It’s not very often that a Need for Speed game comes over the horizon with all guns blazing and looking like it might actually be really good. Fortunately, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is one of those titles, and it certainly caught my attention at this year’s Eurogamer Expo.
The game’s basic premise harks back to the old days of Need for Speed, with a pretty straightforward “Cops ‘n’ Robbers” angle on the racing. Fittingly enough, Criterion (the developer) have developed a similar gamemode before, in their classic racing title Burnout 2. The races I played at the show had me playing as the “robber,” running from the law- in an incredibly expensive supercar. If the fact that Criterion are developing the game isn’t enough for you, perhaps the licensed cars in the game will entice you in; I played as both a Porche GT3 and a Lamborghini Murciélago, and that was just the cars from the demo.
Unfortunately for me, the Police are also driving real-life supercars (a Pagani Zonda was chasing me at one point), albeit ones with flashing lights and a Police-themed design. The racing, although definitely different from Criterion’s previous masterpiece Burnout Paradise, is a lot of fun, and it really gives a sense of speed. The crashes are definitely reminiscent of the Burnout series, however, and it’s great to see a game where I can finally see what the world’s greatest cars look like when I smash into a wall.
The racing has you aiming to get to the end of a course before you wreck your car, but also in first place. There are five other “robbers” on the track with you, and as you race them to the finish line, you also have to deal with the Police cars trying to end your fun. In the short track, I saw all manner of fancy Police cars, helicopters, road blocks, and even stingers trying to halt my progress. There’s a lot going on, and it’s a real thrill ride from start to finish.
The racing is restricted to the track the developers have designed, as opposed to an open world like many arcade-style racers have adopted recently, and the Burnout 2-style arrows blocking my way and showing me where to go, far from irritating me, gave me a real sense that this was a game tailored for enjoyment and nothing else. There may be real cars, but the realism has been thrown out the window in favour of pure fun. Speaking of which, when the race begins the player is given a few items that might be useful thoughout the race, as well as the standard “boost” button you see in many racers. There’s a longer and more useful boost item, which in the demo was single-use, and two stingers that are cast behind the car, slowing down opponents behind you. There are slots for other items, but these weren’t being shown at the event.
I went into the Eurogamer Expo with high hopes for Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and I was not disappointed. The gameplay is frantic, fast, and fun, and the visuals were great without any drops in framerate whatsoever. I couldn’t help but break gaming expo conventions and have two turns all the way through- and I loved every minute of it. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was my favourite game at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, and I have high hopes that the full game will be an astounding entry to the arcade racing genre.