NFS before back at E3 this summer, but that was against computer A.I. opponents, and this was the first time we were getting to go up against flesh and blood drivers. The verdict? We vastly prefer real-life wheelmen (or women).
The main reason for this is that when you're inches behind the bumper of a baddie that you're trying to run down, or milliseconds ahead of a cop, it's infinitely more exciting knowing that there's an actual person on the other end of those wires somewhere, gunning for you. It just makes getting away or capturing them that much more exciting, and unleashing a spike strip at the last second on someone who doesn't have time to evade turns out to be quite a rush. How do you get that option installed on a real car?
Speaking of spike strips, as a cop you'll have those in your arsenal, as well as an "ECP" blast (sort of like an EMP that needs to be aimed carefully at your target), road blocks, and the ability to call in a chopper to lay down spike strips up ahead of you. On the flipside, criminals also get spike strips and ECPs, but they also have a jammer that can shoo choppers away, and a very powerful turbo boost that warp-speeds your car into the Millenium Falcon. Okay, it might not actually be quite that fast, but as the scenery turns into a blur, you definitely feel like you're holding onto a rocket for dear life.
As with most racing titles, you'll build up boost by drifting, slipstreaming, near misses, and the like, although this little burst isn't nearly as powerful as the turbo. But the tradeoff is that it's much easier to control your car during a normal burst than it is with the turbo hammer. Keep an eye on your deployable abilities as well, because you only have a limited supply of them. Once they're gone, you'll quickly be wishing you'd saved one to deal with that cop riding your rear end, or to nab that speeder who's just about to slip away.
Hot Pursuit is only one of the multiple online modes the game will have, and if you've played Burnout Paradise, then you know exactly how these cars are going to control as Criterion Games is also the brains behind the brawn in this title. We're eager to see more, and especially to put their Interceptors mode through some paces, as that's supposed to craft races that can last up to 30 minutes. But for quick fun where you're trying to escape or take down, Hot Pursuit is a tight online mode that you'll be returning to over and over, especially because of the game's new Autolog feature, that makes it very easy to track your friends' activity, and to jump directly into an event to try and best them.