Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

Need for Speed is a series that has undergone a number of transformations over the past few years, The changes have been so radical with each iteration, that about all the games have in common is the Need for Speed moniker. That trend continues with this year's iteration in the long running street racing series, Hot Pursuit.

Gone are the silly stories about unknown new drivers trying to make it to the top of the underground street racing scene Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is purely focused on racing challenges. Well, that and trying to stop races. Hot Pursuit has dual career tracks that allow you to play as a street racer driving real-world exotics on a wide variety of roads, highways, and byways, or as a cop trying, quite literally, to take out those racers. And in this world, the cops' motor pool is packed with exotic sports cars as well, although all in black and white, naturally. You can stick to the side of the law, flaunt it in the name of speed, or freely jump back and forth between the two. At any given time you'll have a good variety of races and challenges available to you from both tracks. As you complete them by earning at least a bronze medal finish you'll earn points based on the medal earned and on your driving skills. For racers bonus points are earned for actions such as driving down the wrong side of the road or narrowly missing an oncoming car, while for cops they're earned for actions such as avoiding collisions of any kind (except for those with the racers, of course) and taking out a racer soon after the pursuit begins.

Hot Pursuit has a free drive mode, but it's really just for tourists, albeit tourists that like to drive really, really fast. The game's fictional, California-like setting of Seacrest County provides for some varied racing conditions from sun-kissed coastal byways to redwood forest roads to alpine highways. Most probably you'll want to see it in the bite-sized pieces served up by the game's events rather than just driving around at random. From an overview map you can get a look at all of the open event locations, both new and old and on both sides of the law, and instantly jump to the event. After a short skippable cutscene you're dropped into the start of the event with your car running.

Hot Pursuit's events are pretty exciting, but that excitement is ratcheted up a level by the addition of bonus power-ups. On the police side, you'll be able to deploy spike strips, call for a roadblock to be placed on the road ahead, hit racers with an EMP burst, or call in a helicopter to aid in the pursuit. Racers also get a spike strip and EMP, as well as an electronics jammer that prevents the cops from using any of their bonus powers, and a super turbo burst that's a significant speed boost over the normal turbo. The powers are usually limited in number of uses, so even though they can provide the difference between success and failure in an event they don't overshadow the events or take the place of good driving skills and techniques.